The boy who kept waiting for next year to be happy

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(This story came to me during a conversation with a family member. As we talked, I noticed that this person tended to focus on what they hadn’t yet achieved rather than recognizing their successes. It inspired me to create a story about the importance of appreciating the journey, celebrating current accomplishments, embracing challenges and discomfort, and living in the present moment. I wanted to share this story here.)

An older man was sitting on a bench by the beach, talking to a young boy. The older man started to tell a story from when he was younger.

Middle school

When he was in middle school, the man was bullied a lot. The bullies’ mean laughter made him feel really bad and he couldn’t feel safe or peaceful. It was hard for him to enjoy spending time with his popular girlfriend because he always felt anxious and vulnerable.

The school counselor’s office promised that high school would heal all wounds. “Just get through,” she advised. He struggled through middle school in a haze of dissatisfaction, eyes fixed on the horizon of high school, believing it to be his panacea.

High school

In high school, he had a hard time dealing with the captain of the soccer team who constantly disrespected him. When the new counselor tried to encourage him by saying “College will be the best!”, it only reminded him of his past struggles. So, he waited for college, hoping it would be better.

College

College time arrived, and he faced new challenges. He didn’t click with his roommates since he never worked on social skills. Starting the AI club took more work than expected. So he thought: “The real fun starts when I’m working. I will finish college; then I can start my own business.” So, he waited, believing work life would bring him happiness.

Startup

After spending four miserable and lonely years, he finally graduated from college and started a tech company with a partner he met at college. Their company was meant to help people learn and solve health issues using AI technology.

A couple of years into the business, they discovered that his partner was stealing money from the company and taking side deals. They ended up suing each other and selling the company. After discussing it with his wife, he decided to get a job instead, believing it would be less stressful and come with less responsibility.

Job

Years into this job, he faced a demanding boss who constantly made him work weekends and was mean. He figured he’d wait it out until retirement. Retirement meant freedom.

Retirement

After retiring, they decided to relocate closer to their daughter, who was expecting a baby. However, he soon realized he didn’t have any hobbies, side hustles, interests, or close friends to keep him busy. He had always been so preoccupied with waiting and planning for the future that he never learned to enjoy the present moment.

Conclusion

The boy listened, his eyes reflecting not pity but a spark of wisdom. “But what about the good parts? You had first love, played soccer, led a club, and started something big with your startup,” He said. The boy’s words made the old man see his life in a new light, full of achievements and happiness.

So the old man goes: “You’re right, kid. Those moments… they were full of life, weren’t they?” He smiled after years.

The boy nodded, a wise guide in youthful guise. “Life’s not about waiting for better days; it’s about finding little bits of happiness every day, even the tough ones. Embracing discomfort, even seeking it.

The old man sighed, a mix of regret and newfound understanding coloring his tone. “I wish I met you 50 years ago,” he admitted, but the boy shook his head gently.

It’s never too late,” he said, a profound statement that seemed to cut through the old man’s years of accumulated shadows.

And there, by the sound of the waves, the old man learned the final lesson of his long journey: Happiness is a daily choice, a treasure in the trials, not a trophy at the end of the race. As the sun dipped below the horizon, he realized the best years weren’t lost—they were waiting to be lived.

Thank you so much for reading! 

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