Where does happiness lie?

२ कार्तिक २०७७, आईतवार २२:०९

I remember a cold morning of January in 2003 – the first time I boarded a plane saying “goodbye” to my family. It was not only my first international flight, but also a lifetime experience of flying in the sky. Before, I only travelled by bus from my hometown to Kathmandu where I went for studies— the rough road and over loaded public buses back and forth. Anyway, the first flight experience was somewhat different to other earlier travels while in Nepal.  Different in the sense, I was unsure about my destination, vague in my dreams, and overwhelmed about my goals.

Departing from the extreme winter of Kathmandu and landing at Adelaide with scorching hot—that was something I hadn’t anticipated to experience— was a shock as I landed in the morning. I had no other choices, but to know the weather, the system, the culture, and navigate the routes; that was not easy. First few weeks were tougher than what I thought: missing family, food, and the feeling of being away from those who understood, loved, and cared about me.

I never realized that the feelings of missing would still exist in some corners of my heart even after 17 years of my arrival in a foreign land.  I still struggle to find a friend that I can trust to laugh and cry, to assimilate the differences from how I grew up with. The dreams I came with to this country still tend to remain a bit vague when I search for the happiness of my life. When I left Nepal, I just wanted to get an international degree and, perhaps, develop confidence in life and make some money too that might give me some joy. Immediately, I realised that life was more than a degree, and trying to settle in a new country other than a home country is more than just getting a job and making money.

Since I finished my college and started teaching at a university, my personal experiences began to resonate with many students. I could understand their struggle. I let them talk about their experiences openly, and it felt comforting to them and to myself.

I shared my experiences in few local or international forums that— although talking about myself is sometime a daunting task— many people found it fascinating. I was somewhat fortunate to not experience the financial burden that most of the international students do while studying in Australia. I secured a decent job from the start. The university team supported me, and I was able to rent a nice private apartment by the beach. I was lucky compared to many other international students who coped with shared houses, did night-time work, and struggled to pay the tuition fee. However, still I struggled to find the common ground, build a circle of friendships, and feel being part of the new society.

Then I thought it was fine as I was different to this community, culture, and society. Since I finished my college and started teaching at a university, my personal experiences began to resonate with many students. I could understand their struggle. I let them talk about their experiences openly, and it felt comforting to them and to myself. Although the society has changed rapidly, we are still far behind to understand and respect the differences or to share gestures of support with those who just need somebody trusted to talk.

As an academician, I had to ask my students to write about their cultural disruption experiences while settling in Australia as a part of their assessment tasks which most found confronting in the start. Once I shared my own experience, provided examples, and asked them to be open about their emotions, feelings, and struggles – they started loving the task but reading their difficult encounters made me ponder why the culture of victimisation is still common in our society. If it were not a part of university assessment tasks, these students would never speak about the hurdles they went through for the first few weeks in the new country.

What I have learned today is a dream is not about achieving a shiny life, but living a happy and comfortable life cherishing memories and the values we have learned from our parents. Roads ahead are bumpy. But as you continue to mature, you realize things that seem lush do not remain forever with you.   

Most of the time we do not talk about the subtle part of life which are not related to study, career, house, family, or holidays. We tend to focus more on visible things in life, and we have been accepting the judgement other people make. Over the years, I follow the minimalist concept and give value to what makes me satisfied and oppose the practice of a big birthday parties for children, buying a most expensive car, a big house, and fancy furniture. This is something I adore as family value that my parents taught. For many, those things mark people’s social status. The status for them is a big house, a new car, and cocktail parties for children. But the joy comes practicing the values we have learned from our parents and share with our children and like-minded friends.

What I have learned today is a dream is not about achieving a shiny life, but living a happy and comfortable life cherishing memories and the values we have learned from our parents. Roads ahead are bumpy. But as you continue to mature, you realize things that seem lush do not remain forever with you.   

Author’s bio: Dr. Sabi Kaphle is a Public Health Lecturer at CQUniversity in Melbourne, with more than 20 years of experience in the health sector in Australia and internationally.

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