For a long time, I have kept a journal, well, let’s be transparent here, not a journal, but a long-standing to do list in a journal form. What started as a commitment to keep a bullet journal has morphed into my own version of my life in a book, with plenty of boxes to check off daily, and also main points of the day. My husband provides the journal, painstakingly researching the ones with the best paper and presents them with pens whenever a chance affords itself, I am lucky like that.
Every morning, while my computer boots up, I pull out my leather-bound journal and make the day’s to do list. A quick brain dump as I think of tasks big and small that need to be completed in order for my brain to change focus and be present when I get home. Sometimes on Sunday’s I make my list for Monday in order for myself to continue to focus on home rather than school as the weekend ends. On the days, I feel disorganized and off it is often because I haven’t taken the time to make my list. On the days I feel more stressed and scattered, the same culprit is at play.
After the to-do lists comes the second part of my ritual, a simple list on the previous day’s page titled “Happiness is…” In the quiet morning hum of my classroom, under the covered fluorescent lights, I try to take a moment to remember all of the happy moments. The ones that brought me peace and happiness that previous day.
This year for my word of the year I chose the word “More.” More love, more joy, more slowing down, more meaning, learning, more great food, naps, and everything that makes life truly worth living; more family, friends, and people who inspire me. More of the good things balancing out the to-do’s and the must do’s in order to be a responsible human being.
And I embraced the pursuit of more, I still do, but I also quickly noticed that my happiness list was dwindling, that in my eagerness to do more, I ended up working more to get more done, to be more productive, and so there weren’t many true happiness moments beyond the big events that stood out. If you looked at my happiness list, you might think I lived a sad life, and yet, that short list also became my realization that perhaps there weren’t as many happiness moments as one might expects but not in the way one might expect.
Because there is nothing wrong with my life, instead, my lens was foggy. I looked for true happiness, that elusive feeling where the world stands still and you get that this moment, this very moment you are in, is of importance. It turns out we don’t have many of those if we compare our lives to others. We don’t have many of those if we are too busy to-doing and not just to-being. What we do have is small moments of joy sprinkled throughout our daily life that we seem to skim over in our task-slaying ways.
So this summer, all four days of it so far, I have been chasing happiness. I have been making my to do list in order to have more moments to add the next day. I have added my yoga, because it makes me feel better, I have added my bike rides with my children as they are all out of training wheels and the world beckons for our exploration. I have added the quiet nights with Brandon as we watch in wonder Good Omens and the illustrious story-telling. The chocolate, the great books – so many great books – the sunlight, the naps, the phone calls and contacts with friends, the pool time, the compliments, the great learning from others. The ideas I am collecting from the learning I am doing that I know will create better learning opportunities for all of my students. I am looking at my own deficits in understanding and not seeing them as faults but instead as a learning opportunity. How wondrous it is that we can learn so much from others and in turn become more than what we were? I am planning for these because it feels right, it feels good, and don’t we all need a little more goodness in our lives?
And so my list is fuller and so is my life.
I know, that life will get filled up again, it always does, but chasing happiness in the form of meaningful interactions is something that will always be worth it. To seek out opportunities that will bring you joy is never wasted, unless the joy is at the expense of other people. I know I can become more than I am due to the teaching of others, due to the time with my kids, due to the meaning I choose to add to my life and pursuits. That is on me, that is my mission. And I can channel that into the teacher I am, that teaches with purpose, with an eye on changing the very experience we have together in order for the children to have a better chance at their happiness pursuit. If, in the moment you are in, there seems to be little joy, ask why. Is it beyond you, because let’s face it, life can be cruel at times, we certainly have already navigated some difficult situations in the last few weeks, or is it just your lens that needs to change?
Only you can fully answer that, but perhaps a list is in order. Won’t you chase happiness with me?
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6 thoughts on “Chasing Happiness…”
Gorgeous family photo!
I must admit, Pernille, when I read you your word for the year as being ‘more’, I was little alarmed. It is so easy to transfer the intention when there is so much to get done, so when starting out with such a great intention, it can easily morph into more stuff! I too love to have a word for the year. This year, my word is daring. Daring to do and try what I haven’t before. Daring to challenge myself personally and professionally. I love having a focus that is simple and yet has so many different facets. Last year, my word was audacious. Finding my voice was a big part of that.
I will chase happiness with you and I will dare to be happy in the face of all the challenges, however they present themselves!
Thank you for your inspiration. I will chase happiness with you and look closely at changing my own lens!
Hi Pernille, today I closed my classroom doors for the summer time and one thing that made me happy this year is to be able to give your end of the year questionnaire to my students and read their insights about our school year. I had the privilege to listen to your advice when you came to Calexico last August and I don’t know what you wrote in your “happiness” section in your journal at that time, but I know you inspired me (another 4th grade teacher). Your book, Passionate Learners, helped me reflect on my practices and today after reading answers to question # 15 and knowing my students will remember me as one person to always remember from this grade level, I feel very happy, THANK YOU!
Pernille, I’ve shifted my thinking from chasing happiness to living in gratitude. That makes ANYthing I’m doing that much sweeter – especially the time spent with family. Enjoy the heck out of your summer!!
I get it, I do, and I only want to say that WORDS MATTER. “Chasing” implies, to me, that I am never catching – only just behind it. For me, “experiencing” or “recognizing”, or even “creating happiness” works as a preferred journey awareness. Best to you and happy summer!