Respice Finem

Choices Text and pix by Harendra de Alwis

I always wanted to expose myself to a bigger world than the one in which I grew up. I knew it would be a world that was as harsh as it was rich with wonder, and I knew that I would eventually have to carve out my own space – my own little corner – in it. Drawn by a sense of adventure and freedom as well as accounts of the adversities that I would have to go through as a student in a foreign land, I sought challenges that would push me off the edge of my known universe. I could never have imagined what I was heading into and how that journey would change me.

I could see in myself and my friends, the incorruptibility of childhood wearing off with maturing years. If the freedom of adult independence does not make it increasingly difficult to know the difference between what is right and what is wrong, it makes it relatively easy to ignore childish notions of morality. It took me a while to come to terms with the fact that the innocence of childhood would inevitably dissolve in the complexity and ambitions of adult life. Therefore my journey to a land which no longer offered me the reassurance of old friends, the care of loved ones and the healing power and warmth of monsoon rains, was also a journey of self discovery that tested the strength of my convictions when I had to stand up for what I believed in. Yet it also demanded flexibility to adapt to my new environment while relying on my sense of justice and truth in making the multitude of little choices and decisions of daily life that would define who I am and who I was going to be.

In a world where a formal education in itself is a luxury to many, I had the good fortune and courage to explore the marvels and romance of university life. I am doubly blessed now, to be able to look back at the things I learned as a student and how those lessons have shaped me and my aspirations of life. In the twilight of my student life, I ventured to take the time to remember the books and men that have taught me the lessons of my life so far. Anxieties about building a career, having a family and mortgages are already eroding away the lightness, laughter and legends of a time in my life when I was naïve, foolish and too innocent to see vast empty spaces separating reality from the ideal world I expected to find.

Even though the world has sometimes been unfriendly and unforgiving, it has also lived up to the words of Abraham Lincoln that once leapt out of a dedication on a book my father gave me. No matter what each day brought me, I found that it is important to believe that "...for every scoundrel there is a hero; that for every selfish politician, there is a dedicated leader... that for every enemy there is a friend..."

Living away from home alone as a student was probably the toughest and most educational experience I have had so far. There, I saw the world from a whole new perspective. My priorities changed together with my expectations of life. I don't see a world full of good people and bad people anymore, but I see the enormity of the human capacity to do good as well as evil. I see in each individual including myself, the ability to take a stand for justice or silently watch while other lives are consumed by injustice and violence. I sometimes feel that I am still wading through life with unchallenged definitions and untested notions about the things that I can afford to compromise and those I should not, what I can afford to trade and what I should never put a price on and the fields in which I will sew and those where I will reap.

(To be continued...)

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