Culture & Society

The day I understood what gives my life meaning was the same day I thought that my dad was going to die. My sister and I were in the hospital hallway when my dad’s doctor was doing his rounds for that afternoon. Soon after the doctor left his room, my father asked my sister and me to go for a walk with him in the hospital’s garden. As the three of us were walking down the alley, the afternoon felt so quiet and dark. That walk filled my heart with sadness and uncertainty.

More than that, I felt angry because I did not understand why my dad had to go through all of that. I did not understand why life would be so unjust by threatening to take my dad away. Everything happened so fast, and everyone around us was so serious about my father’s situation, that it was tough for me not to think about how this might be our last walk together, as a family.

Since the day my dad got diagnosed with a blood clot in his brain, my world fell apart.  My sister and my dad meant everything to me, and the thought that I could lose one of them felt unbearable. It was during that afternoon walk and in particular the hours my dad underwent surgery when I began reflecting more about my life and its meaning. I realized that my perception of the world is a reflection of my life experiences and the connections I develop with those around me.

Furthermore, I understood that what gave my life meaning was connected to three essential things: human connections, love, and life-long relationships.

I truly believe that life would have no meaning without human connections. It is not only the human interaction that matters but also the way we interact and exchange ideas with each other. Our ability to share our thoughts and express our feelings makes life more enjoyable and meaningful. I can’t honestly think about an important event in my life – be it a happy or a sad moment – without connecting it to another person.  Getting into college, moving abroad, or obtaining my U.S. visa, all of them are accomplishments that wouldn’t have meant the same without the support of the people who cared for me at that time.

It is also through love that I find meaning in my life. I’ve felt the power of love in many different ways, from family connections to life-long friendships and love stories. Perhaps, I tend to say that love is the central meaning of life because when I love and I am loved, I feel I can accomplish anything I want. As a little girl, I did not grow up feeling the love and nurture of my mother, but I’ve always had my dad’s affection, so when I received the news about my dad’s health condition, I realized that having him in my life was more than I could ever ask for. He was my family, and that was enough. Thinking back about that dark period, the words of Morrie Schwartz, a great professor, come to my mind:

The fact is there is no foundation, no secure ground, upon which people may stand today if it isn’t the family. It’s become quite clear to me as I’ve been sick. If you don’t have the support and love and caring and concern that you get from a family, you don’t have much at all. Love is so supremely important.

I truly believe that love brings people together, and even though it sounds like a cliché, I am sure that we all feel more connected to each other when we demonstrate our affection, compassion and we share our most sincere feelings. Only then we lay up the foundation of an authentic and honest relationship. 

Growing up, I’ve consistently tried to fill the gap left by the absence of my mother, by seeking meaningful relationships with others. 
One of the relationships I genuinely care about is the one I have with my dad. My dad is the only person who has been loving and supporting me unconditionally. His words of wisdom have always guided me through life, and his calmness has kept me centered. All the difficult moments we shared together brought us even closer. Fortunately, our relationship is not all about sad moments. Most of the memories I have with my dad are happy moments, filled with joy, love, and affection. We’ve been sharing so many important moments together that even after I moved abroad, the distance did not bring us apart. Even so, he was one of the few people who supported my decisions and encouraged me to pursue my dreams. For a relationship to last in time and distance, both individuals need to make an effort on maintaining a strong connection.  My dad and I have been very persuasive in keeping our relationship as close and secure as we can.

In the end, my dad’s operation was a success and he is still the most joyful person I know. It is during those flashing moments that we get to see how things would look like from a different angle. Regardless of where we look for guidance and inspiration, we are all connected to each other and driven by underlying feelings and emotions.

So, my advice to you is to follow your dreams and live the life that you always wanted to. It will take a lot of courage, perseverance and a never-give-up attitude. Throughout your way, there will be people around you who will criticize you, not because they are intentionally mean (at least not all of them) but because they don’t see the big picture - what your dream and passion mean to you.

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