“Life is not a bed of roses.” As I ponder over this expression, I wonder what if life was a bed of roses? How utterly boring that life must be. Life would be so homogeneous, so one-sided, so ‘same-same’ that living would be a mundane, humdrum existence!
Life is about experiencing, experimenting, provoking and feeling – feelings of all sorts, from the queasy butterflies in the stomach because of nerves to the triumphant highs of success. This is what being alive should feel like. We are meant to live through the ups and downs that life throws at us. Even the wealthiest or the happiest person on earth would tell you that life is not without trials and tribulations, and that they did not live their life on a bed of roses to be who they are today. They have probably have set themselves for a purpose driven life.
This reminds me of a quote by Mark Twain: “What is joy without sorrow? What is success without failure? What is a win without a loss? What is health without illness? You have to experience each if you are to appreciate the other. There is always going to be suffering. It’s how you look at your suffering, how you deal with it, that will define you.”
There’s much truth in Mark Twain’s words. As I reflect upon his words, I realise that if not for the adversities in my life, I would not have appreciated the joys of my accomplishments. Life is unpredictable and competitive, even more so today than ever. It is filled with hardships and challenges that I believe no one is spared from. However, what we do in these difficult moments of our lives, and how we come out of them, is what makes us a winner at living the life we so desire.
I’m in my forties and as I look back on my youth, and how far I have come, I realise that my life hasn’t been a bed of roses, but neither was it a bed of thorns. I come from a very humble background. Like a travelling circus, my family was always on the move, moving from one rental flat to another so that we could save on cheaper rentals. Both my parents had to work to put food on the table for our family of six which meant that we, the children, were left to our own devices. Under such circumstances, I was forced to grow up swiftly and look after the household in their place. I sacrificed our childhood for a better future, and when we finally owned a flat during my teen hood, we were filled with joy because we knew what it took for us to get there.
As we age, we go through different stages in life, and each stage will come with its fair share of challenges and triumphs. I started working as a waiter in Swensen’s when I was 15 years old and took up tuition jobs when I was 18 to supplement my pocket money allowance to lessen the burden on my parents. I believed that if I wanted something, I should work for it on my own. It was not easy growing up in a highly competitive society such as Singapore; I was not talented or rich – I don’t even have a degree today, but that did not stop me from becoming a millionaire at 28. So, why did I not pursue a degree? I had already paid my own way for a diploma course; pursuing a degree would have added to my financial burden then. Plus, deep down, I believed we are makers of our own destiny. I knew I had what it took to become successful. So in order to reach my goals, I had to work doubly hard, leverage my set of soft skills, and be really focused. I believe this mindset helped me to progress fast in my career. However, it also meant that sometimes, employers were threatened by me as I was climbing up the corporate ladder fast. I was not only a keen learner, but a smart worker as well. This tension with insecure employers was something I had to grapple with in the earlier years of my career, but it taught me a good lesson in humility and people management. Would I have changed anything if I had the chance to? No, I would not, because it has made me what I am today – a calmer and wiser person.
Am I happy with my life so far? I feel happiness is overrated, and fleeting. True joy is in contentment and making peace with what we have today because we never know what tomorrow has in store for us. Whilst we can and should plan for our future, we must remind ourselves to accept and cherish the present too. So I think the better question would be: Am I contented with my life so far? I’d like to think I am. I feel I am in a much better place today, mindset wise, than I was yesterday. I now understand what is the purpose of life. I have learnt that challenges and failures happen for a reason, perhaps to rein us in when we have veered off course, or perhaps to remind us of what is important. Through them, I would have accumulated a wealth of experiences which I can rely on to help me navigate this journey in a more positive and purposeful life.
Life may not be a bed of roses, but you have the power to change the course of your life. If you want to become successful, ask yourself, “What does it take for me to get there?”