What is the meaning of life?

Is it success? If it is, how do we as humans measure success? Is it monetarily? Emotionally? Simply surviving? I found myself asking these questions in my last year of high school and repeatedly over the past few years with no definitive answer.

Naturally, after not being able to find the answer on my own, I turned to those I respect and trust the most for answers. However, the more I question others about their ambitions and goals, the more I realize the lack of conviction and the masked uncertainty deep within.

Our fast paced world has become one where passion comes second to pressure. Decisions are made purely to release the pressure placed upon us by our family, our community, our society, and ourselves; decisions that ultimately leave us feeling empty and alone among our peers.

The technology boom has made our generation feel as though we can be left behind at any moment. People change, businesses change, and countries change so quickly that we are constantly battling to keep up. Any predictability in our lifestyles can quickly be changed with the creation of a new technology that will continue to make our world a smaller place, like the creation of the airplane, the computer, and most recently the Internet and Google.

As we have recently seen with the state of the economy, soaring gas prices coupled with cheap foreign labor have lead us to turn away from our own country’s products. Price, dependability, and efficiency are three frontiers that American cars have not been able to compete on, forcing Americans to abandon their domestically produced product in order to make themselves better off. Which leads me to believe that the idea of nations, religions, or just simply the idea of us being part of something bigger crumbles in the face of adversity and self-endurance.

Meanwhile the titans of our country are falling because they could not keep up with the rest of the world. No one is immune to this competition. Not for long.

The point is, it is nearly impossible to find happiness or success when we are constantly trying not to fall behind. This game of catch-up prevents us from having the time to venture off and determine what we truly enjoy for fear of coming back to a society we no longer recognize.

Graduating a year early to stay ahead of the game, I came to my father’s company expecting to win through my intellect, only to realize that intellect will only get you so far. It is the intellect reinforced by networking, persuasiveness, and financial strength that allows one to advance their ideas. Though these traits seemed to fit the equation on paper, there was still something I was missing…

“Well according to the lease, your heater is your responsibility. You should have read your lease…”

“You’re a millionaire and you’re telling me you can’t send someone to check my heater. We are out here freezing and customers are complaining. In this economy, I can barely afford to pay my rent. All it takes for you to get this fixed is the push of a button.”

“I’m sorry but there is nothing I can do for you.”

Anger flooded my veins with blood. Not anger towards this man but self-directed anger and disappointment with the way I had handled the altercation. I had become what I feared most: a ruthless businessman that follows the established path paved by previous businessmen. My courage to be kind had faltered and I was hiding behind the shadows of the weak.

In a world where business practices are becoming increasingly cut-throat, I refuse to follow suit. When all I hear is bickering over money, I strive to keep in mind that humans are predisposed to ensuring their survival be it financial, emotional, or physical. When everyone is looking out for themselves, who is looking out for the collective whole? Businessmen? Politicians? God? None of these answers seem plausible. Altruism is a trait we have lost as a society. We need people to come to power who care about others without discrimination to race, country, religion, or financial status.

Care for people is not determined by the amount of hours one puts in at a community service event or even a monthly event you plan for. It is a lifestyle you must live at every moment. The lifestyle is one in which you provide compassion, care and motivation for those around you from the hardworking man at the grocery store register, to the misdirected man who stole your money, to your beloved family.

Community service or as I like to call it “humanity” is the love you emanate on a daily basis to all those around you, the smile you can put on their face, touching their souls. It is by surrounding ourselves with people who fully grasp this concept that we can change ourselves.  Happiness comes from surrounding yourself with the friends, family, teachers, and mentors, that fully embrace your inner being— your soul.

Throughout our lives, we are forced to hide our souls by society. A society that preys upon our insecurities cannot allow a secure person to remain so. Thus, the media and social norms force us to cover our souls with layers upon layers in order for them to maintain their negative control over us. Our fear of vulnerability of not being accepted does not allow us to harness our internal energy and reach our fully potential.

“It takes force to conquer others, it takes strength to conquer yourself.”

We are all too afraid to let our true selves out for fear of vulnerability and rejection. This fear is what leads us to feel weak, unfulfilled, and unhappy.

“Life as we know it ultimately is or leads to suffering in one way or another” Buddha

When are people the most happy? When they feel comfortable truly being themselves. One has to find in their lifetime what fosters their inner selves, be it family, meditation, love, or nature. By fully being you, one allows their inner soul to shine through the layers like a strong ray of light. The power produced within has an indescribable energy more powerful than the sun. Our acceptance, trust, and love for ourselves can lead us to be best we can possibly be. When you feel comfortable, truly comfortable with the people who surround you, your soul slips out like a snail coming out of its shell. However, until fully conquering your fear and tapping into your strength, you are bound to quickly hide back in your shell.

One has within their soul the key to their ultimate fulfillment and happiness. Once one has learned to trust themselves fully, they will be able to allow their soul to take control of their body and take them in the directions they deeply desire. One has to trust that their soul will do what is good and what is true without fear for losing social status, economic status, acceptance because all those will come if it is right and all those will diminish in meaning in the light of fulfillment and being.

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