Growing up in Southern California, the harshest weather I ever had to deal with was a rainy day. Now, after living in Japan for a couple years, I have plenty of new climate conditions to tick off my list, including today’s typhoon. It wasn’t the first typhoon I’d experienced in Japan, but according to the news, it was the worst. My dog, Monja, is trained to do his dirty work outside, so even when we woke up to pounding winds and a torrential downpour this morning, we braved the storm so he could quickly do his business. Within minutes, my umbrella inverted into what looked more like a piece of modern art than a shield against rain. My wet hair was dancing all over my face and Monja was barking at the leaves that were flying across the ground. When we’d had enough, Monja and I looked at each other, and as soon as my eyes met his big derpy, tongue-hanging grin, we started running back to our apartment, him shaking his furry little butt and me laughing alongside one of my best friends.
Despite the hurricane-like weather conditions, I still had to trudge to work, ready to teach five classes of English to hoards of teenagers. However, when I arrived at school, I found that I was the only foreign teacher present and all of the Japanese teachers were surprised to see me. “The first four periods are all canceled, didn’t you hear?” Nope, no one told me. And as more foreign teachers began to trickle in, it was clear that none of them had gotten the memo, either. The Japanese teachers apologized profusely for the miscommunication, but really, it didn’t bother me. I answered some design emails and ate my banana, enjoying the unexpected time to relax and focus on my to-do list.
An hour later, the principal announced that she was canceling all classes for the day. When I heard this, I instinctively threw up my happy hands and let out a joyful “yay!” to the other teachers around me. A couple Japanese teachers looked at me and laughed. “Oops,” I thought, “maybe that was unprofessional.” But when one of them extended his hand to me and said, “wow, you’re so positive!” I realized they were laughing because my reaction was surprising more than anything else. I honestly didn’t get it. So “positive”? Isn’t everyone else happy that they get a paid day off? Aren’t they stoked that they get to go home 8 hours early? But when I looked around, I realized he was right — most teachers were in groups, complaining about the fact that they had to come to work at all. I heard blame being passed around like a basketball. I heard heaps of groans and rude comments and I eventually had to put in my headphones to drown out their whines. The girl whose desk is next to mine even started searching for new job listings on her computer. All I could do was laugh. Really?
I don’t think I am an all-around positive person every single second, but today I felt like this situation sparked a little epiphany in me.
I realized that often the root of negativity, complaining, and poor attitudes, is because people tend to look at microscopic details instead of the big picture. I believe it stems from people harping too much on what happened, rather than appreciating the beauty of what is happening and the overwhelming potential of what can happen in the future. I also realized that some people have an incredible desire to put blame on others, even if the situation really was no one’s fault.
Now, I know that everyone’s morning was different. I know that some of my co-workers were stuck on crowded, delayed trains for much longer than I was, and I know this is stressful and tiring. I know they’d probably rather be sleeping or eating breakfast at home or at the very least, watching the storm next to their family instead of here with 100 acquaintances.
But I also know that we shouldn’t let the first 2 hours of our day decide how we use the other 15.
I know that grumbling about things we can’t change with other co-workers is only going to make us feel worse. I know that being angry at a situation you can’t change, still doesn’t change it. And I know that more often than not, blaming someone won’t actually make you feel better, even if it really was their fault.
I realized today that we have an overwhelming choice to either focus on the negative details or to see the beauty in the bigger picture. Both have the power to change your day, and perhaps even your life, but one will make it better and one will make it worse. So the next time you’re having a crappy day, ask yourself–am I really having a bad day or am I having a bad attitude?
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