The Art of Getting By

One day, George just read from a book that as humans, whoever we were born to be, we are all approaching the same destination: dying alone. He wakes up the next morning wondering what the hell he is doing with his life. Why is he even going to school? What is the point of it anyway, if after years of studying, then shedding tears and sweats in the struggle of life, engaging himself in relationships with people that come and go, he could still be a lonely heart beating alone, and stop beating alone when the kingdom comes? At that point The Art of Getting By gets me instantly. The movie is average in my opinion, but the idea of a young kid finding himself stuck in his own head with endless questions about the meaning of his existence on Earth just never gets old. Because I am that vulnerable kid. Because for as long as I have lived, I have been questioning God’s decision to have created me as a defective product that needs fixing. I go to bed every night with a thought of Japanese people committing suicide for seemingly no reason other than their own existence that they find meaningless to the world, nonetheless I think it makes sense sometimes. Then I wake up the next day, eyes wide open to the ceiling that imprints circles of sunlight, and I slap myself for holding stupid and selfish thoughts. Yet I would come back to that thought the next night, and hate myself when the sun comes up. It’s a long and painful process.


For days I have been jogging in the park (one of the very rare things in the world that at the same time could bring peace for the moment, and hope for a hot body in the future). There is this old lady who wanders about the park every single day to pick up trash, mostly plastic bottles, so that she would sell them to the recycling house and earn some money for her day. She earns less than one dollar per sale, yet she says “It’s enough for a day.” She is childless and living with her siblings. Once I offered her a loaf of bread, she took it without hesitation, and she sat there on the grass eating the bread with a smile on her face. She talked carelessly about her poor life, as if there was nothing wrong about it. Or am I wrong, because there’s just nothing wrong about it? She’s just mastering the art of getting by, possibly. She’s one of the happiest-looking and most present people I’ve ever met, more than any people with big fat checks or Louis Vuitton clutches. Then I start to wonder, what happened when she was young? She must have had hopes and dreams at some point in her life. Whatever happened to her that dragged her down the road, it broke every sparkle things in her life, leaving her naked with the constant concern on fundamental survival questions, like, where the next meal is coming from. Then she took to that life style and just managed to make end meets. She somehow has learned to be happy.


After all, getting by is clearly an art. We are not all gifted artists, unfortunately.


That is the worst part of being a dreamer. You never know when life is about to knock you out of the fancy dream you have made up. Harboring a dream is something everyone can talk about, so passionately until they actually hit the rock bottom of it, when they are at the crossroad of their life and are forced to make that difficult choice between the purse strings and the heart strings. So not everyone has the pluck and perseverence for pursuing dreams, why would we dream in the first place anyway, if we know it would hurt that much? Why wouldn’t we just pass the buck onto our parents and let them decide for us a stable career ahead? If that case, dreams would no longer exist. We would be under no tug of war between reason and emotion. Free from pains.


Yet we can’t do it.


And I really don’t know why.


Maybe because I wake up everyday like George, questioning the existence of my own, and of everything around me. I am deeply terrified by the mere thought of ending my life without a single person in the world, and I don’t believe anyone that ever passes by my life or stays for some time is just an illusion. They do exist, and for some reason. And maybe, possibly and hopefully, God made me with mistakes, but he did not do that by mistake. The thing is, if we believed in dreams and devoted our life to it, would it guarantee happiness? Or would it be better if we look closer at what we already have, and just be satisfied with it? I have struggled to find the answer to this for a long time, and yet no answer. It just changes with time. We find peace in less ambition, but excitement lies in more daring adventures. So what brings pure happiness, peace or excitement?


As I have said, the answer lies in the particular moment. Mastering the art of getting by is absolutely a hard act, but I have come up with the idea that while I make a pledge to myself to keep a vision for future, and always leave room for dreams to be weaved, I would allow myself to lay back and look closely at what I already have. That satisfaction and grateful attitude could save me from all the exhaustion and disappointment. Or maybe, I should just ask the old lady to teach me the first lesson on mastering the Art of getting by, with a smile on.

 Da Ly


3 thoughts on “The Art of Getting By

  1. Living a life, I think, is to learn how to balance. It likes walking on a thin line between good and bad, what should be and what shouldn’t be, or die and alive. I guess the reason why the old lady is so happy, is that she finds her own balance: what she earns and what she spends, what she gives and what she takes. I guess sometimes happiness lays in the simpliest things but we are too complicated to realize.

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