Those Happy Days

When I think over my relatively short life, I can’t help but look back with fondness on the time I spent studying abroad. I studied abroad in Vienna, Austria during the winter semester of my sophomore year of college. Exactly one year later, I spent four months studying abroad in Jerusalem.

Besides very obvious reasons why those months are memorable to me, I am most surprised by just how genuinely happy I felt all the time.

And it wasn’t always a walk in the park. I came within nine minutes of catching frostbite while searching for the Wotrubakirche in the suburbs of Vienna. And I don’t even want to remember all the times I was sexually harassed in the streets of Jerusalem.

Yet there was something about those months—a certain approach I had to living—that made my experiences abroad some of the happiest times of my life.

Maybe it was the way I approached my studies. There was a significant level of relevance in everything I was learning. Instead of becoming consumed with assignments and readings, I actually wanted to retain and internalize everything I learned. In Vienna, I sought out every opportunity to see a Klimt painting or hear a Mozart symphony. In Israel, every archeological site I visited helped me to better understand the stories and setting of the Old and New Testament. I learned that I am surprisingly motivated to apply myself to my studies when I can immediately apply what I am learning to my life.

Maybe it was the novelty of being in a new place; every day was an adventure. I spent hours poring over guidebooks, making checklists of everything I wanted to see and do in the few months I had. I couldn’t afford to waste any time watching Netflix or mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. Once I finished up my classes for the day, I headed out to explore! Sometimes it was scary and sometimes I was exhausted, but I was always satisfied with how I chose to spent my time.

Maybe it was the perpetual state of being surrounded by my best friends. In Vienna, Grace and Alexa and Aly were always by my side. Together we figured out where to get the best gelato in the city, how the U-Bahn system works, and how to survive staying in creepy hostels. Even on the bad days, we would go to the Billa, buy cookies, curl up on Grace’s bed, and watch the latest episode of the Bachelor. And in Jerusalem, all 80 of us quickly became family. We had to travel in groups of three so we were never alone. Also, spending hours and hours on buses together, studying long hours in a freezing library, and having to walk up seven flights of stairs EVERY DAY really brings people together. Everywhere I went for four months, I was surrounded by my best friends.

. . .

I’m not sure exactly what it was that made studying abroad in both Vienna and Jerusalem so wonderful. But if I can pinpoint it, and start living my everyday life with that same study-abroad approach, then I can be just as happy now as I was then.

Those Happy Days

Gratitude

I am grateful to be surrounded by wonderful people. I sincerely believe that I have the best family, the best roommates, and the best friends in the entire world. I can’t imagine being surrounded by better people, because there are no better people than the ones I have in my life. I’m not sure how I got so lucky, but these people make life worth living.

I’m especially grateful for…

My temple prep teacher. He printed out discussion cards and glued them onto color-coded construction paper. I can’t remember the last time I had a church teacher who put so much preparation into a lesson. He was so endearing.

My math friends. I could not have made it through college without Jane, Tanner, Elise, and Marshall. I will love these people until the end of time. They are the only ones who understand the horror of real and functional analysis.

Friends from high school. Even if I haven’t seen them for years, we still care about each other. I recently reconnected with Claire after she launched her own business, and now I want nothing more than to visit Florida and catch up. After complete silence for almost five years, we’re still friends.

Gratitude

Get It Published

I really need to pick up my dry-cleaning. It’s been ready for almost a week.

Carson is the best little brother I could have asked for. He was actually excited to plan a brother-sister date with me.

My job has taken a turn for the worst. And now I can’t decide if I want to quit or not.

The warm weather makes me more upset that my ankle is broken.

My backpacking trip needs to be planned ASAP.

Three years ago I was living in Vienna. Two years ago I was living in Jerusalem.

I wish that Aly still lived in Provo.

My permanent retainer is breaking and I’m afraid my teeth will go crooked.

Should I sell my iPhone 6? I don’t really need it.

There are currently ten books on my desk that I’m attempting to read before the end of the semester.

I’ve never met anybody by the name of Ernst.

Get It Published

Lessons Learned: Raptitude

While working as an intern in DC, I had copious amounts of time where I needed to appear productive but didn’t actually have anything to do. Could I have asked my supervisor for more work assignments? Probably. But the office was already impressed and satisfied with my work level. Why would I want them to know I was capable of more?

Thus began the summer of blog reading. I had never read any blogs consistently before. But now I can’t stop.

One of my favorites is Raptitude. I don’t even remember how I stumbled upon it, but week after week I look forward to David Cain’s unique perspective on life.

Here’s a roundup of concepts that I dig.

When people discuss the life they want to lead, they often ask themselves, “Do I like what I am doing?” This is fine, except I like pigging out on ice cream, staying up late watching Netflix, and skipping class. And while I might enjoy doing those things in the moment, they don’t exactly make me feel good about myself. The much better question to ask is, “Do I like who I am when I am doing this?” Try it. Suddenly you’re measuring your life to a standard of meaning and fulfillment rather than just enjoyment.
(link here)

Life is about relationships, but sometimes I don’t act like it. I am guilty of being a social freeloader. Instead of initiating social gatherings myself, I wait for someone else to extend the invitation. Most everyone I know is guilty of this. The problem arises when the initiator stops initiating. Perhaps they move away. All of a sudden, I’m waiting and waiting for my friends that are still around to reach out to me, but they’re waiting and waiting for me to reach out to them. If I’m serious about actively maintaining relationships, then I need to be serious about actively initiating social activities.
(link here)

I make snap judgments about strangers all the time, even though I know nothing of their personality, character, or circumstances. Maybe they were walking too slowly or they cut me off on the freeway. The things is, all of these snap judgments have an underlying tone: I think that I am better than those strangers. These thoughts are really just petty reactions to being inconvenienced. I’m introducing a lot of negativity into my day that doesn’t need to be there. Instead I want to be a good stranger, willing to suppress my tendency to judge people I don’t even know. They’ll never know, but I will.
(link here)

Lessons Learned: Raptitude