Money or deeper meaning of life? This question was brought back in my conscious when I read Nicholas Kristof’s column earlier this week. The column was about a 22-year old Marina Keegan-a Yale graduate whose promising life was tragically cut short when she died in a car accident. The forever young author shot to limelight when she questioned if young graduates should seek money or meaning. When I read Nicholas Kristof’s column, I started thinking about the young Marina’s question-money or meaning? It is a deep debate at any age, but usually only a young 22-year old has the temerity to question it.
I came to US when I was 22 years old, my reason: higher education. Like many Indians with means, I decided I wanted to study further abroad and make my career. While I have always loved science and cannot imagine myself doing anything else, I wonder how much of it was real love and how much was “because doing science will make me money!” I was born and brought up in India along with other 2 billion of my brothers and sisters, and in such a country if you aren’t competing to make money your worth is considered less than nothing. I was always taught that you should study well in school/college, as that’s the only way you can become an engineer or a doctor-a status worthy profession! I remember being devastated when I couldn’t qualify for medical school after giving a slew of entrance exams. What the hell was I going to do, if I couldn’t be a doctor or an engineer? I somehow became a pharmacist and today armed with an MS in biotechnology and a good job, I think I did all right for myself. But if someone were to ask me today, is my profession out of genuine love or for love of money, I will have to choose latter option. If asked what is it that I would really love to do, I will be at a loss for words. I didn’t have a choice of profession while growing up and today I don’t think I will know what to do if given that choice.
As Nick Kristof mentions in his column, the world needs engineers and investment bankers, and it also needs artists and writers. The young generation today cannot be blamed for choosing career paths that will make money instead of the ones that will make dreams. The world forces them to choose, because apparently you aren’t worth much if you don’t have money. In his column Nick Kristof also mentions about a young man who quits his successful job as investment banker and starts a non-profit to help provide school materials to the needy. That story is incredibly uplifting and inspiring. I have always felt that if you want to help others-someone who needs you- you should have some measure of success in your professional/practical life. After all, if you cannot help yourself, how can you have the confidence to help others in need? Also people trust successful people to help them, it is just an innate human nature; and having money gives you means to help people.
So to bring the long winded conversation to an end, I don’t think money and meaning of life have to be two separate entities. With money hopefully you can go ahead and help others thus leading to a more satisfactory life. Nicholas Kristof’s column is very inspiring and hopeful, by giving us examples of a 22 year old who was wise beyond her years, and of a young man who gives up a successful job to provide education to others. It’s only when you have tasted success that you are able to help others achieve it.