Where are you happiest?
When are you happiest?
Before reading further, really consider these questions for a moment. I know you probably got to this by scrolling the Facebook feed that asks for only milliseconds of your attention, but take a good long moment to consider a few a specific moments when you felt truly happy, satisfied, or fulfilled recently.
The words on this page aren’t going anywhere. They will happily wait.
Don’t lie to yourself. Lying to others is terrible, but lying to yourself is a travesty.
Ok. We’ll just have to trust you.
(damn, one-sided conversations are awkward)
I’ve thought about those questions a lot recently. I’ve been very happy with my life. I’ve been happy here in my room, at my office, walking Tønsberg, overlooking the fjord on a sunny morning. I’ve been happy at the new CrossFit gym I joined. I’ve been happy while making new friends in Oslo. I was also happy walking to class in Visby, stomping through streetlamp-lit snow under the perpetual darkness of Longyearbyen, buying the heaviest loaf of bread I’ve every felt in Ashausen, snacking on mango-celery soup in Vilnius, wiping the endless stream of snot as I forced myself over a cold while running the frozen streets of Tallinn, and exploring the deserted streets of Visby with my parents on Epiphany weekend. I was also happy riding a half-broken, too-small, ladies bicycle the 5 kilometers out of Uppsala to a temporary couch in an apartment that was the closest thing to a successful communist experiment I’ve ever seen.
Am I always happy when I’m abroad?
I was also happy tracing the long roads across the hot and dry American Southwest or scaling the peaks of Colorado.
Am I always happy when I’m traveling?
I was also happy having an excessively fine meal at Ace Gilette’s or a quality local brew at the Whisk(e)y or munching way too many peanuts at Texas Roadhouse. I was even happy over the many miles of pavement while knocking doors for Bernie and cleaning tables late on Friday and Saturday evenings at Jeju, knowing full well that I had to be to the hotel by 6:00 the next morning. All of this occurred mere miles from where I was born, in the town where I spent almost all of the first 18 years of my life.
I could keep going, but we get the point. I’m just happy. Even before I started reading about meditation and mindfulness, I knew I could find joy wherever I was.
That has not changed. What has changed, though, is that the sense of restlessness that has kept me from staying put for more than a few months over the past few years is actually starting to subside. I still listen to many of the same voices and types of ideas that encourage us not to fall into the trap that the modern corporate structure has laid for us, but I’ve already followed much of the advice. I’ve found what makes me fulfilled in life. I’ve found a way to manage a quality work-life balance and put the important things first. I’ve traveled literally around the world, learned from both books and experiences, and cultivated a form of self that I can be proud of. I’ve accomplished that “self-finding” thing twenty-somethings ought to, and though I will never run out of ways to improve or new life experiments to try, I believe that it is time to start building in earnest the life I have come to think that I want to lead. I’m ready to start a life of steady routine that allows me to try self-experiments for more than 30 days, to settle just enough into the economic structure to secure an income to support more demanding experiments like endurance sports, mountaineering, capital ventures, or even political engagement. I’m ready to let my list of countries visited stay constant for a while and set up a place where those of other cultures are welcome to surf my couch. I even think I’m ready to start meeting new friends with the hope that maybe one will become more than just a friend. I’m ready to settle down for a bit, and I’ve realized that it doesn’t much matter where.
But I’ve also realized that I’m ready to come home.
Mom, before you start thinking I’m booking the first flight out of here, let me explain that the plan to return at the end of August is now as fixed as it gets without having actually bought the ticket.
I still have a lot to do before I go back to Fort Collins. I still have to finish my thesis (it’s about halfway done, and I should have the rest of the necessary data within the next few days), defend the thesis, edit and submit it officially, network my way through three big conferences in hopes of lining up employment for when I do return, care for a cute little dachshund and an apartment in Kraków while I finally finish the book I’ve supposedly been working on, visit a handful of friends who will soon be an ocean away, fall off the grid for a bit, and see some family back East before I hop on a train headed west.
But I’m quite sure now that when I do, I will be ready.
I have cast off, and I have set my sails to many a foreign shore, but this boat is in need of a good long stay in dry dock. The next four months are shaping up to be full of some of the wildest adventures yet, and they are sure to end with a glorious climax, but indeed, this book is soon coming to a close.
(don’t get me wrong, though. This is definitely just the first in a series. I’m thinking GRRM-style series. seven books at least. at least.)