Where I Am
(It's a Good Place to Be)

tom walsh


This new semester has started out, in a word, busy.  I have more work this semester than I've had in years--more demands on my time and energy than I've had to go through in a very long while.  If you had told me six months ago that this would be the case, something in my mind would have reacted in dread, for to tell the simple truth, I'm very selfish about my time.  I like relaxing and breathing deeply of the autumn air and going for walks with my wife in the afternoon.  Instead, I'm never home before six in the evening, and two nights a week I have soccer games with the team I'm coaching, so I don't get home until 7:30.  Another evening I'm with a student late, so I don't get home until seven.  My lunch hours are taken by runs with the cross-country team.  In short, many of the things I'm used to are gone, replaced with a full schedule that allows little flexibility.

In theory, this should be a very negative situation for me.  If I were thinking about it from outside the situation, I would hate the possibility of being so busy.  But now that I'm right in the middle of it, I find that my mind and body are coping with it very well.  I'm there in the middle of it, and there's nothing I can do to change it, so I'm finding the best in each hour that I spend doing my work.

I realized yesterday that I'm even kind of enjoying it--it keeps me busy and productive, and I'm accomplishing a great deal.  It's kind of fun.

You see, I could spend my busy time wishing I weren't so busy.  I could spend my hours wishing I were elsewhere, or that I didn't have the four o'clock class coming up.  I could focus on what I'm not doing, and make myself miserable in the process.  I'm finding that it's much more productive (and fun) to focus in the moment I'm in, for there's absolutely nothing I can do to change it--I have to be there.  So I can be there enjoying it, or I can be there being miserable.  It's my choice.

I see this partly as a result of the Gulf War.  I was in the army then, stationed in Germany.  Because half of the people on our post got sent to the desert, our duties dramatically increased.  We had two-three times the work to do, and half the people to do it.  Because of this, we were on a 12-hour-a-day, six-day-a-week schedule.  Our particular job site was 45 minutes from where we lived, and the buses got us there early and left a bit late, so we didn't have much free time at all--our 14-15 hour days left little time for anything else.  The situation had the potential to make me miserable, but it didn't.

One of the most important lessons I learned from that time was to accept things as they are, and not worry or wonder about how they ought to be.  If a situation is out of my control, then it's out of my control, and I have to accept it and do my best to thrive in the situation as it is, not try to make it as I want it, and be angry or frustrated when my efforts prove to be in vain.

Of course, there are other situations that are within my control, and part of the trick is being fully aware of which is which.  If I can't do anything about it, I don't try, and I don't lose my peace of mind beating my head against a brick wall.  If I can change it, I try to:  if I succeed, fine, and if I don't, fine--at least I tried.

I see so may people who complain and make themselves miserable about things that are completely out of their control.  They don't recognize that things last for a season (this semester WILL end, and the Gulf War couldn't go on forever--even if it did, my enlistment period would have ended), and that the best thing that we can do is make the best of bad seasons and enjoy the heck out of the good seasons.  Think of farmers living through droughts--they have many lessons they could teach us (at least, the ones who make the best of it do).

In both of my situations that I've mentioned, it's also helped me to keep a healthy perspective:  yes, I'm busy and I have no free time, but at least I'm busy.  That means I have work, and an income.  I have a place to live, food to eat, and even some extra money for some extra things.  I'm fortunate enough to live in the richest country in the world in the richest era the world has ever seen, and I have more than most of the wealthiest of my forefathers ever had.  Where I am is busy and hectic at the moment, but I'll take my weekends and make them as restful as possible, and I'll get through this season, and then enjoy the fruits of the season.

It's all up to me, and how I do things and see things.


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Yes, life can be mysterious and confusing--but there's much of life that's actually rather dependable and reliable.  Some principles apply to life in so many different contexts that they can truly be called universal--and learning what they are and how to approach them and use them can teach us some of the most important lessons that we've ever learned.
My doctorate is in Teaching and Learning.  I use it a lot when I teach at school, but I also do my best to apply what I've learned to the life I'm living, and to observe how others live their lives.  What makes them happy or unhappy, stressed or peaceful, selfish or generous, compassionate or arrogant?  In this book, I've done my best to pass on to you what I've learned from people in my life, writers whose works I've read, and stories that I've heard.  Perhaps these principles can be a positive part of your life, too!
Universal Principles of Living Life Fully.  Awareness of these principles can explain a lot and take much of the frustration out of the lives we lead.