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My college friends used to comment that I always had a lot of energy. On one particularly memorable midwinter outing club trip, I was bestowed the hummingbird as a spirit animal, due, as they said, to the fact that I could rarely sit down, sit still, or stop moving.

This reputation followed me to China, where my foreign friends often had to rein me in – though said energy also provided impetus for a number of wild adventurings. The energy helped last weekend, when, bogged down with a full telemark setup on a backcountry ski trip where all other participants were in light nordic gear, keeping apace was a fair bit of work. It helps in teaching, which can be perhaps the most physically and mentally draining (and satisfying) job I’ve yet found. It also helps in my current job, which – in addition to episodes of teaching – involves coordinating and leading trips for fifth, seventh, and eighth-grade students in China (the fifth graders left for Taiwan on Friday!) and the consequent twenty-four hour on call availability required to pull off such outings.

However, being sick with a mysterious feverish illness for the past four days, I’ve found myself in a place where my energy has completely failed me. On each of two of the past four days, I only left my bed three times – which, for anyone who knows me, may seem like something of an impossibility. However, during this time, not only did I not leave my bed – I had no wish to leave. I lay, alternately near-nakedly spreadeagled and sweating, or shiveringly huddled in layers of clothing and blankets, without any interest or willpower to do anything else.

This extreme fatigue, of course, is our body’s brilliant way of forcing us to slow down, to give it all the energy it needs to fight an illness or infection. But what does that make those of us who, at times, are endowed with excessive energy? Are we nature’s dancing monkeys, the individuals who are supposed to run around and amuse everyone else; are we intended simply to work monstrous amounts and be hyperactively efficient in the advancement of our own species; are we here just because nature wanted someone to pedal the hamster-wheel of existence?

I have no idea – but, at least in health (if not in sickness), I’ll pedal that hamster-wheel for my own amusement – strictly speaking, for my own happiness and true 幸福 well-being – wherever and just as far as it’s willing to take me.

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