a quick one while I’m away

I’m working on a longer post about my doings and goings-on lately. I went to the US, came back to China, and traveled in Beijing and Qingdao. But in the meantime, I read something yesterday that I thought was intriguing.

To say Larus has an eclectic background is like saying Roger Federer dabbles in tennis. In his forty-odd years, Larus has earned a living not only as a chess player but also as a journalist, a construction-company executive, a theologian, and, now, a music producer. “I know,” he says, sensing my disbelief. “But that kind of résumé is completely normal in Iceland.” Having multiple identities (though not multiple personalities) is, he believes, conducive to happiness. This runs counter to the prevailing belief in the United States and other western nations, where specialization is considered the highest good. Academics, doctors, and other professionals spend lifetimes learning more and more about less and less. In Iceland, people learn more and more about more and more.

from The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner

The relevance to me, someone who has had more careers than many people have had jobs, should be clear. I’ve been a little apologetic about the fact that I’ve bounced around a bit in my career life, not to mention my life life. But maybe my experience is not the problem. Maybe my perspective needs shifting. Maybe YOUR perspective needs shifting. Ever think of that?

Yeah, I could hang here.
Yeah, I could hang.

Who we are is so affected by where we are. It’s hard to get out of that perspective. Living in China has been useful for seeing the world as other people see it, or at least beginning to.

I had a conversation with my friend Mike while we were traveling in Beijing. We were discussing his future. He wants to study in the US, but it might be prohibitively expensive. I told him that, even if he can’t spend two years in an international master’s program, he can and will manage to get to the US. I said, “I don’t worry about you. I worry about me.” He said, “Why would you worry about you?” I don’t know. Habit? My point is (and if I have to use those words maybe I’m not making it very well), seeing yourself, seeing your problems, and seeing your culture from the outside is useful. And damn difficult.

I’m about to start a new job with two new, more challenging courses to teach. I am also starting my master’s degree coursework. I’m feeling strangely at peace about it. It’s going to be hard, but it’s going to be OK. Right? Yes, dammit.