Finding Joy & Working Towards Goals

I had a conversation with someone a few weeks ago, someone who is absolutely miserable with her life, where she works, and what she is doing. She was so focused on hating everything that it had consumed her.


She didn’t have to be miserable. She is skilled and in her profession, she could work anywhere she wanted.


She didn’t have to be lonely, but she chose to move around every couple of years and stopped trying to build community where she landed.


She compared with others her own age and fell into despair about how she didn’t have what they had.


We got to talking and eventually the only advice I felt that I could give was for her to find out what she wanted in life and what would make her happy and then go after it. It is such a blessing to not be stuck in a job or a place due to financial reasons. She really doesn’t have to settle for miserable.


In the short term, though, how could she stick out the rest of her job contract?

Do something every day that makes you hate where you live just a little less.


While speaking to her, I felt like I was reminding myself the same thing.


I don’t hate where I live, in fact, I’m still relishing in the newness and now that I have a routine and am making friends, I’m loving having my own place.


Yet, there are many things I want to do that I don’t feel are possible on the island. There are many hobbies I’d like to start, some that actually aren’t doable from here. However, there are many things that will bring me joy that I can do while I await the thaw.


I love all sorts of outdoor physical activities. When I shoveled my porch the other day and then ran around in a blizzard, I was practically beaming. My life here is more stationary than I would like.

Solution? Go dig around in the snow, shovel my neighbors out, or go for a walk. Later this spring as cross-country skiing calms down, I should be able to get out on some extra skis. If that suits me, then perhaps that will be an outlet for next winter!


I love words. While I can go an entire weekend without saying anything aloud and I may not feel that my vocabulary is challenged through my third-grade interactions, I do have all the time in the world to read. I can read works that challenge my viewpoints, make me feel, or simply serve to be relaxing. I can write about my experiences, I can write about made up things, and I can write about books, all things for which I now have time. I also found out that the arctic region has a weekly newspaper, a quick stop at the store and a dollar later and I not only have a unique look into the happenings of the north, but I also have a crossword puzzle to try out.


I love being connected and feeling like a part of a community. This one bothered me the most when I first arrived. Although, I was greeted with hugs and long conversations and my second night in town we had a staff BBQ, the hours I spent in my home were far from my entire life’s experience.

In Brazil, I lived in a crowded small dormitory. Now, I’ve got a two bedroom single-wide to myself. In Brazil, I shared a bed that was smaller than a US twin and it was so close to my partner-in-crime’s, S.’s, bed that I’d sometimes wake with her leg on my own bed. For the first time in my life, I now have a Queen-sized mattress (not to mention the spare twin) and it is all to myself.

At home, in Minnesota, there was always someone around. My parents never traveled to overnight destinations and I had never spent a night alone in a home until I was renting my own place in college. There are always so many people around that it is hard to find time to be alone, but I love that too.

Here, I have to be more intentional to make plans. I have to remind myself to accept invitations, because it may be the only one that week. I eagerly jump on opportunities to get involved at the school, mostly just for the social interaction…and it is working!

I can also “matar as saudades”, deal with my homesickness, through some of my favorite things: words. I’ve written letters and mailed postcards, more than I ever have before. Send me your address if you’d like one! I can spend a good hour and a half on the phone with an old friend (or more than likely, my parents) before we run out of things to say.


While there are still things I’m working on figuring out, a lot of other things are falling into place. The solutions will never be perfect and they may not look like what I had originally intended, but there is always a little something that I can do each day that brings me a little slice of joy.


I can only hope that my acquaintance finds something that will make the last month and a half of her contract a little more joyful. I can also hope that wherever her path goes next, it is somewhere she has reflected on and decided that it will make a good fit.


If you have the means to make better choices, choices that chase your dreams or are concrete steps towards your goals, then do it…you can’t get anywhere without an effort in the right direction, and being miserable isn’t going to fix it either.

Also, it is never too late to try…unless you want to be an Olympic gymnast and you’re over the age of 5. Sorry, probably unlikely…but you could still learn how to do a cartwheel!