Take the joy with you!

I’ve read a few interesting articles this week; they were short, online essays. This one on why not to travel and this one on why “everything’s amazing and no one’s happy” were quite thought provoking. A week or two ago, I was perusing plane tickets to somewhere, anywhere (okay, maybe preferably Spain) and told myself to just wait, sit on my hands if I have to. I didn’t really need to go anywhere for spring break. For one, I know my brother would love a visit and I wanted to see my sister’s big show. For two, I could use that same ticket moolah and fly over to my other hogar dulce hogar for a whole summer if I could just sit tight.

Part of the reason I wanted to travel was because I was getting uncomfortable. My oral exams were coming up (which, by the grace of all things good, I passed) and winter in Chapel Hill was feeling long, cold, and stagnant. I needed ¡chispa!, sparks, movimiento, new things to see and do to distract me from something.

Oddly enough, I did obligatorily have to travel for a conference this past weekend. I went down to Florida, though, surprisingly, I didn’t want to at all. (Does the thought of spending 24 of 60 hours on a train excite you? It just made me anxious and longing for a 2.5 hour-ride on the Ave and a cold bocadillo in my hand.) Against the odds, or against my inner whiny two-year old (“I don’t wanna!”), I indeed completed the voyage, gave my 18-minute presentation on an author no one had heard of, and made my way back, partially amused, partially annoyed by my backseat-mate who told a different story to every passenger who sat down beside him. While on the campus of a school that was not my own, I realized how much I loved Chapel Hill. I like where I live. My neighbors are decent people. The food options are stellar. Driving is almost always optional. I think I would’ve kissed the ground when I got back into town were I not stuck in traffic so long.

Typical Florida, sunny and warm. Day 1.

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 Rainy days will follow you south, too, apparently. Florida, Day 2.

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So, how does any of this relate back to those articles? I guess I pose that question more to myself than to you, dear reader. Something struck me particularly about article #1. The author, Hannah Harris says, “The changes to my mental and emotional state did not come because I left the country. The changes came because eventually I took responsibility and started to turn towards my sadness rather than running from it.” Now, I think you can substitute sadness for any other emotion. For me, it might be “occasional discontent with the status quo.”

I reflected on all of those walks I would take in Barcelona, by myself, with an episode of “This American Life” on my iPod and my eyes up enjoying my surroundings. I do the same thing now. I remembered all of the times I felt alone in Spain when I wasn’t around friends; I can still feel that way now. Both the good and the bad follow you, wherever you are. As I muse upon what I want my summer trip to the Peninsula to look like, I want to feel balanced, conscientious, open-minded and open-hearted. I don’t need to always be happy there, but I’d like to make an effort to be more grateful- at a minimum. Spain alone doesn’t fix anything, I’ve realized, which is perhaps why would serve little purpose to scurry over there for 8 days in March. However, if I begin to work on myself here and now, finding more joy in what I’m doing today (which is now quite a bit easier since I don’t have grim-reaper exams breathing down my neck), that goodness follows me over there. That’s something I can certainly be excited about!

And as for the other article, which took it’s inspiration in a great interview with comedian Lewis C.K., it’s all about finding wonder in the cool schtuff we find all around us. When is the last time you freaked out and realized that a computer as thin as a magazine exists? Don’t you remember playing Oregon Trail or Mario Kart with pixels the size of your fist on the screen?

So, in sum, I suppose my thoughts for this week are to: be amazed! take deep breaths! and bring peace with you, wherever you go.

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