As an only child, I tend to display bratty tendencies even at my current age, mainly because I have always been praised and spoiled by my amazing family, especially by my mother and father. I excelled academically all throughout high school, college, and graduate school and so, I can’t blame my parents for throwing roses at me for achieving some “firsts” in my family. I generally get what I want, when I want it, whether I have my mind set on something and obtain it personally, or whether I express enough interest in something to drive someone else to get it for me. It may not be immediate, but with enough willpower, I get what I want. I blame it on my fierce, green eyes and my awkward second toes.
Although I sound like I live in a world of privilege, I actually come from a very blue collar, middle-class family, and even though my parents worked and essentially lived and breathed for my well-being, I have always been appreciative of everything in my life, materialistically and beyond. Sure, there are some things that I would like to change on a personal level, but when they become an intermittent struggle that cause rain on my parade, I take a step back and rethink my situation. As the heavens would have it, there are usually external events that trigger the reshaping of my thought process, allowing me to grasp the goodness in what I already have at hand. Whether crossing paths with a homeless man and his dog on the street or a young paraplegic kid being pushed by his nurse, these instances open my eyes to how fortunate I really am.
With all of the close men in my life (grandfather, father, and uncle) passing away respectively in 2008 and suffering immensely to the bitter end, my outlook on life and appreciation for its quality suddenly came into view. I realized the cliché “life is short,” is some of the truest words I could ever hear, and from that point on, I intended to live life as much as possible, embracing each breath, each footstep, each eye-blink, and each subconscious task one can do without assistance from another. I learned to live by the phrase “could be worse,” title to a children’s book that I received as a little girl.
In case you are unfamiliar, James Stevenson’s book, Could Be Worse, speaks of two children who complain of treacherous boredom when they are at their grandfather’s house, and whenever the children express their frustrations, the grandfather always replies, “could be worse,” and nothing else. One morning, the grandfather overhears his grandchildren wondering if anything interesting ever happens to him, and the next morning he regales them with a ridiculous tall tale involving a kidnapping by a large bird, an unexpected meeting with an abominable snowman, a journey to the bottom of the sea, and a rickety ride on a paper airplane. The children were in awe of their grandfather, and were astonished at how exciting of a person he really was. When the grandfather sought a reaction out of the children after telling the story of his endangering adventure, the children simply responded, “could be worse,” as if the shoe was on the other foot, giving the grandfather a taste of his own medicine.
Reading this silly book as an adult and thinking about the significant losses that I have endured up until now, I came to realize that no matter how terrible circumstances may seem to be in my life, there is always someone who has it worse than I do. If I happen to break my leg, chances are it will heal, and I will be able to walk again. If I miss my flight to Punta Cana, there will 20 other flights that I can jump on. If a dolphin suddenly attacks me and I survive, I will live to tell the tale and laugh about it. I try to constantly smile and be as optimistic as possible, especially when the chips are down. When it seems that I have hit the bottom, I believe the only way to go is up.
Instead of complaining and running around in a vicious circle resulting in a whole lot of nothing, I want to push myself to be able to just do it (like Nike!) and change what I have the power to change. Overweight? Exercise and eat healthy! Pale? Go tanning! Single? Go on craigslist and search for a “roommate!” I am in the process of making personal adjustments to various things that cause me tears, jitters, and nausea, however, I am grateful for the strength to get through the wilderness, keeping in mind that things could always be worse!