As you find yourself wandering the streets of your new surroundings, there may come a moment where you suddenly become blissfully aware of the magnitude of your current situation; you realize that everything around you is new, and it's perhaps frightening; an understanding of your place in the world, that dawns upon you with a strange warmth. With that, you turn inward and say to yourself, Am I really here?
And it is a moment of pure appreciation, for the fact that you dared to act on your curiosity, and step into the unknown. A seemingly insignificant yet magical moment that comes to someone who lives and works abroad not nearly often enough. A small taste of the joy that gratitude can bring.
Ah yes, gratitude. Often talked about, at times practiced, and yet too often undervalued. We get so wrapped up in our day-to-day, floating from one place to the next with a to-do list as long as our arm, caught up in our roles and responsibilities, envisioning where we want to be, rather than where we are, right here and now. Rarely do we stop and take time to reflect, daring to steal a moment from ourselves to appreciate the journey.
Taking it a step further is to actually dedicate time in our day to bring to mind that which we are grateful for, and to put it on the page. I've done quite a bit of reading into the idea of happiness, and you can be sure that in every book you open on the subject, you will find a chapter dedicated to gratitude. One exercise in particular that I have been practising for the past year is called The Gratitude Jar, which I'm almost certain came from a book called The Happiness Project, but it's been a while since I've read it, and so you can correct me if I'm wrong, dear reader.
It is pretty self-explanatory, but the idea is that every day for 365 days, you write down one thing that you are grateful for on a post-it note, fold it up, and pop it in your jar. Then, at the end of the year, you empty the contents and read back through your little notes (which I'm pretty excited about!). I usually choose to write in the morning, as it immediately puts me in an appreciative frame of mind, and it's a great way to start the day. It's been a worthwhile exercise for sure, and if indeed you are looking to implement some nourishing habits in the New Year, I would suggest giving it a try.
We can certainly benefit from making more time in our day to practice gratitude, even if it's just a moment of reflection, and a little inner-monologue of sorts, to give thanks. And so as the year draws to a close I might do just that. Sitting here in my favourite cafe in Shanghai with pen in paw the mind can undoubtedly wander, back to departures in Dublin Airport, perhaps. I shook my father's hand, and he wished me well; green as a blade of grass, he knew it too. I could never have imagined the degree to which my life would change as a result of acting upon my burning curiosity, and I will be forever grateful that I did take the leap.
At times I do look around at my surroundings, and find myself asking that very question, Am I really here? And as I reflect upon the journey and all that has transpired since, it fills me with joy.