One of my favourite poems is ‘Days’ by Philip Larkin. I love the simplicity of this poem and the message, at least as I see it, to live in the moment and enjoy each and every day.
When I was previously unhappy in my job, or indeed in my life, I’d put off happiness constantly. I’d tell myself ‘I’ll be happy when I get these last ten pounds off,’ or ‘I’ll be happy when I’ve bought my own house,’ and certainly, as a teacher, it was a case of ‘I’ll be happy when it’s my next school holiday.’ In reality, no item on this tick list ever made me ‘happy.’ Even the granddaddy of school holidays, Summer, never lived up to this kind of street cred and I often found myself just as unhappy, only in a different situation.
I realised a couple of years ago that the old cliché is true and that happiness truly does come from within. It’s about the things you choose to notice and choose to ignore; it’s about what you’re consciously grateful for every day; it’s about how you choose to eat, move, interact, challenge yourself and others, and most importantly, think.
Nowadays, I still look forward to weekends and holidays just like I used to, but there’s less desperate urgency about it. I focus more on the small-wins of every day life: meeting new students and attempting to inspire them; an ‘aha’ moment when teaching; ten minutes of mindfulness on a sunny, sleepy morning; a few deep breaths on a stressful day; a homemade soup for lunch; time spent reading a book.
I’d like to point out that my natural disposition is to be cynical, sarcastic, anxious and negative (and that’s on a good day!) so thinking this was hasn’t come naturally – I’ve had to force it. Cultivating this kind of attitude has taken years of effort and still continues to challenge me – it’s not like I don’t have bad days, or hormones… but it’s incredibly powerful to know that the feeling that you’re looking for is available to you right now, if you only open your eyes (changing your body language massively helps too!)
So please – enjoy your day and take notice of everything good around you. I’ll leave you with this awesome poem:
What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?
Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.