You know how sometimes a random piece of advice or an anecdote from a stranger ends up sticking with you in the long run and unexpectedly morphs into that voice in your head when the moment calls for it? Now when my optician looked me straight in the eye during one of my usual check-ups and said, “listen carefully young lady, absolutely nothing in this entire world is worth sacrificing your night’s sleep for”, I didn’t pay much heed. But believe it or not, there goes not a single night when I’m awake past the usual hours, texting a friend or watching Gordon Ramsay prolifically scream profanities at his chefs for undercooking their salmon when the vivid image of that bespectacled man and his wide-toothed smile doesn’t show up and tell me I need to be asleep.
One such instance came when I least expected it. I was seated in a lousy posture in one corner of a coaching centre classroom when my maths teacher said something that made me look up from the obnoxious flower I had been doodling in my notebook for the previous twenty minutes. Two hours of calculus was turning out to be a nightmare, and we welcomed even the slightest deviation from “finding the limits to the integral” with utmost enthusiasm and interest. He said:
“Students, the simple truth of life is that when you’re a child, you have the time and energy, but no money. When you’re an adult, you have the money and energy, but no time. And when you’re all old and grey and retired, well, you have the money and time, but none of the energy. So make sure that whichever stage you’re in, you’re living your life to the fullest with whatever you have. That way, no matter what happens, you’ll leave this world a winner.”
I have no idea what prompted him to say those words in the middle of class. Was it said in a moment of introspection, out of regret, or just something he felt he should share with fifteen sleepy teenagers who were spending 8 hours of their Sunday in preparation for an entrance exam? Whatever it may have been, those words echoed in my head all the way back home, and still occasionally make an appearance ever so often to remind me that life’s too short and fast-paced to take lightly. There’s much significance to the phrase Carpe Diem (“seize the day”) and it is absolutely ironic how it took me a calculus class to realise that.
Another one of these random but impacting moments was when a florist in Switzerland saw me excitedly point at a rainbow and scream “rainbow, rainbow!” to anyone who would listen. She politely smiled at me, tucked her hands deeper into her jacket pocket, and said “haha, those are a common occurrence for us. Here, when the sun comes out entirely and we get some of that heat, that’s something we get really excited about and celebrate!”
Now back home, out here in the tropics, every time the sun hits my face and makes me squint and wrinkle my nose, I close my eyes for an extra five seconds and go back to that chilly afternoon in Engelberg, think of the smiling florist’s words and thank the heavens that I get to bask in that glorious warmth every single day, irrespective of what season it is. I mean, when was the last time we were grateful for something as small as having the sun shine down on us each morning?
To conclude, I find it very hopeful and exciting that sometimes the smallest of moments have an unexpectedly huge impact on our lives and positively alter the way we perceive the world. A kind word can go a long way, and we could very well be that one stranger who changed a person’s life overnight. It may be in the form of an optician’s concern, a math teacher’s musings, or a florist’s remark; Destiny has a way of magically shaping your thoughts to create the person you are today and she will come knocking at your door when you least expect it.