Trip’s Lucky

by Andrew Stein

Being at the monastery for a week, gave me some extra time to think. Unfortunately, I cannot say that I came up with novel revelations, but this is one thing that came to mind several times.

I wish I could say that I’ve earned what I have gotten. I want to believe in a meritocracy where hard work and diligence can bring success. I can say that if there is success, then hard work and diligence will usually be involved, but unfortunately, I cannot say that the opposite is as true. In other words, when there is hard work, there is not necessarily success. Things are not fair, and I almost feel guilty that life has been so fair to me. I haven’t deserved all that I have experienced, all that I have enjoyed, and all that I will continue to do. The reason that I mentioned I only almost feel guilty and I don’t feel absolutely guilty is because more than anything else, I feel lucky.

The word “luck” was one of the most used words by my late poppy (my family’s name for grandfather) for as long as I can remember. Listening to him describe his life, his family, and his fulfillment as a result of being fortunate made me fully realize that I also owe almost everything to luck. I grew up in a family with two parents who could not care any more about their children and about their children’s success and well being. My two older sisters and I would joke how my mom’s favorite phrase was that she wanted to make sure we all had choices. The worst thing that we could do growing up was make a choice-limiting step, and every step in our life paths should present more choices than the previous one. This notion of making sacrifices today so that there was more to enjoy tomorrow was never a choice, it was never a conscious decision, and it was definitely indoctrinated into me at a very young age.

Philosophies like this one that I have made my own, I had no control over. This is one of the many reasons why I feel so lucky. Life is so complicated that I cannot even conjecture in what I might have believed had I grown up in a different family, a different country, and with different priorities. This lack of control of who I have come to be makes me feel at the same time both frightened and incredibly lucky.

Now I am at another crossroads in my life where I am finishing up two years working in the adult-named “real world” and about to start two years of school. Do I deserve to have the opportunity to go back to school? Did I earn the opportunity to travel for many months before starting school again? Did I merit working at a place for the last two years with a work atmosphere that was so positive and a product so promising? Sadly, my answer to all these questions is no. At first this may seem like a very pessimistic attitude. But, my response to those who accuse me of pessimism is that it is just the opposite. I feel lucky. When good things happen to me and those things were out of my control, how can I feel anything other than lucky? This is start of my anti-freewill debate, but I will save that for another time.

I feel so fortunate for this adventure that covers several continents in a multi-month journey around the world. I haven’t earned it, and I probably don’t deserve it, but realizing this, I hope that somehow, during the trip and after, I will be able to use these experiences to give back. How this giving back will materialize is still unclear, but I will look for opportunities and be ready for them. Thank you to everyone that I have run into, that have influenced me in an unmeasurable way, and that have allowed me be to so lucky!