It used to infuriate me when I was having a good pout and my mother plastered on a grin and yelled, “Attitude check!” because I was required to give the response, “Praise the Lord!” followed by several other extremely upbeat calls and responses. By the time the Attitude Check was over, I always had a grin on my face as well, and whatever I’d been pouting about seemed silly. Mom also used to warn me that if I go into a situation expecting to hate it, I’m going to hate it, regardless of what actually happens and that if I convince myself that something will be awful, it’s going to be awful.
See, my mom has always been a proponent of the idea that your attitude will make or break your experiences. I always knew she was right, but I wasn’t really willing to let go of my grumpiness until I got to college.
I walked onto campus for move-in day with no expectations. I’d seen movies and read novels about college, but I wasn’t expecting anything. I wasn’t expecting to be BFFs with my roommate, nor was I expecting to find an arch-nemesis in her. I wasn’t expecting to hang out with a giant group of friends all the time, nor was I expecting to be a hermit in my room all the time. I wasn’t expecting to maintain a 4.0, nor was I expecting to put very little effort into my studies. I had no expectations for my time at university. As such, I was entering with a completely open mind. I was eager to utilize the blank slate that going to university gave me. Since I didn’t have preconceived notions of what my time in college was going to look like, the only way I could possibly be disappointed was if I ended up having no fun at all.
As my “blank slate” slowly filled with classes and homework, new friends and newer friends, breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and midnight snacks, new jobs and volunteer opportunities, I settled into a rhythm and a schedule. More importantly, I settled into who I was as a college student. I accepted who I’d become with little resistance. I didn’t actively try to shape myself into anything specific; I let myself be shaped by my reactions to my newfound independence, the people around me, the things I learned in classes, and the culture of my university. I didn’t allow myself to be disappointed with who I’d become. I was becoming me.
When undesirable things were happening to me -- I procrastinated too much on a paper, I was super duper hungry, I was frustrated with people in my choir or my classes, I was struggling in a class, etc. -- I complained a bit (I know this about myself and am working to stop) but I ultimately just worked through whatever was bugging me. I knew that these problems were all “me” problems that weren’t caused by others. Procrastinating is entirely my fault; I should plan better. Hunger has a simple solution: go eat. Frustration with other people is easy to blame on those people, but I found that the frustration goes away if I simply decide not to be frustrated. Yes, sometimes that’s more easily said than done, but it’s worth a shot. Struggling in classes can (for me) be solved by seeking help and working harder.
I try to approach everything with a positive attitude; I can solve any problem if I try. I can find a way to work it out, and I always start with myself. I identify what is bothering me. If the situation could be made better by a change in perspective or an attitude adjustment, that is the first thing I do. After that, if I still have a problem, I look for something that I can actively do to fix it. If I end up needing to go to another person to ask for help, I do that next. If it looks like something is not ever going to be resolved, I have learned to just let it go.
That last bit is difficult, but it is so so necessary to living a healthy life. I recognize that not everything is in my control and that most things will not have lasting impacts on my life. It's easy to wallow when things aren't going your way, but with a little attitude adjustment and an open mind, you can solve just about any problem that comes your way.