On my flight from Istanbul, I met a guy from Tehran. Or so he claimed, his accent suggested he was from one of the other provinces, but that doesn’t really matter. He was seated next to me on the plane, the flight was long, and I wasn’t the least sleepy. He said he was coming back from Germany where he was continuing his education. He had finished his MD and was focusing on something specific in some medical field. I don’t remember the details but that doesn’t really relate to where I’m going with this post. What I found interesting about him was his discontent with all that he had achieved and his life in general.
Being unhappy with life is as Persian as a Tabrizi rug. That’s nothing new. However what I find interesting is people’s expectations when it comes to their own achievements and milestones. There is a common pattern among Iranians when it comes to all they’ve achieved in their life. When they speak of their lives and the things they’ve done, a pattern tends to creep up over and over again. I like to call it “unrealistic milestone expectations.” To elaborate more on this I’ll continue with my example.
The guy on the flight, we’ll call him Babak, was in his late 20s early 30s. He had a geeky demeanour and his lower-middle-class upbringing was evident. Babak told me that after he finished high school he worked extremely hard to get in to a state-sponsored university. To do so he had to do well on a nation-wide test (konkoor which I think comes from the French/English word ‘conquer’). The result of that test determines what university you’ll end up in and pretty much dictates your future.
Once he got in, he studied medicine. After years of hard work he finally became a full fledged doctor. To continue his studies he decided to move to Germany. He’d been in one of the smaller German towns for the past few months and was on his way back to Iran for a break. He was telling me how he was disappointed that he had spent all his life studying and working hard on becoming a doctor. He told me but he had gained nothing else. He was complaining that he wasn’t rich. That his hard work had not gotten him any power or influence in society. He told me to his disappointment he had not been able to woo the girl that he wanted to marry. All the while being sad that he had spend all his time becoming a doctor thinking it would entitle him to all the things that it didn’t.
During my time in Tehran I used taxis to get everywhere. By most standards they’re pretty cheap and the drivers usually make for interesting conversations. One of these drivers was a young guy named Ali. He was in his early 20s and he was telling me how he worked over time to get himself a Maxima. Maxima is a car in Iran that apparently entails some sort of status in society. I personally find nothing special with the car, but Ali seemed pretty proud of his achievement to finally being able to buy one. However that sense of pride was also attached to an overwhelming sense of disappointment. He told me he thought he’ll have an easier time with women once he got his Maxima. However his Maxima had apparently failed him on that front and he had his eyes set on a Benz. I found it somewhat humours how in his mind the car he drove equalled the number/quality of women he would get. And that his lack of success with women had everything to do with his car and nothing to do with him as a person. Although I would come to learn about going “Dordor” and Iranian style of flirting in the streets and the importance of the type of car you drive, I still think his vapid connection of cars and women was pretty shallow and weak.
Examples like Babak and Ali are endless. What do these two individual have in common? In my opinion they both suffer from what lots of Iranians suffer. They both have “Unrealistic milestones expectations.” When you chose to become a doctor, you work hard to become one. Once you succeed, you’re a doctor. That is it. This doesn’t mean you’re entitled to wealth, fame and power. It entitles you to being a doctor. As a doctor you have gained a valuable tool which will make it easier to reach those other ends, but it doesn’t make it inevitable or sometimes any easier. Getting a Maxima means you have worked hard and have saved enough money to drive a nicer car. That is it. I don’t see why you should expect anything beyond that. Doing so would only lead to your own disappointment.
This is very common among Iranians. When they work hard for something, and finally get it, there is an expectation to get more than what it entails. When someone puts in the time to go to Home Depot to buy a hammer, that person has got himself a a hammer. It’s asinine to come back home and complain that you went all the way to Home Depot and the nails aren’t still hammered in. In my opinion our accomplishment are an end on their own. They’re fulfilments within the scope of their domain. Once our milestones are realized for what they are, they can be effectively and efficiently used as a mean toward other ends.
Iranians view life as a swim toward an island, a struggle toward some blessing, a dash toward a light at the end of a tunnel. They are persistent and swim hard, however once they reach it, they expect everything and anything. I’m not sure if this mentality stems from a religious understanding of a better after-life or has something to do with a common upbringing among Iranians. One where you’re told over and over again, “If you study hard and become a doctor, then you’re set.”
Over time I’ve managed to distance myself from that type of thinking and view life is an upward climb. A continuous climb where you equip yourself with better tools as you progress through different stages of life. Tools that make the climb faster and easier. And as you get higher and higher, life starts to show you a better view of all that it has to offer.
Enjoy your degree as a doctor, and if it’s fame and money you’re after use your knowledge and background as means to help you on that front. Don’t expect it to come to you automatically. Enjoy your fancy car for what it is, if you tell a girl how it was your dream to drive a Maxima and through hard work and persistence you managed to achieve it, I’m sure she’ll be much more impressed by you than your Maxima
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