walking my “why”

The truth is I lied in my last post. My trouble with blogging isn’t work. It’s time management.

Sure, sure — we all have this problem. Who ever does everything they’re supposed to exactly when they’re supposed to do it? Almost no one. That’s human nature — and life. But this flaw has perhaps been exaggerated in my case since moving to Knoxville. I work from home for a company on the west coast. I have class in the middle of the day. I’ve always been a night owl . . .

You see where I’m going with this.

It’s a fine thing to have flexibility and down time, but there comes a point where structure is good, too. Kids need routines and schedules, and so do adults. I like needing to be places and feeling productive. I like feeling like I’m a part of something in a meaningful way.

I’ve talked a lot about happiness on my blog — what it is compared to what we think it is. I’m come to see that happiness is multi-faceted. It’s not enough just to be thankful for what you have. Happiness is not about possessions or wealth. Happiness is much more than that, and part of it is “walking your why” and feeling like you’re a part of something bigger than yourself.

Take, for example, the families who have been displaced in places like Syria or Rohingya. Many of these people have nothing except the clothes on their backs. Surely these people are suffering, but something that keeps them going — something that keeps all of us going — is the idea that a better future is within their grasp, that somehow they can create a better life for their children.

But why do I bring up refugees? Why not talk about the Yale graduate who left a prestigious law firm to help save women from human trafficking? Or the CEO who left the big business to start a program to help the homeless? Or myself who moved across country to start school to become a teacher? Those are the kinds of stories you were expecting, right?

Why? Because happiness isn’t limited to “first world” nations, folks. Take a look at that smiling Syrian baby above. Is he not the cutest thing you’ve ever seen? Indeed, some of the happiest people I’ve ever met were in countries like Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. Imagine how much simpler your own life would be if you didn’t have all of those “things” to worry about and bills to pay? How much easier would it be to live in the moment? We underestimate the toll some of our privileges take on our overall well-being.

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In her talk on emotional agility, which I mentioned previously, psychologist Susan David talks about the importance of living our lives according to our values when it comes to our happiness. And I feel like that’s what’s really missing here. I say I want to get to bed earlier. But do I? I wake up much more satisfied with myself the next morning when I do! We say we want to help others. But do we? We’re much happier when we volunteer at that food kitchen, or reach out to that silent coworker, or take a leap of faith and make that career change — in other words, when we listen to our gut and think outside of ourselves — yes, when we follow through!

My challenge to myself this Easter weekend is to challenge my habits and actions that are not in line with my true values. I desperately want to be a better person and to “walk my why” on a daily basis. Don’t you?

Just food for thought on this beautiful Easter weekend. And . . . Speaking of “whys” . . . Now that I’ve got this blog post done ;) . . . I’ve got a five-page paper to write, so I guess I’d better get going on that, too!

the REAL problem

(Hint: It’s not guns.)

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A post by Florida Teacher of the Year Kelly Guthrie Raley has gone viral in the last 48 hours. In it, she cites mental health, violent video games, and “horrendous lack of parental support” as being at the root of America’s gun problem.

“Until we as a country are willing to get serious and talk about mental health issues, lack of available care for mental health issues, lack of discipline in the home, horrendous lack of parental support . . . (Oh no! Not MY KID. What did YOU do to cause my kid to react that way?), lack of moral values, and yes, I’ll say it — violent video games, which take away all sensitivity to ANY compassion for others’ lives — as well as reality TV that makes it commonplace for people to constantly scream in each others’ faces and not value any other person but themselves — we will have a gun problem in school,” the sixth-grade language arts teacher wrote.

Raley herself hunts and grew up around guns. “But you know what? My parents NEVER supported any bad behavior from me,” she said. “When I began teaching twenty years ago, I never had to worry about calling a student’s parents and getting cussed out, told to go to hell, or threatened with a public shaming — all because I was calling out their child’s behavior. Something has got to change.”

 

The below video is an example of the disrespect many teachers in U.S. classrooms face today.

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Interestingly, at the same time parental support has decreased and problems like the ones Raley mentions have risen, the use of social media has increased. People around the world can converse more easily now than ever before, and it’s telling that, rather than increase tolerance and understanding, this communication is doing quite the opposite.

Take any article posted on facebook as an example. If you check out the comments section, you’ll see complete strangers verbally attacking one another — simply for having a difference of opinion. This is true for people of all backgrounds and religious creeds, all ethnicities, and all sides of the political spectrum. And, quite frankly, I find it disgusting. And painful. Why are people so rotten?

