Life is unpredictable. Everything is always changing. There are only two sure things in life–two fixed dots: The beginning and the end; our birth and our death. Our world, our life, spans these two fixed points.
Many of us have the pleasure of living privileged lives; born to good families, live comfortably and have beautiful experiences delivered in nicely packaged moments. I certainly have had all the comforts and pleasures this world has to offer.
Born to a wonderful family, I enjoyed a loving childhood, a great education, and the most exquisite luck in my professional life. I was living my dream; building an internationally recognized institution with an extended ‘family’, not realizing then that with each day of hard work, we were building a national treasure.
I was grateful to have gotten so much in such a short span. Life seemed to be in fast-forward, so much so, that I dared to retire at 40!
But for all the privileges life has given, its gifts have also come in the form of adversity. Adversity is important. It plays a significant role in making us better and stronger people. It tests our character. It forces us to deal with a situation, learn from it, grow with it. With each such experience, we add a scar or peel a layer of the onion, getting us closer to who we are meant to become.
My Grandfather (Nana) passed away before I turned 15. He was a very significant part of my early years. Not just my anchor but also my role model, my lighthouse! His passing was a big blow to me and made me question my life, my values, and my purpose. It was a difficult and trying time for me, but one that became a very important part of me as years went by.
Less than a decade later, I lost my father. I wasn’t old enough to be called a man yet. Not fully educated– are we ever? I had yet to take on the world, not learned anything about life, business, or how to exist without a dad. “Not another one,” I thought. This was a big “end of the road for me”.
I had just put my heart into my dream of setting up an international quality healthcare facility. We hadn’t even paid for the land that was allotted for our first and only project. What might have felt like a true beginning, felt like it was the beginning of the end.
In time we come to see that each such situation in life comes for a reason. It teaches us a lesson. It makes us stronger and helps us move forward. Trying as they are, if we approach them with the right spirit, we grow and are strengthened.
Looking back, my father’s passing away (of cancer), gave me the impetuous to do more and do better in the field I had chosen. A vision became a mission. A desire became a passion.
What do these experiences teach us? That the Lord creates a unique journey for us to get us closer to who he wants us to be; to be the best version of ourselves. For that, we need the right attitude, the right temperament and we need to remember: what doesn’t break us, makes us!
In life and a world that is always changing, it’s resilience, the human spirit to keep moving ahead, that remains constant.
I retired at 40 to live my only other dream; to serve as a volunteer in an institution I had seen and admired since I was a toddler. It was a dream I could not believe I got to live. After having had such a colorful and rich experience, and to leave it all at such a high, who has the privilege of that choice at such a young age? But it wasn’t meant to be– not now anyway. A “too good to be true” kind of moment.
Today, I’m in a difficult phase again, albeit of a different kind. Perhaps my most difficult “testing time” yet. While losing one big thing in life is tough, I’m perhaps in a “losing everything” phase. From what was not the most significant; wealth, to many things that are actually much closer to the heart; my company (built and nurtured from its first brick), relationships, trusted and empowered colleagues, near and dear ones. Perhaps I have even lost proximity and access to my Master. Today most things once dear and close, seem distant and gone.
As devastating as these losses are, sometimes seemingly impossible to cope with, there are also “green shoots”. They give hope and help us navigate these tough journeys. If the past is any indication, we emerge stronger once the storm passes. My “green shoots” have been the enumerable friendships and “at work family”. They have given me hope and support in dealing with the most difficult test and phase of my life yet.
The reward or dividend of difficult times comes in forms we can’t imagine, if we are open and receptive. When the world seems dark and grey, we see a light shimmering in the distance and that helps us get by. As we follow its positive glow, it emerges bigger and stronger. If even in the darkest hour, we open ourselves up to that light and believe in the goodness of humanity, we are rewarded with the purity of its existence.
But, jump into the darkness, believe the universe is grey and evil, and it envelopes us as if we were made for it.
The choice is mostly ours!
We take the first step and the path gets laid out in front of us. One: the yellow brick road which, through the winding, ultimately takes us to the emerald city. The other: dark and grey, though straight and perhaps easier to follow, leads to the dimming of the human spirit.
The choice is eventually ours!
I am shocked by some of the actions that have been taken to try and drag me down. People throwing dirt on me in an effort to protect themselves. It is possible that still more desperate attempts will be made and stories will be fabricated to attack my integrity but I have faith that eventually the truth will prevail. That faith, coupled with the unflinching support of loved ones, friends and my Fortis-family alike, is carrying me through this. As the truth is unravelled, there will be scars that I will continue to learn from, truth to rely on and strengthened relationships to build on.
Testing times have many dividends; the question is; are we ready to receive them?