Learning Curve

Puddle-filled walks, budding blooms, fuzzy yellow ducklings—it’s finally spring.   My version of springtime elicits fond pastel memories, my birthday and the end of another school year. As a silly human who enjoys reflecting upon and tying personal experiences with critical analysis, I can’t deny having considered my growth from last September to this spring.

I don’t entirely recognize the me I see when I look seven months into the past, but I can’t give the exact time coordinates of when I changed.

Maybe I matured when I returned to JMU after being dumped by a guy I loved and predicted some kind of future with. Maybe it was when hundreds of new, suddenly very attractive and interesting men seemed to magically appear.

My life’s axis possibly tilted a few degrees in an advisor’s office when he announced that I would be graduating, aka entering the Real World, much, much sooner than I’d planned for in my perfectly calculated future.

Whatever the reason(s)—family deaths, new friends, lovely moments—I can’t for a second regret the causes for and current state of my Natalie-ness.

If I’ve learned anything at all this year, besides the Italian past tense and the components of an atom, it’s the art of appreciation.

Discovering and solidifying a personal belief is fulfilling beyond claiming ownership of a simple mantra to dance to. By appreciating every aspect of my life, I am free to face any negativity that I encounter with a positive attitude. I’ve learned that even unfortunate situations, hard times and mishaps are all part of living in a perfectly imperfect universe.

I am not a religious being by any means, but I do kind of believe that everything happens for a reason, or maybe you just have to notice opportunity in the world. The universe acts and presents events, and we must respond. Take the rain—you can sulk about how meteorology “ruined” your day, or you can strip down and dance with cool silver kisses staining your skin. It’s your prerogative, I suppose.

Everything exists not because, but rather in spite of us. If your day is sucky, the trees will continue to drink up nutrients and the birds will compose symphonies worthy of gods. Feel your frustration, your anger, your sadness and view your problem from the perspective of clouds. Tragedy does occur, but little mishaps do not deserve your emotions. Time alive is better spent fully embracing a first sleepy sip of coffee, or the last drop of cheap red wine after a hell of a week.

Regardless, almost everything has its merits, beauties, quirks that deserve more than a simple once-over. I dreaded the return to JMU last August which entailed peeling photographs, Valentines and anniversary cards of a failed relationship from my bedroom walls. I was sad to leave behind my younger brothers who mean more than the stars to me. I teared up as I hugged my youngest brother goodbye, and was bawling before I backed all the way out of the driveway. A little ways down the road, I started laughing because I shouldn’t have felt sad. Snotty-nosed, zombie-eyed, I realized how amazingly lucky I am to have people in my life who make me so happy that I am moved to tears when we part.

These were feelings worth feeling. Not frustration with a bad grade. Not outrage when gas prices increase. Appreciation for the mere existence of someone or something. The end.

I’ve found that this mindset is actually quite simple to fall into and has substantially lowered my stress levels. When I’m having a busy week, I just plow through the workload knowing that it will all be over, and there will be more stressful times. And those times will come. And they will pass. And, hopefully, I will survive to face and destroy even more problems.

Appreciate the good, the bad, the sad and the simply magnificent occurrences that are taken for granted every day. A soft sweater, good hair day or smile from a stranger are enough to make life beautiful. So stop and smell the roses—or old books, or gasoline, whatever makes your heart smile—it might be just the motivation you need to be the best version of yourself.

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