Worry Is the Thief of Joy

THE SKY FLICKERS WITH ELECTRICITY. Thunder echoes in the air. I sit beneath the overhanging roof, watching as the heavy rain falls upon the waiting bus.

The driver reads the fanned-out newspaper with his white, dainty gloves. Passengers lethargically board, matching the mood of the day. The wipers sway — swish, swish — back and forth. A mist falls from the sky and grazes my body. I watch it all, enamored by the capricious weather.

I have upcoming English lessons to teach, ones I haven’t taught before. With some deep breaths and perspective, I quell my worry. I got this.

On the last day of teacher training, we received our schedules after weeks of anticipation. I sat there reflecting: another teacher noticed and asked, “how’re you so relaxed?”

It’s not that I don’t care; I do, more than anything. I’ve spent the last several years wishing for this moment — it’s still surreal.

I’m going to give my all in what I aim to do. But — through daily practice and the guidance of people I look up to — I’m getting better at letting go of futile worrying.

What is, is — often we can’t change the circumstances we’ve been dealt. We must face something. A decision looms. Yet how does worrying help? It can’t, for worry is the thief of present joy.

On the way out to this school I read a post by the contemporary writer, Ryan Holiday. He’s somebody I look up to, as his guidance often blossoms from the roots of ancient wisdom.

“Intensity is important but also a liability,” he writes.

“I look back at stuff I was so worked up about back then and now think, WHAT? If I had to go back and give myself one word of advice, it’d be: ‘Relax.’ Practice the Stoic art of acceptance. Let things go. Be chill.”

Of course I still worry; it’s not as easy as flipping a switch. Life is intimidating — sometimes downright devastating. Things do matter.

But if we can confront those things with our authentic self, with our full attention and respect, then more often than not — in the moment — we will rise to the occasion and overcome.

Worry doesn’t serve our best self’s purpose. We must guard our inner peace like the sanctuary that it is.

When we graduate from college there’s no roadmap to follow; no signposts telling us which way to turn, which mountain to face and ascend.

It’s largely up to each of us, which makes every decision seem so important. Yes, the decisions we make are important, as they guide the track of our life — but in our youth, more than what we’re actually doing is how we’re growing from that doing.

This relates to what Chris Williamson says about commitment:

“Do whatever is the closest approximation of what right now feels like something that could be good for you to commit to, and just do that,” says Williamson on his podcast Modern Wisdom.

“Almost all the gains come from the committing to the thing, not to the thing itself.”

I’m not here in Japan to become the perfect teacher. I’m here to be in Japan. I’m here to gain the life skills and experience which derive from being on my own in a foreign land, charting my own path.

I’m here to grow and enjoy my life.

Care — yes, give your all to the moment in front of you. But try to let go of perfection. Let go of the what ifs, and savor the what is.

What is — there’s so much good in what is.

I won’t waste this moment — what’s here in front of me — worrying about what might be. There’s endless beauty in the falling rain, this pocket of life on the outskirts of Osaka, waiting for class to begin.

That’s what I choose to focus on, what fills my inner sanctuary with nourishment, instead of what drains it of its purpose.

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