The Book That Changed My Life: TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE
Recently, author Mitch Albom announced the release of his latest book, The Next Person You Meet In Heaven, his first-ever sequel to the 2003 best-selling novel, The Five People You Meet in Heaven. I remember being introduced to Mitch Albom’s work for the first time back in eighth grade, when I had to write a review. Most of my friends did not particularly take a liking to the book, since they felt that it had a lot of philosophy to take in for someone who was just in high school at the time. I, on the other hand, actually found myself liking the book and would re-read it a couple of times again.
The first novel, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, revolves around Eddie, an 83-year-old war veteran’s journey in heaven and his interesting encounters with five significant people who give him answers about his life’s purpose on earth. While Eddie is shown dying, trying to save a little girl Annie’s life in the first book, the sequel throws light on Annie’s journey in heaven and her reunion with Eddie, who happens to be one of the instrumental five people that explains to her how important her life was and mattered in ways that she didn’t know was possible.
One of the central themes of Mitch Albom’s books connects fiction with real life philosophy while attempting to understand the abstract complexities of life in more concrete and simpler terms. It helps us try to comprehend the meaning of our lives, and sometimes even that of life after death. Much like Albom’s novels, I started believing that everything happens for a reason. In what turned out to be a strange coincidence, I picked up The Five People You Meet in Heaven instead of Tuesdays With Morrie for the aforementioned book review assignment. Little did I know that this would end up becoming one of the best decisions of my life.
When I chose to read the Tuesdays With Morrie, I was in a very different headspace. I wasn’t reading the book with any underlying motivation of wanting to get a good grade or because I was simply asked to do so. I read it because I genuinely wanted to read the book out of my own sheer will. This time, I was a little older than I had been four years ago and the person I had become was definitely nothing close to that of the carefree thirteen-year-old who had absolutely no care in the world. I was at a crossroads in life, facing an existential crisis in terms of my career choice after high school and was undergoing an immensely stressful time grappling with the pressures of being an Indian high school student whose life and future solely depended upon on how well my twelfth grade board exams would take off.
Tuesdays With Morrie is a memoir that delves into the relationship between Albom and his college professor Morrie Schwartz, with whom he reconnects many years after college when he finds out that Schwartz was suffering from ALS syndrome. This results in Albom spending every tuesday with his professor which leads them to having engaging discussions about various concerns in life such as forgiveness, regret, sadness, and, of course, the fear of death.
While these fears were already plaguing my mind, it was the fear of regret which topped my list, especially with reference to my career choice. However, later on when I looked back at my high school experience I realised that more than having regrets, I would end up missing the lessons I had learnt from my teachers, who were not just responsible for guiding us academically but were also deeply involved in guiding us through life by striving to make us better human beings.
As I slowly transitioned into college, I recognised how important these mentors were in the years to come. Their distant yet familiar voices would still guide me irrespective of the problems that I was facing or a new situation that I was unsure about. While I used to distinctly remember their advice and follow it sincerely during the first few months of college, gradually over time their voices started fading away as I had started making sense of the world through my own lens and newfound experiences.
However, one day as I was going through an extremely vulnerable phase of my life, I took a walk down memory lane to try and remember the person that I used to be. As I started searching for answers it dawned upon me that apart from my parents, it was my teachers in psychology and sociology who were somehow always present during all the major milestones during my teenage years. Whether it was encouraging me to open up in front of a large crowd, challenging myself more without underestimating my abilities, being open to new experiences, not being afraid of having strong opinions, or coming out of my awkward shyness, they instilled an unwavering confidence in me that helped me overcome difficult situations on my own. By sharing interesting anecdotes from their lives and being painfully honest through their stories, they taught me not to be judgemental, to always be patient and understanding and more importantly, to always recognize the good in everyone and be optimistic no matter how cynical life got. Just like how Morrie used to be with Albom even during the last stages of his life.
Today when I look back, I can proudly say that I am extremely grateful to have had these mentors in my life. Even though it is difficult for us to keep in touch regularly like Mitch and Morrie, the often lesser-known life lessons that I learnt from my mentors have helped me grow from a pensive, under-confident kid to a strong and independent girl. Although most of us meet these mentors during school or college, it is absolutely possible for us to meet them at any juncture of our lives, and sometimes when we least expect it. They happen to be one of the most compassionate and generous people who have served as a guiding force for millions of other people, before and after us, who still require them just as much as we do. On account of this, it is very important to acknowledge their presence and seriously imbibe the lessons that we learn from them,especially because of the limited time that we share we them.
When I often think of my teachers, especially the ones who were present during my last two years in high school, I only remember a lot of love, kindness, and empathy in their unconventional yet hard-hitting life lessons, which have always stayed with me since then. Apart from making high school a better place to be in by letting us enjoy the last two years without getting completely getting sucked into the academic pressure, they not only made learning fun but also went out of their way to prepare us for the real world that we were going to step into very soon. More importantly, they gave me the strength to constantly strive to be a better version of myself. Just like Morrie, they too have shaped my life in an unimaginable way and came into my life when I most needed them. I will always be forever thankful to have had the privilege of knowing them and will cherish all the wonderful memories and lessons I have learnt from them for the years to come.