something i've noticed this spring about you is that you're one of the most cheery people i know. it's not clear to me if having you off traveling for so long made it more apparent to me than it had been previously or if you changed during your travels. i've always known you were one of the more upbeat people i know, quick to laugh even at the horrible things, but somehow it really hit me when you've been away on your month long trips this spring. i'm usually looking forward to your coming home and hanging out with you and getting a dose of your sunny disposition.... anyway, i was just wondering if you had any thoughts on whether or not you feel like your travels made you more cheery or if it's just my perception that's different?
And my response:
This is interesting to me to read because I've been realizing lately how much deeper my contentment and general good feeling about life, the universe and everything has been recently. I think I've always been a baseline cheery person, an optimist, a look-on-the-bright-side-r. As I've probably told you, my grandmother called me a Pollyanna when I always had a perky and cheerful perspective for her when I visited several years ago (she was very much NOT a Pollyanna type) and people have always commented on my smile and laugh as particularly noticeable and appealling personality traits that they associate with me.
But I've definitely had an internal shift in the last year or so. It's clear to me that my travels have a lot to do with it, although I don't think that it's about TRAVEL per se, so much as being in a life that makes me much happier than my life did a year ago. The fact of leaving my work at Harvard, and putting myself into a very challenging situation, and not only having survived it but to have thrived there... that's incredibly empowering. I don't think there was ever a part of me that didn't think I was capable of doing such a thing, but I definitely doubted that I would be able to WANT to do such a thing, or that I would do it with such relish.
So, I expanded my horizons in a lot of ways, both externally (of the world, politics, etc) and internally (of who I am, who I'd like to be, what I'm capable of), which has made my daily experience that much... RICHER, really, at a base level. And some of what I learned was totally unexpected, which was a treat. And overall, I've come away with a general feeling of "go, me!' and anything is possible, which is SUCH a better place than where I was last year when I was afraid of being trapped and waking up in another 20-some years and still being in a life that didn't thrill me (or when I was PLANNING the big trip and really nervous about the whole thing).
And the result, at a base level, I have this deep, deep contentment that practically spills out of my pores. Not everything in my life is perfect, of course, and it's not that I'm always happy or content, because, sure, I still feel grumpy or sad or angry or what have you at the times when something spurs that in me, but my baseline is in a totally different realm, and somehow, even when I'm having the less-fun emotions, I'm still having this inner narrative saying, "Well, on one hand, this doesn't feel good, but on the other hand, isn't it great to have this variety of experience?"
It's kind of hard to explain, but it colors everything. So, yeah, I've always been cheery, but also, yeah, something's different. There's part of me that's nervous about my next year or years and what I'll do and what that'll mean, but I'm also completely confident that I'll find a way that will continue to feed my soul.