A few years ago, a younger friend and I were discussing a trip I took … well, quite a few years ago. That person hadn’t travelled much, and said that the time I’d spent in Japan (and travelling elsewhere) must have been an amazing and unique experience.
I replied that those journeys had been interesting. But amazing and unique? Hardly. So many people had done what I’d done (and sometimes more) that my experiences seemed a bit generic.
Then it struck me out of nowhere. I realized at that moment that I hadn’t really appreciated my experiences as much as I should have at the time. They were amazing and unique, in that the particular experiences were mine and mine alone. They were different from those of other people.
Let me explain. It’s not that I’m a jaded or blase person or traveller. But until very recently, I just didn’t know how to fully live in the moment.
I’ve always been grateful for what I’ve had and for what I’ve done, but I’d never truly felt good about a lot of it. I always thought that I could have done more, could have seen more, could have had more, could have been more.
During the time I spent in Japan, for example, I was going through what a friend called my Harlan Ellison/Spider Jerusalem phase. A phase some people say I’ve never gone beyond … In those days, I was angry and opinionated and unforgiving of certain foibles in others. That clouded my perceptions and my ability to appreciate what I was doing in a way that I could have and should have appreciated it.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed that journey through Japan immensely. It was, in many ways, a formative and positive period in my life. But at times I couldn’t go beyond some of the things that I saw and experienced which, to put it bluntly, annoyed the hell out of me.
Let’s flash forward (quite) a few years. I moved abroad in 2012. Until late 2020, I didn’t have a house of my own. I didn’t even own most of the furniture in the place in which I was living. Really, all I has was what my family and I carried here in a few suitcases and our carry-on luggage, along with what few things we’d acquired over the years.
But I appreciate what I have and the experiences I had and I’m having. Each day I’m seeing or learning something new, or just looking at the world in a slightly different way.
Here’s what I’ve learned over the years about appreciating the things in my life:
Live in the moment. Don’t think I could …, I should …, or I should have ... I’m not saying that you shouldn’t aim higher or look at your mistakes to try to change bad habits. Just don’t let the what was or what could be control you.
Forget the bad things. As a wise friend told me, no matter how bad you have it there are billions in the world who’d kill to have it as bad as you. I try to let that thought guide me. It doesn’t always work, but I do try.
Break down your barriers. Take a moment or two each day to clear your mind. Try to view the world without your usual filters and blinkers.
None of that is easy, but it can be refreshing and can help you better appreciate what you have and what you’ve done, and to appreciate yourself.