I sat, not believing what I saw or heard. Coming from UCLA, I thought I was the hot shot. That the other students here were just a formality. Yet time and time again, person after person, I was floored. Someone had a much better GPA, someone had more extra-curricular involvement, someone else had greater athletic ability — and some students had a winning combination of all three.
Whether it was that girl from Wyoming University, that guy from Vanderbilt, or the cowboys from Texas A&M, these people were just as “good” or “better” than I was. Except maybe the girl from Montana Tech who spent five minutes talking about saddle-making (pretty neat five minutes though).
I consoled myself, however, as being the only guy from the cool, competitive school out in California. Until another guy from UCLA came and killed it. This got me wondering. Am I “good” at anything? What happened? I desperately needed some way to think that I mattered.
I had a conversation with a good friend of mine. I asked him what the point was of working hard and trying to be “somebody.” The way I see it, there are already so many “somebody’s.” We want to believe that our life is special. But really, there is always someone better, faster or smarter.
We might see ourselves as a hotshot but we need to step back and take a second glance. Does anyone in Georgia have any idea who I am? Someone in Canada? Probably not. There is some other hotshot kid over there (note to self: find synonyms for hotshot).
Ultimately, we will likely share a similar fate when it comes to worldly success. InshaAllah, if we want, we will have a 9-5 job with a family and kids. Maybe our vision of being a revolutionary and “changing the world” won’t come true. Maybe it will — just not the way we expect it to.
My aim is not to be cynical. I only think that we put stake into things that really do not matter. This does not mean we shouldn’t aim to be the best we can. On the contrary, the Prophet (peace be upon him) encouraged us toward excellence in whatever we do.
He told us that God loves that when one of us does something, he does it with utmost excellence. God also states in Surat Adh-Dhariat, “And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me” (51:56). It is this purpose that will “separate us from the crowd.”
In God’s eyes, the most conscious of Him are the most honored. We need to reflect on what measuring stick we use to personally compare ourselves to others. If we base it on career accomplishments and material gains, we will find ourselves in depression because we will realize our position is not special in any way.
I know the cliché police will get me on this, but it is true: our standard for success should be based on how God sees us and how we see ourselves in front of His most honored presence. With that being the goal, we will always have a true purpose in life. We will always be content.
The intent here is to emphasize that worldly successes are not what keeps us going day in and day out. Our success may become negligible in comparison to what others are doing. What ultimately matters is how Allah sees us and how pleased He is with us. I would love feedback on this and further discussion. Good luck with midterms (and yes, we should do well on them, InshaAllah).