Learning · Projects

Don’t Worry, Be Happy




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.


6 thoughts on “Don’t Worry, Be Happy

  1. Welcome home! I can imagine how hard it must be to settle back in. It is a form of culture shock. I i I I Iremember coming home after just three weeks in Japan. The first morning we sat in a busy American restaurant I felt assaulted by all the conversations around me. In Japan I couldn’t understand the language, but I enjoyed herring it. Once I was home it felt so loud and intrusive!
    Have you looked for a teaching job in Michigan? I’m sure your leadership experience in schools in Japan would help you get a job here.
    I think it’s pretty normal to have a lot of mixed emotions about moving home and starting over.
    I have been enjoying your blog-I started following it a while ago. I think it’s a good outlet to help you adjust. I just retired from teaching in June, so I’m having my own adjustment now:) Hang in there!

    1. Thank you for the encouragement! I know what you mean about the conversations–every year when we would visit home we felt that way! I understand a lot of basic Japanese, so now I think it’s more a matter of missing the language. I sometimes get close to responding to coworkers or random people in Japanese, but luckily I catch myself and save myself from embarrassment! (The funny thing is, I think I’ll be a little sad when that occasional impulse goes away.)

      I’ve looked for teaching jobs in Michigan, but unfortunately a lot of preschool teaching positions don’t pay very well and/or don’t have any benefits. On top of that, I haven’t seen any openings! I’d be interested in doing kindergarten, too, but I’d need to go back to school for student teaching and student assisting, along with the coursework for them. I understand why it is necessary for people to have the piece of paper that says they’re qualified, but it’s frustrating for me because I’ve spent the last five years teaching all age ranges and feel very competent. Ah well, I’ll get where I need to be eventually.

      What are you doing now that you’re retired? Do you miss teaching? What age group were you teaching??

  2. Oh boy, I know how you feel. If you like TED talks, search Brene Brown. She gives amazing insight into vulnerability and embracing authenticity. Her new book, ‘Daring Greatly’ might be a good addition to your book club.📚 Keep your chin up. 👍

    1. Yes–I’ve watched some of her TED talks and have followed her blog for a few years. You’re right, she does give a lot of insight into those topics. The tough part is that accepting vulnerability and being authentic can often be easier said than done! Always something to work on… Thanks for the encouragement 🙂

  3. I taught first grade for 17 years! I hope to do some more writing and painting. I also create things to sell on Teachers Pay Teachers. You should do that! Some people make a ton of money selling on it. I’ve sold some things, but apparently a lot of teachers make really good money. Check it out. Once you put something on, anyone in the world can see it and uy it. Maybe you could sell lessons to other teachers who are teaching in Japan!

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