I remember loving the song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” when I was growing up, and I still love it to this day. Lately I have been finding myself getting down and worrying about a lot of things I can’t change. I want to fix everything to make my family happy all the time, I want to have more friends that I really feel I can connect with that live on the same continent–or better yet, the same city in the same state!–, and I want to be comfortable and capable in my new job. I don’t want to worry, I want to be happy!
A few years ago, before I got the opportunity to work exclusively as a teacher of small children, I made the page above in my art journal. Amazingly, I’ve done a lot of the things listed: I’ve gone to Italy and Spain, I’ve sort of joined a book club (though it only consists of my sister-in-law and myself), I started Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (though I didn’t finish–ahem), and I’ve gone paragliding (though I know that’s not the same as parasailing!). I’ve been researching soup kitchens and Habitat for Humanity, and we’ve been looking at houses with a Realtor, so we’ll be getting our chance to make our first house a home. And, probably most significant at the moment, I am now working in a cafe.
Around the same time that I made that page, I made this one above with a “mantra.” I came up with the mantra through an exercise in an art journaling class I was taking, and when it came out be the following, I was really excited:
“I want to electrify the lives of children by broadening their horizons and teaching them to navigate life with energy, curiosity, creativity and optimism!”
After making that page, I was lucky enough to live out my mantra as an Executive Head Teacher and Curriculum Coordinator for the Early Learning Center of an international school in Japan. I found my passion, and I hope one day I can start making a difference in early education in the states. In the meantime, I’m trying my best to stay positive, and not let anything or anyone get me down. I mentioned briefly before how working at Starbucks has been kind of stressful, but I think I’m already getting used to things. And I feel pretty lucky to be getting the opportunity to learn all about (and taste!) coffee, to always take my breaks and arrive/leave when my shift starts/begins (which I never did when working as a teacher), and to be gaining so many new, valuable experiences.
Since we’ve been home I’ve often been feeling a bit out of place, and it’s been hard to talk about my life when pretty much every sentence starts with, “In Japan…” or “When I was in Japan…” That was my life for about 5 years, but I feel like a lot of people can’t relate and so they sort of shut down whenever I talk about it. I’ve had moments where I just want to scream or where I just want to cry because I miss my friends in Japan. But, I also have the joy of being with my family every day, and of living in the gorgeous state of Michigan. I’m forcing myself to think something positive to counteract every negative thought that crosses my mind, and if I’m frustrated with a particular situation that’s out of my control, I try my best to let off steam about it once and then limit my acknowledgement to a simple, “I’m frustrated with X situation right now,” before trying my best to let go.
I think I’m learning an important lesson in being vulnerable and in growing through change. We knew we had gotten really comfortable with life in Japan, and that things would be getting uncomfortable for a while as we figured out our life together here. But overall, we’ve sure got it good. We don’t need to worry, we just need to focus on letting go, appreciating how lucky we are, and on being happy.