I’m in the process of learning an important lesson. It’s a lesson which is, for most people, maybe painfully obvious -- something which, in theory, I've understood for awhile - but which I haven't really recognized as being true until very recently. 

Here's the thing, my life is really wonderful right now. I have pretty much everything I want and need. But, despite apparent smooth sailing, I've actually been really struggling. I know I've always been incredibly blessed, but there have been some really challenging periods in my life--times when, externally, things seemed pretty horrible. During these periods, it made sense that I struggled a little bit. And because of those experiences, it's easy for me to see that my life shouldn't be tough right now. But it is. And I've realized that—almost no matter what—life is hard. Sometimes it’s hard because unanticipated events disrupt our plans or families, sometimes it’s hard because it’s monotonous, sometimes it’s hard because it’s exhausting, sometimes it's hard because it's confusing, sometimes it's hard because it's disappointing  and sometimes it’s hard because your French class makes you cry. Almost every day…..

A couple of weeks ago, Daw Anh San Suu Kyi came to my school. Thanks to the ever chivalrous Brother S., I was able to get in to hear her speak. The talk she gave was simpler, but also much more personally meaningful than I anticipated. For me, the most profound part came during the question and answer period. When asked about how she coped with the oppressive boredom that must have accompanied the years she spent under house arrest, she said this:

 “Inner resources are important to keep you going under all circumstances. These inner resources you acquire throughout life, not just during your years in school. I would say to try to strengthen yourself internally. Don’t depend too much on external factors. You must be able to live with yourself. What is important for you is not just to be able to suffer the hardships of bad fortune but also to know how to suffer the forces of good fortune.”

Over the last weeks, I fear I've allowed eternal forces (forces related to my good fortune) to hinder my ability to enjoy life—and to stifle the development of my internal resources. By giving external things undue significance, I’ve given them the power to make me extremely unhappy. It seems infantile, almost ridiculous when I write it—but between worrying about what's going to happen over the next five years and struggling in one of my classes, I've been a very unhappy person for the past 7 weeks. I don’t think I’ve ever cried this much—or so easily. I’ve never been so homesick, so nostalgic, so exhausted, so anxious, or so incoherent! I’ve never doubted myself and my abilities so much.

I realize that my current problems are acutely insignificant—in the grand scheme of my life and compared with the problems that so many others face. But these "problems" have forced some serious and painful introspection. They've forced me to realize how much I rely on validation from others, how I expect to succeed when I put in effort, how much I rely on support from my family, how unhappy and confused I become when I don't receive accolades for my efforts, how afraid I am of failure--and how much external forces can impact my personal happiness. 

I've also come to realize that, sometimes, more visibly apparent hardships make coping simpler. Perhaps this is because, when you go through an obvious trial, people around you recognize what you're going through. Maybe it's because these challenges often have significance, not just for you--but to others too. Or maybe it's because you feel validated in blaming sadness and unhappiness associated with these trials on things outside of your control....But maybe it's important to recognize the significance of the seemingly insignificant trials--not just for my own personal development, but in order to be a more empathetic person. To see that, regardless of how it may appear on the outside, everyone is struggling in some way or another, and that everyone's challenges are substantial and significant. 

These trials of good fortune are tricky and I think it might take me awhile to learn to cope with them graciously. But that's what this thing called life is for, right?