The maintenance man at my new apartment is a Cameroonian political asylee, meaning he was granted protection in the United States due to an actual experience of or fear of certain religious, political or racial persecution in his home country. He told a friend and me his story of political torture in Cameroon, how he got out, about his family still living there, how he hasn't kissed his wife or children since 2006 when he fled, how he used to be a seaman but is deathly afraid of planes, etc. He showed us his crooked finger, part of the bone still shattered, where they tortured him with pliers. His eyes were sincere, grateful, sad, full of his life story. We asked him if he likes living in the U.S. We wanted to know is he was happy, to which he replied: all I want is a long life with my family. I am grateful for every day of life in which I can live without fear of death.
Do you know where I am going with this? That's all he wanted. Life. Not a certain kind or a certain set-up or a certain number of years or a specific way or path or filled with certain things. He just wanted breath in his lungs, movement in his body, food to eat, a place to feel home, loved ones to endure it with.
My eyes got a little misty at his reply to happiness. It's so simple and grateful. Here I am, counting up all of my "points," calculating my good and bad, getting frustrated when a couple of things are "off" in my life, restlessly striving toward some aim of perfection that I (and my society) have created for myself, and complaining.
Wake. Up. Jessi.
The only hope I have is that I have chosen a career that will continually humble me and remind me of how shallow and petty I can be.