What’s Your Biggest Life Achievement?

The flight was early in the morning, but I had zone 1 for boarding. The cabin seemed empty, but on the way to my seat, I noticed her sitting next to mine. She was elderly (wasn’t she my age?) and with a perpetual smile on her face, she reminded me of my mother. While it was time to buckle our seats, she was fidgeting and couldn’t fit the buckles properly. The woman was visibly nervous. I helped her and she said “Gracias.” I said, “De nada, seniora, de nada.” She smiled and looked at me with some interest.

Hablas Español?” she showed some hope.

Solo un poco, seniora. Not much.”

It was an end to our conversation for a while.

She was sitting with her hands folded on her lap, holding a white handkerchief. Still my mother’s smile on her face, especially, when she couldn’t understand the language around her.

On the third seat, next to the window, there sat a younger woman, reading the book on her tablet. After an hour or so, my neighbor struck a conversation with her and I could hear the younger woman’s halted Spanish. The elderly female sitting next to me was trying to describe something to her and was getting more and more excited. Then she reached for her ancient looking, simple purse and pulled out a thick envelope. She unfolded it and took a stack of pictures out. I peeked over my shoulder and saw many pictures of little children, three, four, may be five years old. The older woman was describing each of the pictures and pointing to each child. Girls had colorful dresses and boys nice outfits. I looked at her face and it beamed smiles.

The flight was from Raleigh to Los Angeles. The older lady was probably visiting her family in the Triangle and now was coming back to her town in Mexico. It could be her first visit to see the grandchildren. They were quite young. Judging by the distance, this was an expensive trip, and by the way, she dressed it didn’t look like she had a lot of money.

She was visibly happy. For her, having the grandchildren was probably the biggest achievement of her entire life. And one could see it just by looking at the expression on her face. She seemed like Madonna holding Baby Jesus in her hands. Eternal bliss.

Then I thought of some of my friends. Many of them were quite accomplished, and they obviously worked hard for that. But I couldn’t recall many of us showing this grade of content in life. There was always something to worry about and something more to achieve. The problems with coworkers and with the children. For some, the bigger house or better job. Or just the unhappiness with the system which was stacked against us.

She didn’t have any part of that. She was done with her life achievements and she was happy.

And when all is said and done, is this about having more or about enjoying more what we have?

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