Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Stop and smell the tulips

I think I've mentioned that my family and just came back to the US from an 8-year assignment in England. It was truly wonderful there, and we really miss it. We were close enough to London that we could take the train on the spur of the moment and be in the middle of one of the most vibrant metropolitan areas in the world in just about an hour. We were also far enough away that our house was a Georgian-era farmhouse on the estate of a Norman-era castle surrounded by farms and forests, and only a 20-minute drive from the shore. We made some wonderful friends, and had some amazing experiences. My wife and daughter even got presented to (and had a brief conversation with) Her Majesty the Queen.

I mention this because there were also people there, lots of them, who hated every minute of their time there, and couldn't wait to get home. They couldn't stand the uncivilized practice of stores that actually closed at the end of the day. They were astounded that there was no Applebee's within 75 miles. They were so closed-minded that they missed out on all the good stuff.

One of the cool things we did was participate in the 2013 Edinburgh MoonWalk to raise money for breast cancer research. We had some extra time in Edinburgh, and as we were walking around enjoying the Royal Mile, we came across a kiosk beside the road. It was a crepe stand, and there was music coming from inside. It sounded... happy.

We walked over, to see what was what, and maybe have a crepe, and we saw the owner, sitting in the corner on his stool. He was happily playing a ukulele, and singing along. He wasn't performing, or trying to attract customers (well, not obviously so). He was just enjoying himself, playing his music, and selling a crepe or two.

As we walked along the street, eating our crepes and listening to the music fade behind us, I turned to Susie, and I said, "That's what I want to do."

"You want to open a CREPE STAND?" she asked, a bit incredulous.

"No. I want to find a job where I'm happy. That man was happy with his work and his life. I want a 'ukulele job.'"

Now, I get that not everyone gets to have the "ukulele job." But I realized -- really appreciated -- for the first time that day exactly how important it is to have a happy balance in life. If your job can help you get that, that's tremendous, but if it doesn't, you have to get it from somewhere else.

I actually bought a ukulele, and started to teach myself to play. I also bought a guitar, and started to teach myself to play that. And they're both fun, but I haven't picked up either in quite a few months. Thinking about it, it's been since this transition became a possibility. Don't get me wrong, I'm really happy. I think this transition is a positive thing, and we're moving in the right direction. It's just (and I'm sure Susie would agree) a wee bit stressful.

I'm reminded of something I wrote about on my other blog, way back when. My son, who was probably about 9, had just gotten a new toy, a hand-carved wooden truck that he picked out himself at a craft fair. He was down on the floor, zooming it back and forth, when he turned to me, out of the blue, and said, "You know, when you get down on the floor with a toy, you can't just help but be happy." I can see the guitar from here as I type this, and the ukulele is behind me, on the piano. I really should pick one of them up and get playing. Because you have to find the joy wherever you can; it's usually not going to come looking for you.

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