Rudyard Kipling’s “If”

I had an interesting conversation with someone the other day. This is how it went:

“So are you happy to be back in New York?”

“Yes! Very much so. I love New York and all the city-ness of it. Tall buildings, public transportation…”

“But when you first moved back to NJ, you said that you were glad to be away from New York. I remember you saying something about people getting lost there. Like, they end up staying there and not growing up or something to that effect. I thought it was very insightful.”

“Oh. I said that?”

He laughed- “Yes. Yes, you did.”

And I laughed. And we moved on to a different topic.

But, the thought of it kept creeping up in my mind. I actually remember saying that now. I had declared it to a whole group of people. That I was happy to be moving away from the big city, and that some people there never grew up. In the hustle and bustle of a big city, there is always something new to chase after. The twenty-something college grad starts by chasing their career. The office cube, the first big paycheck, the promotion. And parties. The miniskirts, bottles of Grey Goose, and God, the beautiful people.  Success beckons like a false lighthouse in the distance. If you’re not careful, you can spend years upon years swimming desperately towards a shiny light that will never quite be within your grasp.

When I moved back to the comparatively slower-paced neighborhoods of NJ, I changed courses. It was like I had switched from the 200 meter dash to the 800 meter run. As the weeks in NJ began, the change in pace was obvious. It was slower. You were allowed a breather. I liked this new race.

In the community I joined in NJ, it was not outward success that defined a person. It was how much you cared. How much you loved. How much time you put into cultivating relationships. Getting ahead in a career was not as much of a priority as having a healthy family was. And parties consisted of five women sharing stories on comfy couches with a bottle of red.

Yet, I have found that there are still downfalls in living in this community. Like when the easy life becomes so comfortable that it is crippling. Relationships can become stifling when there is no room to breathe. Putting too much effort into sharing stories can become tiring.

So I messaged the guy. I said, “Now I think people can get lost no matter where they are. It’s probably just human nature, right? Or a result of not really knowing, or being honest with oneself.”

The beat goes on. Whether you are here or there. Whatever you may want- Career, Parties, Relationships, Family, Love, Kinder Heart, Better Soul. Chase after it as you like. But each has its upsides and downsides. Everything in life is a give and take. What do you choose?

Another thing that I’ve learned is that taking a moment for yourself is perfectly okay. Stay in and read a book. What a beautiful moment. Life doesn’t get much better than that.

So I am back in New York City. Land of ever-increasing hopes and dreams. But I will stay in and read a book.

Wrote this post while listening to this.

And here is Rudyard Kipling’s poem. Isn’t it fantastic?

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
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