Walking back to my hotel from the Taipei American School, I found myself happy. I had packed my summer shirts and shorts, but the weather was colder than ever and the school’s heating system was fixed— to no heat. It was the fifth day of drizzle and I hadn’t seen the sun since I arrived. I was working my sixth 6-hour teaching day in a row without a break and still feeling the last gasp of jet lag. And yet, here I was, walking with a bounce in my step and a lightness in my heart.
Shouldn’t that be enough? Must the mind always poke * and prod and analyze and wonder why? But let’s face it, we’re put together with the notion that reality is repeatable and are always looking to create and re-create the circumstance that makes us happy. And sometimes, there is a useful clue in the analysis.
The first thing that made me happy was being able to find my way from the hotel to school all by myself. And then navigate the maze of school hallways to arrive at my teaching room— two minutes before the kids arrived! And it occurred to me that simply finding my way was the beginning of my happiness. Like the pleasure of the child reaching the next step of independence— from shoe-tying to walking to the corner store alone to getting a driver’s license.
But it was more. Finding my way in the external world meant that new neural pathways were being carved in the brain and that’s what gives us the feeling that life is fresh again. I felt like I was starting a new life and a new job in a new city with new people and getting to know new routes and parks and stores and thus, everything felt… well, new! Whether finding your way from a hotel to a school, starting to learn a new piece of music or falling in love (just remembering and imagining here!), the effect is the same. Life is exciting, each day is an adventure and even when the years say otherwise, there can be the sense of new beginnings. It’s that constant dialogue between the comfort of the familiar and the excitement of the new that makes for artful living.
So off I go in search of a shop to buy a new sweater! Brrrr!
PS * Writing “poke and prod” above reminded me of the 5th grade girl who came up to me after class with her friends today and asked,
“Can I poke you?”
“Well, I have a tradition of poking famous people. I want to add you to the list.”
“Well, in that case, “ I replied, offering her my arm, “how can I refuse? Poke away!”
And she did.