Just Joy

IMG_1198I’m sure many of you woke up this morning thinking about your next steps, journeys and outcomes. It is what we do at the start of a new year: plan for action, plan for making our best selves materialize in ways, which will make this the best year ever.

This New Year’s Day I’ve been thinking about how I want to feel this year as much as how I’m going to act or what I’m going to do. You see, at this exact time last year I was leaving the US to return to work overseas and had the heart-wrenching task of saying goodbye to my father who was dying. Having been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer just a few months before, we were certain he would transition before I could return for another break.

My 2013 focus became learning how to feel about continuing on in the face of that huge sadness. It wasn’t a planned resolution or a goal as much as it was a necessity. For me, it was also day-to-day work. Each day I had to remind myself that my father enjoyed every minute of his life (he was an international educator too); therefore his transition was a celebration of that life and I should be proud of him. I believed it, but often had to verbally remind myself of that fact lest I would sink into feeling badly that he was ill, or later on, so deeply sad that he was gone.

My best refuge last year was oddly enough- recess duty. I would wander outside and be with the kids during their playtime and just find myself relaxing into their joyful world of play, laughter, and movement. It was the 15-minute part of each day when I was reminded of what it can feel like to just be happy to be outside, moving, and with friends.

When I talk to people about this past year, I often mention how recess saved me because it allowed me to not think so much about this life, but to just see it and enjoy it for what it is. What I’ve been realizing as I enter this new year though is that it was as much the job (of which recess duty is a part) I was able to have and go to each day which helped me to feel happy and joyful in the face of such devastation.

Working with children is, if you are looking for it, witnessing joy.

It is my goal this year to approach each school day with the sense that I am indeed a lucky person to be able to work in such a joyful place. A place where learning to read (actually cracking that code!) is like getting to finally see over the mountain. A place, where conquering the monkey bars with one hand feels like winning a gold medal. A place where friendship comes with shared snacks, held hands and a chance to use our imaginations.

Joy is something that makes life worth living. Feeling joy on the job is my New Year’s resolution.

I hope you can join me.

About Jen Munnerlyn

Jen Munnerlyn is the Elementary Principal at the American School of Warsaw. Her international experience began back in 1980 when her parents first started teaching overseas. Jen blogs about her own experiences as a Third Culture Kid, the adventures of being the mother of a TCK, and about elementary education in an international school setting. Her picture book The Adventure Begins, about the first day at an international school, is a favorite among adults and students abroad.
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One Response to Just Joy

  1. Robert Campbell says:

    Well said Forrest…

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