Cherishing Life’s Precious Moments

I want our students to believe that they have the right and ability to learn and embrace optimism and to be committed to something that is larger than self.

Amazon’s book algorithm has no clue who I am. Sure, they keep trying, but their recommendations are hit or miss, yet I blame no equations. Truly, I am a quirky reader. I rely on a few people and multiple reviews from diverse sources to tempt me, and as John and I share our books via our virtual library, I am ever surprised that we have been happily married for so long, as his literary taste could not be further than mine. Amazon loves him and I’m only a teeny bit jealous. This blog is not, however, about the idiosyncrasies of an adaptable marriage or even a window into my book choices, but instead it is a rather long preamble about a book I just finished. 

For some reason, and before starting, I thought A Gentleman in Moscow to be a Cold War thriller and one we might both enjoy. And while espionage is not my favorite genre, a review that I skimmed (operative word) was very positive, but it was not the book I expected. While the story and style were surprising, I soon realized that I was reading a gem with the loveliest message about love, family, friends, a little politics, and a romantic through line that is poignant and touching. What I loved most was a book about cherishing life’s precious moments rather than celebrating only that which is large and expansive. 

The book itself is the story of Count Alexander Rostov who, in 1922, has displeased the Bolshevik tribunal with a poem he has allegedly written and finds himself sentenced to life imprisonment in the Hotel Metropol, his current place of residence. He quickly discovers, however, that his apartment has been confiscated and he is assigned to a tiny attic located up a rickety flight of stairs. He has many adventures, makes friends, redecorates his humble abode, and has a long and sustaining love affair. In the end, he has created a family though no blood runs through this tribe of misfits and characters. At the end, I was left with a warm feeling about immersing myself in a story that is lovely without being treacly and as I gravitate toward the quirky, the edgy, and sometimes the dark, I discovered that I cherished a much needed feeling of goodness as we geared up for school. The mindset was perfect.  

This story started me thinking about happiness and optimism and Dr. Martin Seligman, renowned professor and author of several books about happiness and optimism. I have come to embrace his thesis that we find happiness through our best and most caring relationships, work that is fulfilling and has meaning, and a commitment to a higher purpose—something larger than self. No tangible/inanimate object has ever brought anyone true and lasting happiness, but on the other hand helping and advocating for others, reaching out and cherishing not only those around us but also those for those who seek shelter from the storm will indeed lead to a richer life. In the process, we will be creating a tribe that may have more to do with reaching out and expanding rather than contracting into the tight space of the known and familiar.

I want our students to believe that they have the right and ability to learn and embrace optimism and to be committed to something that is larger than self. Through our work together these girls will develop the resilience for a life well lived and I hope filled with joy interspersed with sadness, disappointment, and failure. More I could not wish for them.   


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