Happiness from Senegal to Santiago

travel2I feel like I’ve been traveling the globe while still rooted in Foggy Bottom this week.  The start of spring semester brings the opportunity to catch up with Fall Study Abroad students, hearing about the journeys they are still processing.  While learning of places to visit and sites to see, I’m equally drawn to their reflections on what it means to be the odd man or woman out.  They thrust themselves into new spaces and with barriers to mount, they come out enriched on the other side.

One student, B, sat with me on a rainy afternoon, processing his European adventures.  Museum visits were frequent, relationships back home were tested, jaunts around the continent were planned.  But then we came to the question of whether he actually had a good time.  Thankful for his iced coffee (and the straw it required), B. picked up the straw wrapper, ripped it in half, and a quadrant sat before us on the table.

On one side of the quadrant sat happy/unhappy.  On the other sat positive/negative.  As he shared, unhappy moments – as much as happy ones – can still be immensely positive.  This served as the great lesson of his time abroad.  Was it always a happy adventure?  No.  Did he come out with an extremely positive experience?  Undoubtedly.

What perceived unhappiness in your life is supporting your personal growth?  And in the happy moments, could negativity still be lurking?

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