Discontentment is a slow-acting poison I have found myself ingesting far too many times throughout my life. It’s the kind of toxin that doesn’t cripple you instantly. Its effects are gradual and sometimes very hard to notice. However, if discontentedness is consumed enough, it is powerful enough to erode the very fabric of a person. There’s a certain level of innate humanness that’s lost when simplistic joys can no longer bring you pleasure. I have never encountered a single person who can truly live in the moment if one eye is always glancing ahead to what lies beyond or what is currently unachieved. Before this trip even began, I was confident I would feel a familiar sense of discontentment by my journey’s end. Melancholy thoughts of returning home mixed with potential regrets about whatever activities I was unable to do would inevitably leave me unsatisfied. Surprisingly, as I write this final column, I feel overwhelmingly fulfilled by every delight, both small and large, my time in New Zealand has brought me. I cannot wait to be reunited with my family and friends and tell anyone with a listening ear about all of my adventures. My study abroad experience has blessed me with more memories, laughter, and genuine friendships than I ever expected, but I believe the most valuable treasure I have gained may be an elixir to the discontentment that so often plagues me. That antidote is a savoring of the mundane.
I am not oblivious to the fact that common stressors and weighty responsibilities have been largely absent over the past three weeks. I am also fully aware of the notion that a majority of my time here has been spent in scenes of serene paradise and breathtaking natural beauty. It could be easy to chalk up my current state of contentedness to the wonderland-like environment I have found myself in. I choose to refute that notion. Circumstances may differ between life in Alabama and life in New Zealand, but the presence of mundanity has not. I have still done laundry here. I have still had classes here. I have still had to go to the convenience store here. None of those tasks were spectacular feats that could only be accomplished in New Zealand. There were ordinary and simplistic. Oftentimes they were a bit boring. The notable difference is that here, in this country, I decided to savor rather than dread them. Laundry was a time for me to have a few moments solely to myself to reflect and ponder. Classes were spaces where I was unable to gain insight into other people’s New Zealand experiences. Short convenience store trips transformed into quests to find the most exotic drink or snack. I have learned how to savor every single moment here, and that is what has made this entire trip so wildly fulfilling. Life back home is destined to be more hectic than it is here; I have no doubt about that. Yet, I am curious to see what influence my newfound perspective will have on my day-to-day experiences. I only hope I can continue to appreciate every single facet of living the way I have cherished it here.