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you’re “right” or “wrong” on an issue. What matters is how you treat others and approach the debate.

How else are you ever going to gain any real insight on an issue? How else are you going to find solutions? Or, if you’re not there to understand and fix the problem, how else are you going to convince others that you’re right? Not by calling them names, I can assure you.

And also, your children are watching.

The truth is, we’re a broken nation, and the only way to fix our problems is to take a good look at ourselves. No, stricter gun laws won’t fix America’s problems — we need a miracle for that (or a million of them). But if we made it just a little bit harder for just anyone to pick up a gun and do god-knows-what with it, it could help save us from ourselves.

kick ’em when they’re down

red light2Warning: This post contains blood!

The other day I’m out riding my bike. I’ve just left my apartment and am headed left, towards the light. The plan is to turn right onto the main road and hit a few hills. I’ve been missing my bike! Trouble is, the light’s red and there’s a car there, also turning right. I come up slowly behind it, clicked into  my pedals but ready to click out, waiting to see what it does. The car starts to go but then stops, starts again and stops, and (those of you who are cyclists know where this is going) . . . Crash! I’d lost my momentum; I knew I was going to fall, and I did.

I toppled hard to my right, and even on the ground had difficulty getting out of my pedals. My left calf was smarting, but I didn’t pay it any attention. A passenger in a car waiting to turn left beside me had rolled down his window so that I could hear him laughing at me. I ignored him — didn’t look over —  and finally got upright again. The indecisive car had finally moved on and my lane was clear. I peddled on. Continue reading

glue

try too hard3You say you want the real me,
I say I want it, too.
But how can I destroy me,
reveal myself to you?

We all of us have demons,
dark things we’d rather hide.
Though, honest, we’re not heathens,
still it can’t be denied . . .

That none of us is perfect,
no beauty is unflawed.
And what appears a defect
should sometimes be hurrahed.

But maybe that’s my downfall —
it’s too late, I’ve bought in.
Won’t listen to your windfall,
perfection is my sin.

You say you want the real me,
I say I want it, too.
But how can I destroy me,
when I am my own glue?

Click below for an audio recording of this poem.

“I have never started a poem yet whose end I knew. Writing a poem is discovering.” – Robert Frost

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Image: Google

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where does the thunder go?

Rainy Day on Folsom Lake

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We’re on our boat and it’s Labor Day. No one’s out because it’s stormy, and we like it this way. The lake is ours.

With the wind in my face, and the rain to my back, I pretend I’m alone. I am alone. My thoughts fly with the wind rushing past me — over mountains, hills, and plains; forward, backward, now. And I realize:

I am not alone. Earth is ours.
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“Why the Egyptian, Arabic, Abyssinian, Choctaw?

Well, what tongue does the wind talk? What nationality is a storm? What country do rains come from? What color is lightning? Where does thunder go when it dies?”

― Ray Bradbury

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Image: Folsom Lake, California (by me)

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finding the here and now

I made it. Starting at 7:45 a.m. (we got a late start) and 45° F (7° C) on Sunday, my dad and I took off from our cabin and didn’t look back. We rode clockwise around the lake, starting from the south shore. It was my first organized ride—Bike the West: America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride—and kind of fun. There were a lot of cyclists on the road and people cheering along the way.

The first big climb was around Emerald Bay, a popular tourist spot on the lake. At the bottom of the hill, right by the shore, is an old home called Vikingsholm. It’s quite pretty and made entirely from materials native to the Tahoe area. Continue reading

reminder

Searching for inspiration, I am finding none. Some would say I’m pessimistic. I would say I’m not.

It’s been a hard month. Big decisions. Life changes. The feeling that I’m out there on my own.

And yet not quite.

I’m not alone, and I know it. Even far from home and with a family torn apart, I have more support than most.

I’ll write again soon—about things more worthwhile. I guess I just wanted you to know, blog:

*You *are not alone.

another year

A new year and a new blog.

Maybe I can start over again. Maybe.

The thing about New Year’s resolutions is that they don’t usually work. If there is something I really want to do or change in my life, I don’t need a date on the calendar to do it. All I need is drive.

And yet, somehow, January 1st provides many people with the clean slate they desire to make that longed-for change.

