Pharrell Williams had a hit a few years back called “Happy.” Now that you’ve read that you’ve got that catchy little tune in your head again, haven’t you! Well for me it is not the tune that runs around in my head, but the feeling. I am happy. I am probably the happiest I have been in my entire life. The school where I teach is a happy place to work. The kids are nice, the admin is supportive, and the teaching staff are among the most accomplished colleagues I have ever worked with. After two years of going flat out at the peak of my capacity and endurance, I have finally mastered the IB Diploma Literature curriculum and just now finished what was for me the easiest and most successful term since I got here.

I have a very nice classroom that is well equipped with shelves and cupboards. I have my own little coffee bar set up, and a sink to clean the desks. I have a nice large desk myself with a decent computer, fast internet and easy access to my files through a central server. I have a state of the art SmartBoard which I use constantly, and down the hall a tech lab to help with the video recording I have to do for IB. Just further down the hall is a well-stocked library for the novels and plays that I must teach. I have a view of the soccer field from my desk, and a courtyard outside my door where I can listen to the parrots and mockingbirds in the trees. And finally! after near freezing to death in Malaysian classrooms, full control over the aircon in my own room, which I keep at a comfortable 25.

After some initial trepidation, Pam is pretty much up to speed on the teaching aspect of her ‘School Nurse’ responsibilities. I even had the joy of helping her this week on a student activity she wanted to run in her class. With the cooler weather it is now possible to walk to work again, and with Pam driving the car, I can get a ride home at the end of the day. I have lost some weight as a consequence, and am feeling a little lighter in my body, as well as my spirit. I even got a very nice hit on the ‘Welcome Friends’ portion of this website recently from a former student at Locke’s, where I last taught ten years ago now, expressing his appreciation for my “unique” approach to teaching which still resonates in his life. These notes, as anyone in this profession will tell you, are the sweetest words a teacher can hear. And after two years of touch and go, our finances here have finally come to grips with the cost of living on this island now that Pam is making an income. And despite the creaks and groans of late middle age (I flatter myself, I know), I am still in good health. I am a happy man.

I read a while ago about a Princeton study in which Nobel Economist Angus Deaton sought to find a link between happiness and wealth. It was a large study, 450 thousand respondents, and it indicated that above a certain family income – $75,000 for Americans – people were no happier even if their wealth ran to the millions. Lower incomes did increase stress and impacted happiness, but above a certain threshold, it apparently doesn’t matter.

While acknowledging that a certain level of income is important in reducing stress, I would argue that a sense of fulfilment, of doing what you feel called to do in life, is equally, if not more important. Frederick Buechner a most insightful Christian writer put it this way: Happiness is finding the place where your deep gladness (giftedness and passion) meets the world’s hunger (need, longing). I was fortunate. I found that place early in life, and have tried my best to remain there through a long and winding path of teaching in six countries on four continents. Now, as my career starts to wind down, I must tell you, it has been a life of increasing happiness with every passing year. May I encourage you, dear reader. Find the thing that a loving God has called and equipped you to do. Do it, and be happy.

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