As much as I am able to appreciate the beauty of the American culture, especially the concept of the American Dream, I am convinced that there’s no better place on this planet than one’s homeland. After moving to America six years ago, I had not been able to return to Kyrgyzstan, a small country in Central Asia, until the summer of 2009. Not only did this trip allow me to visit my relatives and friends, but it made me realize what the true pursuit of happiness means to me.
It all started with my first step unto the soil of my land. Nothing felt better than seeing the warm smiles on the faces of my aunts and cousins after a long three-day journey. In my so far inexperienced life, I have never felt so happy and welcomed. On the way to my aunt’s home, I realized how much I’ve forgotten this place. The view of the towering mountain peaks covered in snow and the cool early morning air made my heart beat faster as excitement overtook my mind. In opposition to such to divine beauty, I also encountered abject poverty and true suffering. Old women sold condiments set on little rugs on filthy sidewalks, drunk men behaved like animals, and the air was so dirty that you could feel each little particle of dust that you breathe in.
Even though this was so hard to come to terms with, I was able to enjoy my stay. I traveled with my family to a beautiful lake Issyk Kul. It’s the main tourist attraction in Kyrgyzstan. Issyk Kul means hot lake, and it truly is. It is like a little piece of paradise. The waves are never too big, and never too small, they are just perfect. Perfect enough that they inspire one to construct beautiful melodies and paint pleasant scenes. During late night talks on the beach with my aunt and cousins I came to realize that this is what I should pursue. Being close to my family is far more important to me than money or anything else in this world.
In my junior year literature class, I became a big fan of capitalism and being able to enjoy the fruit of your own labor. After reading novels such as “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged”, I found myself fascinated with becoming the John Galt of our world. My only goals were getting an education from an elite university and becoming a successful individual by living the life of hard work and progress. Rarely did my emotions cross my mind, and if they did, I would dismiss them as weaknesses or faults. Creating myself as a paragon of discipline was my ideal future, but now I realize I was duped. Thankfully, after the time spent with my family, I now realize how much my emotions and relationships truly do contribute to my own personal happiness.
I’m still a strong believer in success of a capitalistic form of economy, but after my trip to Kyrgyzstan, I became a more diverse and versatile man. I now understand the role that home and family play in human’s life. One can’t achieve happiness by the mere fact of being rich. There is more than one way to be happy, but for me, it’s spending the rest of my life in my beloved homeland, while continuing to be a successful contributor to society.
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