I have a lot of memories from living in St Andrews: one of my favorites is walking back to Albany Park in a crazy rain and wind storm. I had my umbrella, but it was so windy that I was using it as a shield. And my umbrella, the only thing that was separating my face from blinding rain, was starting to bend under the pressure. I was already having a bad day, and the fact that the front half of my body was getting drenched did not help.
On the verge of tears, I was thinking all kinds of negative thoughts… I just want to be back in my room. I wish I didn’t have to walk a mile in the rain. I wish I had a car. This sucks. I hate this.
But in the middle of my pity party I realized how hilarious and ultimately insignificant the whole situation was. How funny it would be to tell my parents and friends from the States about getting caught in this horrible, uniquely Scottish storm. So there I was, walking down Abbey Walk, half crying, half laughing.
The ability to laugh in that storm reflected my attitude towards St Andrews. I knew I had a limited amount of time there so I was aware of and valued every moment — good and bad. That awareness became appreciation which quickly became love.
Don’t take the place you’re living or staying for granted. Enjoy the friends you make and strangers you meet, the gorgeous blue skies and the horrible weather, the exciting events and the completely mundane days. Every part is special.
Having a good attitude on the boring and bad days sets the bar a little higher for the rest of your experiences. If I can enjoy a day when I get caught in a sideways rain storm after a bad mark on my essay, I can really enjoy a blue sky day on the beach with friends.
I have two practical suggestions for how to appreciate a place more. A little cocktail for turning a bad day into one you’ll remember smiling:
1. Make a list of things that make you smile where you are now. Write it down or make it up in your head. I don’t care. Just look for and enjoy those little things.
For example, I loved putting on my wellies to walk to the laundry room, the candy machine and the fish monger in St Andrews. I got to wear my favorite jackets and boots every day. I loved eating the Heinz creamy tomato soup (which you can only buy in the British section of Meijer in the States). Our kitchen would get so hot when we cooked, I’d open the window and the cold air felt amazing.
2. Keep a positive mindset. You’ll find your own set of negatives in every place. Be it the weather, the people or something else, no place is perfect. In St Andrews it was the rain and wind. In Michigan it’s the ice cold winters and the muggy summer days. In California it was the general lifestyle. But try to find some humor in the things you don’t like, and remember they’re still part of the place that you are trying to make your home. You may come to love the quirks.
You’re going to have bad days wherever you go. Of course not all bad days will be funny tomorrow or next year or ever, but a lot of them will. That horrible rainy, windy day in St Andrews was not really all that fun, — I don’t know that I’d choose to go back to that day — but I’ve forgotten what put me in the bad mood. Bad grade? Dead end for my research? Cancelled plans? Now I just remember the rain and the laughter.
I finally made it to my room, peeled off my dripping clothes, put on my cozy sweats and made myself a hot bowl of Heinz creamy tomato soup. By then, I was more than content. I was home.
What do you do to help you appreciate a place?