Happy Again

This is one of those deep, honest posts.

Just a warning.

I’ve recently realized that, within the past 6 months or so, I have lost my happy.

I am aware that this sounds like some strange, Dr. Seuss book where “happy” is an item or a star on your belly or something, but it was less obvious than that.  In fact, I don’t think I even realized how much my demeanor and general perception of life had changed until recently, when I was pulled out on the other side of my rut.

I’ve realized, too, that that’s truly what it is – demeanor and perception.  Deliberately choosing what to see in life.

Throughout high school and college, I tended to be quite optimistic.  Sometimes to the point of ridiculous.  And it meant that I got hurt sometimes, because I assumed that people were honest and good through-and-through.

But I’ve realized that that’s okay.

I would rather suffer the occasional over-estimation of someone than constantly live picking out the things that are bad.  Than consistently being annoyed with things instead of seeing the good in them.  I really, truly adored life.  Everything about it.  I loved everything I got to do, everything I saw, everyone I met.*

Moving to Indonesia has been a hard adjustment for me.  Which may just seem rough by comparison to the incredibly easy moves that I’ve been blessed with to other places. Interestingly, this difficulty has been surprisingly hard to admit.  “Traveler” has always been a part of my identity, and I wasn’t sure what to do with the fact that I wasn’t loving my new surroundings.  Regardless of the reasons, though, I’ve been very negative throughout this season.

I got mad at people.  I got mad at situations.  I got mad at traffic, and cultural differences, and people taking endless photos of me.  It made me angry that no one would give me a straight answer, that men would yell things at me**, and that everything was always sold out everywhere.

I’m not saying that these aren’t validly obnoxious things.

The question is, instead: Why was I focusing on these things?  Since when did I choose to see all of the negatives in life, when there was so much good?

There are some pretty epic good things in my life, currently.

For example, I get to SCUBA dive the best country in the world.
And I employ Indonesia’s best helper.
And I have fulfilled my lifelong dream of motorbike ownership.
And I have an incredible church family (2, actually :)).
And I get to travel southeast Asia.
And my students love learning.  And bringing me American food.

Life is pretty good.

Recently, though, I’ve been able to appreciate the little things again.  And automatically, when you start appreciating the little things, you stop being annoyed by the little things.  It’s been beautiful.

I’m not sure what has brought this change about, but I think that a lot of it is feeling fulfilled again.  An important differentiation for me over the past year or two has been an answer to the following question:

“Am I surviving, or am I thriving?

This past 6 months, I have been surviving.  I didn’t feel like I was doing much of anything well as I tried to get my bearings in this culture, learn to teach a new subject with zero training, make friends in a place where I knew nobody.  After such an amazing community with the students at my previous school, I honestly felt rather useless here.

This new year God has opened up some incredible opportunities to serve Him and to (hopefully) make a difference.  Thinking through it, now, though, I realize that not that much has changed.  My eyes have just been opened.

To close things out, here is an abridged list of some of the things that make my life wonderful every day.

1. The adorable, grandmotherly woman who lives on my floor and talks rapid-fire, in Bahasa, for our 50-floor ride. I love her.
2. Driving my motorbike to work.  Perfect way to start the day.
3. The guards at the front gate that are always so cheerful.
4. The precious grounds lady who calls me over to tell me that I’m beautiful every day when I arrive at school.  It never fails to make my morning.
5. Rainy season.  I love rainy season.
6. The precious umbrella-carrying children.
7. The ojek drivers that tell me “Good morning” no matter what time of day it is.
8. The bubble tea workers that give me extra mango popping bubbles and frequent visitor stamps.
9. The guards that help me navigate the wrong way through traffic to avoid driving the extra circle of one-way-roads-circle.
10. The parking card guys that always helpfully correct my apparently incorrect understanding of the times of day here (they usually contradict each other).
11. The men who sweep my classroom.  They’re awesome.

Looking at my list, I realized that almost all of the items include people.  And I guess that’s how I’ve always functioned.  But they’re all people that don’t know me, really.  That don’t have to be kind.  That don’t play a major role in my life.  It’s the little things that have really come together that I have begun to be aware of that make me feel like I belong here, to give me my happy back.

*I did not love winter.  This was an exception to the rule.  It has been remedied. 

**And the kissy sounds.  Goodness, I hate those stupid kissy sounds.

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