Homesick in a Strange and Privileged Land

I was holding back tears and trying to swallow intense emotions that were bubbling to the surface. The room was dimly lit and the stadium-style seats were the most comfortable chairs I had felt in more than six months. I looked at the cup of coffee in my hand and, closing my eyes, I slowly touched it to my face and felt the warmth of its contents.

Only 24 hours earlier I had been in another country, a place on the opposite side of the world so foreign and so different that it was easy to forget that I didn't just arrive from another planet. Obvious differences stood out, but it was the subtle differences that really made the biggest impact.

The first thing I noticed was the faster pace of life. It's not so much the physical speed of things, but pace at which you're expected to respond to and process information. Simple things like paying for something at the register or answering the telephone felt hurried or rushed. Even conversations seemed needlessly accelerated. It feels as though you're expected to think, act, and operate like a machine. Continue reading

Choose Happiness and Growth

There are few things in life that are absolutely, one hundred percent, guaranteed. Death is one of those things. Take a moment to think about that. Every single one of us, no matter how smart, rich, or popular, every single one of us is going to die. The flesh and organic matter that is this body is guaranteed to one day cease to exist.

It's not just us either. Everything ends one day. Even this Earth will be gone, most likely consumed by the sun when it expands to a red giant billions of years from now. The entire universe, with all the planets, stars, and galaxies, will also be gone one day. And while it will probably happen a lot sooner, we can be certain that any memory of our existence will also gone when the universe goes.

The bottom line is this: You can be guaranteed that every single thing you see, think, do, or create, every single person you know or have heard of, every single place you’ve been or know about, will one day cease to exist.

So what does all this have to do with happiness? Well, if we can be assured that we’ll all die one day and that everything will eventually be gone, then it’s safe to assume that the only reason for existence is to experience life while it’s here.

So what’s life? Well, we know that death most often brings sadness and is associated with the ending of progression, so this would mean that life, being the polar opposite of death, should be associated with happiness and growth. I propose that choosing anything less than happiness and growth in our life is associating ourselves with death and thereby ignoring life.

This should give no one any reason to accept anything in life that constrains their own happiness or growth (whether mental, physical, or spiritual) or enables the constraint of others’ happiness or growth. To do either of these is to disregard, neglect, and eschew life itself.

Life is our chance. It’s our small window of opportunity. Our situations may vary and our circumstances may differ, but we all have the ability to make a conscious, day-to-day decision to strive for happiness over sadness; for growth over stagnation; for life over death.

Choose happiness. When something upsets you — the car in front of you cuts you off; you feel yourself getting agitated; someone is rude or unpleasant towards you; things just don’t seem to be going your way — make a conscious decision to let it go and choose happiness. Don't let your circumstances become an excuse not to be happy. You're alive right now. That's the only reason you need to be happy.

Choose growth. Do you feel as though you're a better version of yourself today than you were yesterday? If you don’t, then it's time to make a conscious decision to do something to improve yourself every single day. Stop watching so much TV. Stop oversleeping. Do something every day to improve your health (both mental and physical!). Small changes over a long period always equate to a greater overall change. As long as you're living, you should be growing. Stagnation is for death.

It’s your life! What will you do with it?

What is the Purpose of an Ending?

Everything has an ending, doesn't it? When we're talking about life and relationships, the ending often brings out many emotions. Opposite to the ending, the start and beginning are often associated with joy and happiness. Other endings and beginnings, however, are often not so defined.

When you're hungry, you feel a sense of gratification the minute you start eating. When you're on an airplane starting a 5-day vacation to a tropical island, you're happy and relaxed knowing the next few days will be enjoyable. When a baby is born, happiness is associated with the event. As the child grows up, all he is concerned with is how he will enjoy that day.

But when you finish eating and you're full, you quickly forget the gratification you felt minutes earlier. Your return trip home on the airplane is filled with only memories of the enjoyment you experienced, as you slowly adjust back into the thinking mode of daily life that you associate with grunt work. When the baby grows up, has kids and grand-kids of his own, he will lie on his deathbed where there is no happiness to be found. As the child grew older, he found less and less happiness from life. Continue reading