Quite frankly, I already know that 2012 will be just as if not more challenging than 2011. The chances that I’ll find tons of time to blog are slim to none. But, as I told a friend the other day, the longer I put off writing, the more I feel something in me dying. I was not meant to be a teacher. Not for life.

[Give me writing. Or give me death.]

Oh yeah, and cheers!

Another year.

food and fun fair

Here we are–the Food and Fun Fair. It’s an annual event here at HKAA. Something that students look forward to and teachers/parents . . . (?) The idea is simple: Each class/group on campus sets up a booth and sells something–for six hours on a Sunday. The goal is to make money for the school and have a fun day (I guess). Our primary students are performing a Christmas pageant at 1 o’clock–a Christmas pageant that I wrote and directed. We haven’t made it through it once without our students–particularly the little ones–goofing off, and I only just threw together some costumes this morning, so we’ll see how it goes.

Luckily, I’ve heard that, of the thousand or so people that are supposed to show up today, only about 100 actually pay attention to the performances.

It’s hard to believe Christmas is coming up so quickly, or that this year I won’t see my family. But, somehow, it’s okay. My family and friends will be with me in my heart.

Anyway, here I go. Off to the races to be a bit more useful and helpful. Hopefully, maybe, someday soon I’ll find time to post pics.

(Much love to anyone reading this!)

just another day

Sitting in my classroom. My desk is catty corner to the room. My students Joseph, Jenny, Manhei, and Qubee are in Chinese class in front of me. This is my one 4o-minute break all day.

In many ways, I am an irresponsible teacher. I did not do a lot of prep work last night. I was too busy responding to emails and stringing blue lights around the mini silver Christmas tree that Karen gave me. Karen is all about decorating for Christmas.

It hit me this morning that Christmas is less than one month away. That’s hard to believe. Where did 2011 go? It seems just yesterday I was bundled up by the river in Danshui, drinking hot cocoa from 7-11 to stay warm, watching the New Years’ fireworks with my dad and brother. It is scary how quickly time goes.

I told my 4th grade boys that during Religion this morning. They didn’t believe me.

Why would they? They’re nine.

I’m looking forward to Christmas—even though I’m not going home, even though I won’t see my family. It will be nice to find time to breathe. I’ll probably work–at least a little. Otherwise I will never catch up on grading. I also hope to visit friends in Taiwan. Hong Kong is slowly becoming more and more familiar, but, honestly, I’d still be lost here without the help of my good friend/local guide.

It’s warm here. I keep expecting it to get cold. I miss having four distinct seasons.

Just another day in my classroom.

Just another day.

[Every day–even a down day (see my last entry)–is a gift.]

personal rant

At the end of the day you’re another day older. And that’s all you can say for the life of the poor. It’s a struggle, it’s a war. And there’s nothing that anyone’s giving. One more day, standing about, what is it for? One day less to be living.

At the end of the day you’re another day older.

Lyrics to a song from the musical Les Miserables. A phrase that comes to my mind all the time.

Why?

I chose this path. I chose this life. I love living abroad. So why is it that every job I’ve had abroad has been so hard?

And this time it’s not even cultural differences I’m talking about. I am working on an Adventist campus. I grew up around Adventists. There is nothing about Adventism I don’t know.

And I suppose that’s just it: Adventism. The rules and the regulations and the closed-mindedness and the frowning upon anyone with different ideas. I downright despise the religion I grew up in.

Well, that’s part of it. The rest is the ridiculous workload and the demands on personal time. No two people can efficiently run a 6-grade primary school. We need help. Not to mention now we’re being asked to interview students for next year. I won’t even be here next year.

I shouldn’t write when I am down. I never blog when I am down.

I never blog at all these days. When do I have time?

I miss writing.

I miss home.

I never miss home.

I miss it.

whys and wherefores

My goals for this blog are as follows:

  • Write regularly—more regularly. One post a week. I can do this. (I tell myself.)
  • Share Asia. Compare and contrast my experiences in Taiwan and Hong Kong and beyond.
  • Explore the world. Connect ideas.
  • Search for meaning. How do the events and places and people and nations of the world connect and interconnect?
  • Search for my own life’s meaning—not as in a box or a label, but as in a purpose and in a connecting of ideas and life experiences. Being defined is, to me, a goal. An aspiration. A standing out. A purpose.

Life: Insert meaning [here].

p.s. Happy Birthday, Derek! I love and miss you.