He Who Laughs Last, Laughs Longest

Context: The informant is my uncle and he is identified as J.I. He was raised in the Bay Area by my grandparents alongside my mother. In the following quote gathered from a phone call I had with him, J.I reflects on the aphorism, “he who laughs last, laughs longest”; one that his father would often tell him in his adolescent years.

Main Text: “My father used to say ‘he who laughs last, laughs longest’. The way I looked at that is it’s not always about getting noticed or winning first, but how you come out in the end. This could be in a game, a job, in school, in any aspect of life. It can be tough sometimes when you are not winning or getting credit, but in the end, many times you come out on top by working hard and staying focused. This comes to mind in my life as I was never the biggest in high school; I didn’t start growing until junior year. But maybe two years later, I was out at a party, and by that point, I had grown and started working out. Some girls took notice of this and mentioned my arms, cause I had some guns at that point. So one of my old buddies, who was sort of the alpha, challenged me to an arm-wrestling match at the party, and I ended up beating him. And that’s what I’ll remember, it really captures the message behind the saying.”

Analysis: This proverb reminds people that everyone is bound to have some bad luck or not get their way in life, but what really matters is how you handle these situations and create your own fortune. My uncle’s story is a great example of how you can’t let immediate misfortunes get to you and how you ultimately have to look at the big picture. A similar anecdote is a tale of “the tortoise and the hare”, which also teaches that persistence and hard work can overcome superficial or immediate losses. The sweetest victory is the final one.