Why I Feel Like Living in an Affluent Society Sets You up for Success, but Failure at the Same Time.
October 3, 2023
When it gets too warm in my room, I turn on my air conditioner. When I feel hungry, I pick up my phone and order a fresh meal. When I need to visit the doctor, an appointment is set for me. But soon, I will graduate from high school and go to college alone. Then, when it gets too warm in my room, I can count on my parents to pay my electricity bill to turn it on. When I feel hungry, I can use pocket money sent abroad to eat at a restaurant. When I need to visit the doctor, my university-paid insurance is there to cover for me. Eventually, I will finish college and move onto the real world, needing to supply for myself. But when it gets warm, how will I pay my electricity bill? When I get hungry, how will I order food? And now, when I need to visit the doctor, why do I suddenly feel incognizant?
This, is what terrifies me.
Although these challenges may seem miniscule, they simply act as a microcosm for experiences which are set to encompass my time after high school. Growing up my whole life, everything has always been given to me. From food on my plate, to club officer roles in school, to good grades on my report card. I feel successful, but why does it feel like a facade?
My name is Armaan Ali Khan, and I go to the International School of Bangkok, a school which is prominently affluent with a student body who are fortunate to attend. Myself included. With incredibly qualified teachers and state-of-the-art facilities, it is no doubt our high school sets us up for success. Personally, I am a four year athlete on multiple varsity sport teams, I am the captain of the Model UN squad, and I hold leadership positions in multiple different student organizations. It is an understatement to say I am well on track to attend college, a feat which is relatively new to my family lineage.
But through all this success, I feel myself questioning the reality of it all. Cutting through highschool seamlessly like a knife through butter, isn’t this meant to be harder? Or perhaps, if adversity is meant to make you stronger, does that mean my advantages cause me to miss out on growth and learning as much as they prepare me later for success?
This realization was bestowed upon me when talking to my father. Growing up in my hometown, a city in the south of India called Hyderabad, my father lived a drastically different lifestyle to myself. Attending a low-tier government high school, living in a subpar neighborhood, and scrambling for his place in a school system of millions, nothing was given to him. Going to a high school with 47 students per teacher, personalization ceased to exist. Not to mention, the lack of international attention in India in the early 1990s meant the odds for my father to leave the country in search for a better livelihood were stacked against him.
”My father, his twin, and friend in their family home.” 1983
But this hardship helped him learn the value of hard work. Hurdles encountered throughout his journey helped him learn how to fail, coaxing him to strive even harder for success. There is no doubt, my father encountered a barrage of obstacles but learning how to fail taught him how to succeed. By contrast, through living an affluent life, I lack these types of challenges. Only a year away from leaving my home and commencing adulthood, there will be challenges that will come my way, potentially knocking me off my feet. But will I be ready to deal with them?
”My father attending Nizam college in Hyderabad, India” 1994
An example comes to my mind which took place during my freshman year of high school. Entering some of the most important years of my life, I was ready to cruise through. Grades had never been a worry for me my whole life; teachers throughout primary school commended me for the ease at which I tackled school. So everything but stress inhabited my body when taking my first ever math test in the big leagues. Following the test, I knew it did not go so well, however, nothing prepared me for the score I was about to receive.
I failed. Yes, I had failed my first-ever test in High School. An inundation of sorrow overwhelmed me. How could I recover from this? My 14-year-old self felt like a failure.
In the moment, it may have felt as if the world was ending. However, this minor setback solely acts as a microcosm for the possibilities of hardships which could come my way in life. Looking back, the way I dealt with this failure scares me: how will I face bigger challenges which are bound to come my way?
This fear has challenged me to expose myself. Instead of being afraid of failure, I embrace it. Taking harder classes. Engaging in new activities. And pushing myself to the limit. Nowadays, I approach mathematics with caution – as well as all subjects at school. Studying content with precision and working hard to gain understanding, this failure early on taught me the valuable lesson of maintaining attention to detail.
Unquestioningly, the life I have been given has set me up for success, but to an extent, it has set me up for failure too. So that is why I take failure as an opportunity to improve, rather than a setback.