I often find myself in unfamiliar situations. Just a few months ago, I found myself in a small shed in Huizhou, China, holding burning sticks of sweet incense and standing in front of a simple collection of Buddhist shrines. The shelves that lined the shed’s walls were jammed with colourful statues of the Buddha’s many physical incarnations, and I was being taught how to pray for love, luck and health by the presiding family’s elderly, chain-smoking matriarch as I swallowed the persistent lump in my throat. Then I was offered some strong Oolong tea and a bundled prayer was tucked in my pocket to keep me safe on my journey.
When I walked out of that temple, scanning the landscape of emerald green hills, fields being worked by yaks tethered to rudimentary plows, and traditional wooden Hakka courtyard houses that have fallen into beautiful disrepair, the lump worked its way from my throat to my heart. I felt, for a brief moment, full to the brim.
As you get a little older, you hopefully get to know yourself a little better and develop a clearer picture of what you want out of life. (For example, I have discovered – the hard way – that I do not love to date men who still live with their parents.) While there are still so many things that remain a mystery, one of the things I’ve come to embrace is my desire for new experiences – whether that’s taking a cable car to the top of Hong Kong’s highest mountain to see one of the world’s greatest views or (recently) learning how to ride my bike all over again at the age of 31. To have a moment of immersion in something previously foreign, that sense of doing something or seeing something I’ve never done or seen before, allows me to break through what so often seems mundane and makes me very, very happy.
In that spirit, every week I’m going to try something new that I’ve always wanted to do – or possibly was afraid to do, or couldn’t afford to do, or didn’t even know was a possibility – and I’ll write about it here. Stay tuned for the next few entries, where I write about trying my hand at falconry at an Irish castle, telecommuting from Paris for a week, getting back on a horse after a 20-year absence, and my first attempt at my mother’s recipe for orange chocolate mousse.
There will be triumphs and embarrassments. There will definitely be mention of both my love life and my mother. And all the while, I will do my best to explain how trying new things makes me happy.