A common theme among Indians in the U.S. is the steep learning curve when it comes to adapting to the lack of hustle and bustle. I have been fortunate enough to have lived in a city like Chicago where hustle bustle on the streets reminded me of home and to have had good friends in the city who filled the void of not having close ones close. It still doesn’t compare to the kind of social life we as Indians are used to, wouldn’t you agree? To be honest, living in the U.S. for a few years does make you mentally stronger in that respect. Rather than deriving happiness from other people, you start looking for it in the things you do for yourself. You achieve mental independence. But what is the right way to live?
To answer that question, let’s look at some stats – rates of clinical depression and anxiety are higher by 4-10 times in the West as compared to the East? Have you considered why? Studies suggest that Westerners are more like free agents, they believe in being independent in their interactions with others and, act and think in binaries – good versus evil, happiness versus sadness. Whereas, people in the East tend to view the world holistically. They believe in the importance of interdependence of human beings in terms of relationships and social obligations. They also expect opposites to coexist – happiness with a hint of sadness, there’s some evil in all good.
Some people might look at the above description and think, well then Westerners should be happier. The less the interaction with fellow human beings, the less the drama and the happier you are. Hell, I used to think that way too until recently. However, I have slowly come to realize that money, comfort, living standards and independence do matter however are often confused with harbingers of happiness. Happiness, at least for me, is derived from the people around me, my close ones, the relationships I share with them, the laughter and joy, the fact that my kids will some day grow up the way I did – squished between 8 siblings running around the house chasing each other with the background noise of my grandma shouting at us for wreaking havoc.
We as millennials are slowly getting victimized by the western culture resulting in the rise of mental health cases. Chasing independence – both personally and financially, we lose sight of what matters at the end of the day – family. I am consciously making decisions that feel right to me rather than blindly following the propagandized version of happiness. Balance between ambition and happiness is key but all decisions have the right time to be made, find that sweet spot soon and act on it before the train leaves the station.