Lost and Found

Not for the first time, I caught myself staring off into space. Looking at nothing but staring far, far away, somewhere I didn’t recognise I’d gone until I pulled myself back.

Not for the first time I wondered at myself, marvelled at the ease of getting lost in a distant place. I have no words to describe this place, no feeling or physical sensations. Instead I have a sense of surprise when I realise that I’ve gone away and come back again.

It’s not that the real world is difficult to hold onto. It’s not that I’m discontented with what’s right in front of me. Instead, I think that my mind likes to seek out quiet. We’re surrounded by so much noise and distraction and I actively engage in pursuits that require me to be right where I am. I run, I ride my bike, I practice yoga, I dance, I go rock climbing. If you lose yourself there, you’re lost. The mind must be quiet. It must focus.

I think moments drifting away are like this, too. They’ve very different in form but similar in purpose. They’re a means of shutting out and opening up. The difference is in focus – with the activities described above, there’s intentionality. When I finally notice I’ve left this world for another, I didn’t mean for it to happen.

But clearly I needed it. Clearly my mind needed a rest just then. Just now. There was nothing in my hands and I left for a moment. The book next to me remains closed.

Much of the time I like this world, the real world, very much. But the rest of the time I’m aching for a different one.


I caught myself just looking out at the ocean multiple times per day when I spent a week at the beach this summer. That’s how I saw the dolphins and the open-water swimmers practicing with floaties. That’s how I saw the sun move and the tide advance and recede.

I saw the world around me because I was able to let go of distraction and be exactly where I was. I got lost, and I found what I didn’t know I’d been missing.

An Unidentified Emotion

I had an interesting experience and I’m not quite sure what to make of it. I think I could call this experience jealousy, but I honestly don’t know if that’s right.

I overheard someone I’d just met talking about something that she has, which happens to be something I deeply want. My immediate thought was, Oh. You, too? As in, yet another person who has this thing that I cannot seem to have.

But then this person started to talk about working so hard to get it, and all of the obstacles in the way, and how the struggle is finally over! And my exclamation point is absolutely genuine because that is such a joyful thing. If I want something for myself that I find valuable, I want it for everyone. Well done. Enjoy. Live peacefully.

So there’s that.

But I also stepped outside of myself enough to notice how I was reacting in the moment, which was not with any particular warmth. I wasn’t involved in the conversation when this topic first came up so it was easy to take a moment to look at myself. I didn’t have to a) look like I was listening or b) pay attention, and I quickly realised I didn’t want to do either of those things. Here’s another one, I thought, who has succeeded where I have failed.

Note that many of these words are a product of looking back on my internal response; I don’t know that I would have described my emotions this way in the moment but this is what I have been left with.

A predictable progression from here, as the conversation unfolded, is to ask what’s wrong with me. Why can’t I have this thing, too? I know enough psychology that I laughed at myself when it happened and I practice enough meditation to swiftly walk that feeling back and away. It isn’t about me at all.

When my new acquaintance promised to tell more in the future, I caught myself rolling my eyes internally. Physical distance and some time has me wanting to hear the story. Good for you, new acquaintance. Be content. Be happy.

And then the conversation shifted and all moved on.


I am now left with a question. Was that jealousy? I honestly don’t know. If so, it’s not the green-eyed monster I read about and was so frightened by as a child. I decided very early on that I never wanted to feel such a thing.

Merriam-Webster says that jealous has four definitions:

  1. hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage
  2. a. intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness / b. disposed to suspect rivalry or unfaithfulness
  3. vigilant in guarding a possession

None of those seem right, either.

So if it’s not jealousy, what is it? What does it say about me? Where does it leave me? And what do I do about it?

I didn’t know so I wrote this blog post. I still don’t know. Language interests me and maybe there’s a word for this feeling in another language. Maybe I’ll look around for one. I think I’ll call it “the time I might have been jealous” and keep an eye out for it in the future. And maybe then I’ll know, or maybe we’ll never meet again.

And that thing? I hope you get it, too.

Hello, I Think I’m Back!

Phew! It has been a long time since I’ve written. It was time to take some time off. It was time to spend time with people I love, breathe in the ocean, move apartments, and return to work.

I know I’m not unique in that my school habits are thrown off when my schedule changes over the summer. Suddenly there’s time! And comparatively limited responsibility! I ran almost every day but it was a struggle to meditate; I spent almost all of my time with family and friends but still need to make a few phone calls because there’s never enough time. I spent the last week sitting on the beach and finishing three books; I’ve been back in Singapore for almost three weeks and I’ve only finished two.

Living takes on different forms in different places and times and I’m completely okay with that. But time is finite and we make choices. I’ve chosen to cook dinner almost every night instead of sitting down with this blog. I’ve gone on bike rides instead of running, spent time out in the world instead of at home reading. I’ve spent less time listening to podcasts and more time being comfortable in the quiet.

All of this will morph. Living is fluid. If I’ve learned one thing it’s how to be wherever I am rather than trying to make where I am into something it’s not.

This is on my mind as we get ready for the new school year. Like many people, I work in a system that I don’t always like. I experience periods of negativity, defeat, and dejection over what is happening around me. But at the end of the day I am very aware that I will spend 100 hours with my students this year and it is my responsibility to make sure their time is well spent. I want them to become better people. I want them to deepen their understanding of the world.

As I write, I’m watching the sky change from grey to pink, a pink tinged with blue clouds, and finally to a deep blue. How do I help my students take the time to notice, to recognise that the world is out there and they are part of it? How do I raise good people?

It’s the beginning of a new school year and like every year, this is what I wonder. And this is what I try to do every single day.

Yup, I think I’m back.

Photos, travels, musings, and ideas on education by a twenty-something teacher trying to make the world a better and more peaceful place