“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Once upon a time, I met the King of Hellshire Beach.

Fresh off Wall Street, I found myself living in Kingston, Jamaica.  My resume says that I was on a Fulbright Grant, learning about public health.  But I’ll admit that I was on a personal journey, learning about happiness.

King Brenden was a local child, playing on Hellshire Beach – a makeshift, impoverished playground, just a stone’s throw from Kingston’s slums.  He playfully called himself royalty, sporting only a pair of tattered shorts and a giant, toothy smile.  The beach was littered, the children were unclothed, and reggae music from different speakers clashed cacophonously – it was no kingdom.

Playing alongside him all afternoon, I realized King Brenden was rich!  The company he kept rather than worldly possessions conveyed his wealth.  His genuine laughter communicated his fortune.  Amidst the chaos, he had found peace.  I wanted this richness.

My year in Jamaica was fleeting, but its impact on me was not.  I learned to not get caught up in who the world asks me to be and instead chase my own happiness.

I choose to be compassionate, to not watch the clock, and to get lost in conversation – even with nine-year old children.

— Anita Gupta