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Remember to Validate your Metcard

AUSTRALIA | Monday, 12 September 2011 | Views [2326]

The recorded message rang out, over and over again, at every stop.

“Remember to validate your Metcard”

Quintessentially Melbourne, it was a reminder of all the messages, bright lights, sounds and seductions I had so desperately missed in my leaving for Dubai. I was sitting on the train from Flinders Street to Middle Brighton, thinking about a post I had recently read at Leo Babuata’s zenhabits on the tragedy of missing out. Starting with a parable of a young boy always searching for bigger fish, he hit home the idea that we are always missing out on something. No matter how hard we strive to fill our lives with everything, no matter how busy we make ourselves, and to what capacity we fill our days, it is human to be missing something.

I had pondered the fact that Andrew and I are often missing out on things, a feeling amplified by living as an expatriate. We miss birthdays, we miss weddings, we miss family gatherings, special moments or just being there to say “it’s ok, you had a bad day.” Even at that time, I was on the train, waiting to get to my old school, thinking about all the things I had missed from their little lives through my leaving.

I fingered through the pages of a rogue MX that somebody had left behind, only to find this for my horoscope: “There’s always something that could be better. There’s always somewhere you could be instead. There’s always someone you perhaps might prefer to talk to. And there’s always the chance that whatever you think you’re missing…you’re not actually missing at all. We put ourselves through far too much unnecessary angst. We judge ourselves too harshly and we compare ourselves to others much too unfairly. The question today is not ‘what’s wrong’? It’s what’s right and have you yet appreciated all that’s good about it?”


On arriving at school, most of the people were still there and the same kind of wonderful that I loved before I left. My students got excited about seeing me in the playground, excitedly racing to their new teacher to tell her all about me. My old colleagues showed me their awesome new facilities, programs and ways of learning. Everything was wonderful. I missed it, and I missed it regularly. I felt that I was missing out on the opportunity to embrace learning through enquiry, to challenge old learning styles and move forward with exceptional new strategies. I wanted it all again. I wanted to make colourful displays, play legos on Fridays and watch their little minds grow. Even when the squeals and the bouncy smiles all got a bit much, I still missed it, and I wanted it all again.

I waved my sad farewell and I got back on the train. I got back to thinking about how much they’d grown, but moved on to thinking about how much I too had grown. I thought about the challenges I’d overcome in my coordinator role, the lessons I’d learned, and the forward thinking strategies I had pioneered that I might not have conquered had I stayed in Melbourne. I thought about how I had brought new, fresh ideas to the old style of teaching common among my Arab colleagues. I had begun to implement negotiated tasks with my own students, encouraging those in my department to do the same. I had challenged students with flexible learning opportunities and found peace in the subsequent relationships I had built through their appreciation. When I thought dismally about lost opportunities from not working in that vibrant, dynamic Year 3 teaching team, I made an effort to think about all the times I’d been challenged, had learned and had grown in my own world in Dubai. I thought about the successes, and for a moment, enjoyed them.

I miss those children, my friends and the wonders of Melbourne so often, but know that my own adventures are helping me to grow and learn more about people and the world. I love the opportunities I have here in Dubai, but I miss their little smiles. I miss working in proactive teaching teams, but I love the chances I have to travel the globe. I miss a lot about Melbourne, but I was delighted to see the excitement in the eyes of everyone I talked to about my stories. It was great to see how our worlds had changed and yet stayed the same, and it was heart-warming to hear that same little “hi Miss Adams” ringing out across the classroom and to hear them remember I’d sent postcards.

I came to my final realisation: one must not miss these things too much or think of what they’re missing out on. One just needs to smile at all those special memories and appreciate how each part of the journey was an awesome little sliver of life, and what adventures still lie ahead. One might say it’s cold comfort when you’re watching your parents walk away from you, clutching at tissues to stifle their tears, but it helps to make the journey that little more golden, as you know that you’re giving more to yourself in the here and now. For them, you’re bringing home a wiser, warmer and wonder-filled child to the doorstep every now and then.

My favourite part of Leo’s post was his second truth:
“if you always worry about what you’re missing out on, you will miss out on what you already have.”

It’s time to live in the now.

Tags: australia, expat, melbourne, school, thoughts

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