how to remain youthful: look for the wonderful

Years ago, when I was interviewing one of my friends for my book, I asked her how she remains so youthful.  Pam was almost 60 years old, a good 15 years older than I am, but she inevitably gets mistaken for my age, and often younger.  But it’s more than the fact that she looks younger — her spirit is young.

She thought for a minute, and then she said, “You know, Karen, I never stop looking to be awed.  I really think that’s the trick — to never stop looking for the wonderful.  Constantly searching to be amazed.”

I thought this was such an insightful thought:  one of the best parts of being a kid, I think, is discovering something new and awesome.  Something that completely blows your mind, that makes you feel a little wiser and older just by knowing it.  What better way to capture the feeling of youth than to revisit that experience?  Never stop looking for the wonderful.

As I’m typing this, I’m sitting in a shabby hotel room in a tiny town in west Texas, about 600 miles from my home in Houston.  This roadtrip my husband and I took to be here was something of a whim:  neither of us had ever been to this part of the world, and had heard that Big Bend National Park was truly worth a visit.  Coming out here, I had no frame of reference to set my expectations: even though I’m pretty well-traveled, I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon, or indeed, any canyon before, and honestly, am not a particularly outdoorsy person.  I was excited to come out here, yes, but admittedly I also had a bit of trepidation.

This morning, we hiked into Santa Elena Canyon, on the Texas/Mexican border.


I was, to say the least, completely awestruck:  these severe cliffs into the water below, the fact that Mexico was just right there (in fact, the cliff walls to the left of the photo above are Mexico), the amazing smallness I felt looking up through the canyon walls into the sky.  It was an emotion I remember feeling as a child.

And so for the rest of the day, I’ve been thinking about my friend Pam’s words.  I think she’s right:  I think as we get older, we get so jaded and cynical about the world, and the state of society in general, that we forget to continue to look for the wonderful.  And today’s excursion was a great reminder that sometimes the wonderful is right in our own back yards.

So I’m passing this bit of wisdom on to you:  never stop looking for the wonderful.  Sometimes, the wonderful is a road trip away; but I suspect more often than we know, it’s closer than we think.


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