“Kumar, it is good to meet you” He said as he held my hand gently and smiled into my eyes. It was cold and the ground was wet from an earlier rain. The world was bustling with faces asking if I needed a taxi. I made Kumar as a friend with the simplest of human abilities, I smiled and spoke honestly. People seem to see inside me, faking respect or calmness never seems to work like being them works on the world around me. I had already seen worlds of chaos and dirty feet, months of discomfort and rancid smells. New friends have become a matter of proximity, people like certain things and even some of the more ruthless tuk tuk drivers will pause in their rush to make a buck if you show them you’re actually looking at them, not just the idea of them you’re making up.
Meanwhile back in the western world a light turns green and all the cars begin to move only once it is fully green, the red light stopped all of them just as definitely. People move about in very important little routines, faces glued to their screens and minds somewhere off in the ether trying to keep up with the constant swimming in a very shallow sea. People say “Ah poor kids in China, It must suck not to have what I have”.
Somewhere a ways off the taxi driver says “8 thousand” knowing that this price is double the regular price but he only knows that this western face was handed everything on a silver platter in a country with all you can eat french fries. Later that night he walks away from a group that wouldn’t take the double priced taxi ride. ‘These greedy westerners’ he thinks, he doesn’t understand how someone with so much could be so stingy. ‘Don’t they know that I would kill for what they have? Don’t they know that one day of their work would pay me for a month?’.
In the other place a couple lock their bikes up outside a coffee shop and go in for a ten dollar latte. They’ve been enjoying the misty early morning riding through the quiet streets of the city-suburb town. Its the only morning each week that they get to spend together, they wish that they could be together more but forty to sixty hours stands between them. They look forward to retirement so they can enjoy more mornings together.
While I’ve been traveling I’ve seen so many people obsessed with the desire to be Someone else doing Something else. Dark skinned people want to have light skin and light skinned people want to have dark skin. A tourist who left home with an intense frustration from the meaningless feeling their work gives them meets a young man supporting his family of six who dreams of making it past his hand-to-mouth life.
They both might think they want what the other has, they both might never have what they want. There are a million good lives to live but still each person dreams of the one they aren’t living.
I think many people spend years and lives with goals so unreachable that they never get a chance to see how equally hollow what they dream of is. Some people reach these goals and then find that their goals expand. People fight over who’s dream is better for everyone and many people devalue their gifts because they aren’t what they wrote off to Santa about. It seems to me that there are two choices, to love what I have or to get what I love but the process of achieving my goals sucks if I don’t love the journey. In reaching my goal I may only find that goal was traded for years of misery. And what is worse I may not have a thankful bone in my body to enjoy the dream once I’m finally asleep.