Last year, two pretty shitty things happened to me. In May, my apartment building caught fire and in November, I got my car broken into (and plenty of valuables stolen). Not gonna embellish this – both of these events rank 9 or 10 on a 10-point shittiness scale.
While both events naturally caused me to feel flooded with emotions like frustration, despair and vulnerability, they also brought a rather unexpected set of feelings: excitement and gratitude. Yes, you read that right, I actually felt excitement and gratitude.
I was feeling excited about the fact that both of these things were things that had never happened to me before and that I was experiencing something new for the first time. And I felt grateful for life giving me a learning opportunity that would eventually make me a better person.
Now to understand why I felt that way, you need to understand one of the ways how I look at life. For me, life is a lot about the experiences I make. Each new experience is something that makes my life richer – richer in knowledge, wisdom and stories to share. Yet it isn’t just the good experiences – the travels, the friends, the fun stuff – that counts as a life-enriching experience. It’s also the bad experiences – the break-ups, the losses, and yes, also the apartment fires and thefts.
I remember how I was approaching my car, I started noticing something was off. There were pieces of broken glass everywhere, and as I looked up, this sad and shitty feeling dawned on me: "fuck, they broke into my car." Yet maybe an hour later, as I was sitting in my car with the cold wind blowing through the broken window, driving through San Francisco at 1am trying to find a police station to report the incident, I had a second thought: “mmh.. as shitty as it is, it’s also kinda cool to make an experience I have never made before."
Some might call this an overly optimistic – almost even forcefully optimistic way of seeing things positively, but if there is one thing certain in life, then it’s that some of the best things in life come in disguise of the worst. They seem like “the worst thing ever” the moment they happen, but they turn out to be starting points of incredibly good things to follow. It just takes a little time until we are able us to look at them that way. So no, it’s not a matter of being forcefully optimistic, it’s more a matter of shortening the time it takes for us to appreciate some of the things that rank really high on that shittiness scale.
And the way I shorten that time, is to be appreciate of any kind of new experience in my life, the good ones and the bad ones. So next time something shitty happens, allow yourself to be frustrated, but also remember that in reality you just gained something in your life. Cherish that.