It's not every day you'd find me traveling for a day to eat a pizza in Chicago.
But this wasn’t an everyday kind of day.
Okay, so I didn’t travel JUST to eat a pizza. This morning, I started in Hamilton, Ontario, where I live. I took two buses to the Toronto Airport, a plane to Chicago, a shuttle to my hotel, another shuttle to the train, and I’m typing this while sitting on the Chicago L-Train, en route to Frankie Scaloppini, where I’ll make, and then eat, a pizza.
Probably more importantly than where I’m going and what I’m doing, though, is why I’m going there: I’m meeting for our first dinner with this summer’s staff team for National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC).
I have to say, it’s a bit strange for me to be writing at the beginning of an experience. Usually I write newsletters about things after I’ve already done. I mean, this is my fourth summer as a leadership facilitator at NSLC, so it’s not completely new. Perhaps it’s more like the start of a new season than a series premiere.
But regardless of whether it’s the start or the continuation, I’m writing NOW – before I’ve even met the staff team, because I had a realization that I was really “excited to be here!” It seemed a fitting moment to write an article.
I spend about 8 weeks with NSLC each summer, and I facilitate personal development sessions for somewhere around 1000 students (though not all at the same time). The high school aged students are really amazing – so excited to build their skills and change the world. For many, it’s their first time away from home without their parents, so it can be transformative for some.
The college-aged staff team is phenomenal too. They’re always excited to share their life wisdom and contribute to the students’ experience. And they just tend to be great people! I guess that’s why I’m extra excited to meet them. Tonight, when I arrived, I COULD have stayed at the hotel and met the team tomorrow morning. But I decided it would be more fun to take the train into the city, so here I am, sitting in anticipation of meeting the new team.
I’ve been looking forward to this season, well, since the day last August when last season ended, actually. Last summer ended with a student-run social and dance that turned into a candlelight story-sharing session. Students were celebrating new friendships, newfound confidence, and at times, the joy of life itself! Talk about ending on a high note. Admittedly, I’m always ready for a change up at the end of the season, but the anticipation for this season has been building for months!
Anticipation is a cool thing, eh? Have you ever thought about it? A real, bona fide physiological change occurs in us, even though nothing physically has actually occurred yet... It seems almost crazy; my goofy smile sitting here on the train while I’m typing this is surely incomprehensible to the other folks on the train who likely see nothing particularly smile-worthy in my immediate vicinity. (Of course, 5 of the 8 within my view are texting, so they’re not actually paying attention to me anyway.)
So that got me thinking about how anticipation is feeling good about stuff that hasn’t happened yet. Maybe gratitude is feeling good about stuff that already happened. I suppose appreciation is feeling good about what’s happening in the present. I don’t know if I’ve ever thought as much about the time-focus of happiness before, although there is a great animated video about time perspectives here.
I got thinking about summer, and how I often flip quickly between looking forward and looking back... Forward to summer adventures... Back on the learning of the year... If we’re lucky, summer is a pretty good time to appreciate the present also. So, wherever you find yourself, and whatever temporal zone you happened to be mentally in, I’d suggest appreciating it, because frankly, they can all be pretty good!
As for me, I thought I was taking the train to get a pizza. Turns out, I got a nice hour of appreciation for anticipation. And hopefully tomorrow, I’ll look back with gratitude.
Memories from NSLC 2012 included doing a handstand on the glass floor of the 108th story of the Willis Tower skyscraper.
(Editor’s note: Joel is a little odd sometimes...)
June 27, 2013
"But if we learn to think of it as anticipation, as learning, as growing, if we think of the time we spend waiting for the big things of life as an opportunity instead of a passing of time, what wonderful horizons open out!"
As another school year closes and summer starts, I’m already thinking about September! I’m excited to have a summer project designing another brand new sustainability course for McMaster University. In addition to my school and conference gigs (which, by the way - if you're in need, I still have space in the fall), I’ll be teaching two evening courses each semester this year – so exciting to be educating in so many ways!
If you've ever missed an issue, you can always read it in the archive here.
This article series "Excited to be Here!" is an account of Joel's unique travels and wacky adventures: Life is pretty exciting when you're paying attention.
Joel Hilchey is the Founder of The Beanstalk Project. An educator and entertainer, Joel speaks at events across North America, creating social change by juggling, storytelling, and playing with mousetraps.
To book Joel, contact him by phone at 1-877-487-5635 or check him out online at www.joelhilchey.com!
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