This post originally appeared in World Unwrapped.
"Jasmine, look! We got a present for you!" my little French sort-of-sisters said, excitedly throwing a pretty blue book into my hands.
"You put your name here on the front and there are all these blank pages for you to fill with your secrets!"
The family I live with as an au pair have noticed me scribbling away and after our break over the Christmas holidays they bought me back a journal from Paris. Small acts of kindness go a long way, and this was a very touching start to my next chapter.
That little blue book has been filled up over the last three and a half months with all kinds of highs and lows, adventures and musings, mishaps and celebrations. Such is the nature of time that I'm now sitting here in awe that we're already slap bang in the middle of the fourth month of 2015. Now, how did that happen?
These past few months I've been going through the transition from being an intrepid traveller with little plans, blowing where the wind takes me to living with a fixed schedule, responsibilities and commitments to stick to. I'm a firm believer in trying it all out to see what fits best. Even if that means struggling with something when you realise it's not actually for you, at least that way we know and can direct ourselves back to the right path, with even more certainty that that's where we're supposed to be.
So, how does the shoe fit? I'm working the longest hours I've ever worked in my life, at work I'm responsible for teaching 28 different classes how to speak English, at home I'm responsible for two little girls and I've filled up chunks of my spare time with extra private tutoring or babysitting. Some lessons at school are a delight whilst others have me wishing I was one of the care free kids messing about instead of the stressed out adult trying to calm down a noisy class.
Suddenly I'm worried about money and all that "adult" stuff and half of me is extremely grateful for all these interesting opportunities offering me chances to gain valuable experience and have a positive impact on the lives of others, who in turn are a pleasure for me to be around. The other half is digging her heels in thinking "Shiiit, this is all too much, can I run away now?"
Then I realised just how much we fight ourselves to try and create the "perfect" life, to try and be the happiest we can possibly be. But there is no end point where there are never any difficulties. Wherever we are in the world, whoever we may be, everyone has their struggles and their joys. It's all up and down and round and round. In constantly searching for some kind of perfection, in trying to make myself "good enough", my life "good enough" all I've been doing is missing what's right in front of me in the here and now.
Every time I take a moment to stop, to breathe, to take in my surroundings and appreciate all the things I am grateful for, well I can't help but feel a wave of calm. The worries float further away from the forefront of my mind and I begin to relax into where I am. There's nothing to gain from wishing away the present.
It's becoming more and more apparent to me how heavily influenced our experience of the world is based on how we choose to perceive it. This goes for the everyday things to the huge things, it all depends on what we focus on.
Take the other day for an example when I went to open a bank in French. The queues were huge, it was baking hot and I found it really hard to understand what was being said to me. But I ended up really enjoying it! I did some people watching, I chatted to one of the guys working there who wanted to practice his English and the woman in charge of opening my account and I ended up having a lot of fun trying to figure out all the logistics of signing up an English girl to a French system. It didn't need to be stressful.
From now on, I'm going to focus on being present, on accepting what is real for me here and now. After all, whatever is happening is simply what is happening, it doesn't need to be much more complicated than that.