By Kelsey English
Up in Agora, I look down at the jagged rocky paths that are woven throughout the side of the mountain, connecting each terrace to the ones above and below. Along those paths are countless women carrying heavy baskets full of natural fertilizer on their backs. Today I was one of those women. I got to experience the exhausting weight of these baskets and the incredible skill required to carry them along these risky pathways as I helped a woman and her granddaughter prepare their family’s terrace for the next planting. I was amazed to see their smiles never leave their faces.
While I was technically helping this woman with her typical afternoon activity, she was unknowingly helping me on such a larger scale. I realized that it is truly a luxury to be able to feel sorry for myself. It is so easy to complain about many aspects of life, but she does not have the luxury to succumb to her pain or emotions, which makes her incredibly strong both physically and emotionally. Regardless of however she may be feeling, she needs to tend to her family’s fields in order to produce a successful crop and feed her family. And she does this chore, which I found to be quite exhausting, without any complaint.
This also brought me back to a conversation with Santosh, a member of my host family. He explained that he is away from home for months at a time to provide for his family and, while it may not be the ideal circumstances, he chooses to be happy. Something unpleasant is made so much worse when we define it by its negative qualities. The woman I helped could focus on the weight of the fertilizer that strains her back or the many rocks that need to be cleared from her terrace; instead, she chose to be happy as she did this less than pleasant task. In choosing to be happy even in those moments when we have to do things that we don’t necessarily want to, the joy that we choose becomes the focus and outshines a thousand negatives.
Happiness is an everlasting mindset, not a stagnant moment in time. It is the personal choice to not indulge in the luxury of feeling sorry for yourself no matter what