Today, I had lunch with Icy and Olive. Icy had earlier remarked that she had a lot of sympathy with the younger generations today, who had to face a lot more challenges than our generations did. (Of course Icy is much younger than me.) So during lunch, I asked Olive, who is from a younger generation, how she was perceiving and experiencing her life and her future.
When Olive had finished pouring out her mind, I had to agree (with Icy) that I should be thankful that I had been born much earlier.
As someone belonging to the ‘post-fifties’, like my contemporaries, I have always thought that many of those younger than me were born with a silver spoon in their month. They have never gone through the poverty-stricken childhood that I had. They should count their blessings; yet they seldom do. They should be better equipped for the tribulations of life; yet they are so fragile. I have worked very hard to achieve what I have today. And they don’t seem to have any goals in life.
Icy is right. They were born in a world that we have built for them. If we had been born at the same time they were, we would probably perceive and experience life the way they do.
And if you had the chance to listen to Olive pouring out her mind, you would have a lot more sympathy with the younger generations today, instead of simply accusing them of being ungrateful or unmotivated.
Looking back, I think the social conditions of my time have generally allowed people to lead a happy life more easily. Olive was right that generally there were more opportunities, and life was much simpler. In comparison, today’s young people were born much better-off, material-wise. Yet, it is harder for them to lead a happy life.
During the Chinese New Year, I met up with Teresa Wong, a former MA student, who is now teaching at a Band 1 secondary school. She told me that one day, out of the blue, she asked her students: How many of you are living happily? There was no response, instead all her students looked puzzled and lost, as if living a happy life was the most alien concept they had ever heard.
I joked to Teresa: If you walk into the staff room, and ask the teachers the same question, you will get the same response (that is, no response).
OK, I admit that few people, even if they’re truly happy, will confess accordingly. But I do wonder from time to time: How many teachers, how many students, and in fact, how many people in present-day society, are leading a happy life?
We may not want to live 100 years ago: general poverty, war, no flush toilets, no TV, no LV handbags, no Mercedez’s, no decent jobs for women, no iPhones, no Godiva, no vacations in Paris, no airconditioners, …… We should be 100 times happier now; yet few of us are leading a very happy life! What has gone wrong? How can we regain happiness?
Today, when you wander into a bookstore, you can easily spot ten books with a title like ‘how to live happily’. I clearly remember that when I was young (and until I turned forty perhaps), there were no such books. We just lived happily. (Or maybe some of them were not very happy; just that I was not aware of that.)
Hence, the biggest challenge for the post-eighties and the post-nineties, and those who were born after them, has now become: HOW TO FIND HAPPINESS.