It is a cloudy and gloomy morning. I am walking to the bus stop, lost in my own thoughts. I am thinking about the midterm I wrote a few days ago and how it went terribly. I studied so hard for it and now I am not even sure if it was worth it. Everything seems like it is falling apart. I am watching my feet as I walk and I am reminding myself to breathe while the cold air is hitting my face. There is a man in front of me walking his dog. Together, they are blocking the sidewalk. I begin walking behind the man but he is moving very slowly and I just need to find a way to overtake them. I see a small opening and I walk by them trying to move fast so I do not get in their way.
“You gave me a fright!”, says the old man once I am about five steps ahead of him.
I turned around to face him. “I’m sorry,” I say. “I didn’t mean to.”
“You moved by me so quietly. Gave me a fright,” he replies.
“I’m sorry,” I say again before continuing with my walk to the bus stop, accompanied by my bitter thoughts.
He passes by me again a few minutes later.
“I hope you have an umbrella. It looks like it’s going to rain,” he says, while looking at the sky. I smile and nod at him.
I do not have an umbrella. I never did. I am not prepared for rain. But, something about that interaction made me think. Here is a perfect stranger, who does not know who I am or what I have been through. In fact, I have probably annoyed him by creeping up behind him so early in the morning. Yet, he is kind enough to remind me about the rain and make sure I am prepared. This morning, I decided to do something different. I am going to pay attention to all the nice things people do around me.
In the span of an hour, I see enough things to turn my day around. I see people offer up their seats to others. I see a father carrying his daughter’s school bag as he walks her to school. I see someone on St. George street walk into the middle of the road and pick up a dead squirrel that was lying there and move it near a tree.
After that, I start noticing all the nice things people do for me. My friends checking up on me everyday to make sure I am doing okay. They remember little details from the long and irrelevant stories I tell. They help me with my problem sets no matter what hour of the day it is. And when I begin to question my own abilities, they show me how I can do more than I give myself credit for.
Sometimes, it feels like the whole world is out to get you. Like everything that could possibly go wrong is going wrong. On days like that, I start to lose faith in everything. I doubt people, question their intentions, doubt myself, worry about my future, and feel helpless. When that happens, I notice and sum up all the good things, no matter how insignificant they seem relative to the mishaps.
Adding up all the little things in my day, make me realize that there really is more positivity then we let in. Yes, it does not make one’s problems go away. My terrible midterm is still a terrible midterm. But appreciating the little things make me feel more motivated to get back up and try again.
From time to time I hear the phrase “happiness is a choice”. I never understood it. How can you be happy when nothing seems to go as planned? Yet, one of the hardest things we have to learn is that there are only so many things that are under our control. We keep our heads down, work hard and do our best. Anything that happens after that is not in our hands. So maybe instead of worrying about all the things that are going wrong, we should pay attention to all the things that are going right. And hold on to those while they last.
So, maybe I do have an umbrella. Maybe I am prepared for rain. I just could not see it until now.