One of the priests here on campus, Father Ted Bohr, showed me a New York Times article earlier this week about gratitude. One of the main points it focused on was that we must choose to be grateful. Even if we don't necessarily feel gratitude in any given moment, choosing to be grateful and thinking about all we have can make us grateful people in general.
My wheels have been turning all week thinking about this article. Of course, it's Thanksgiving, so we all choose to be grateful. Then, I started thinking about all the other choices in life. If we choose to think about what makes us happy, will we become happier people in general? If we think about what we like about our jobs instead of what we don't like, will we be happier in our positions?
I think the answer is absolutely yes. I think most of our lives boil down to choices. I've made a lot of good choices and a lot of bad ones, and the more I dissect it, where I am now is a product of all of those choices. A lot of choice is how we choose to react in the face of unforeseen circumstances. Yes, we can choose a lot in our lives, even things we didn't think we could choose for ourselves, but some things just happen. People die; friendships fall apart even though we don't want them to; natural disasters occur; we get flat tires. Things happen. However, I think there's an element of choice to everything that happens in life.
I think back to late high school, when I really felt like life was crashing down on me. My friend Chris passed away. My friend Jay's dad passed away. My friend Greg's mom passed away. I wanted to go to Boston College and couldn't afford it. I was a miserable wreck. Coming out of that rut really came down to me choosing to come out of it, and I had to do that when the time was right for me.
I think about conflicts I've had. You can choose to address problems, or you can choose to ignore them. You can choose to let things go, or you can choose to dwell on them. The tiniest choices can affect so much. I thought through this the other day pretty methodically, and had probably thought about it 100 times before, but not like this: I chose to buy a motorcycle; I chose to fix the starter when the weather started to get nice; I chose to go out to the beach for 45 minutes even though I worked in an hour and a half; I chose to take the longer coastal road to the beach; I chose to try to pass a swerving tractor and the guy ended up being drunk. A lot of choices led to me breaking my foot, and any one of those choices not made would've made my life very different.
That's kind of an extreme example, but how many of those occurrences in life happen the same way? Pretty much every single occurrence actually. I chose to go to Loyola, and I chose to study abroad, and I chose to apply for this job, and I chose to come into the office today to write this blog post, and here it is. Funny how that works, eh?
I think the overall thing I've taken from rambling thoughts like those above is this: we have so much more control over our lives than we think. It's easy to feel helpless, like your the product of your environment and that absolutely nothing can change your situation. I'm not doubting that, in many ways, there's a lot out of our control. That said, once I started to think about what I can control, I had a much better week this week. It's about learning yourself and then making choices that lead you down the path you want to go down. Every minute of every day we're making choices that affect our outcomes.
The more I've thought about each choice I'm making, the more I've been able to ensure I'm making good ones. That's not to say bad ones don't happen and aren't happening every day for me, but consequences are so much clearer when you sit there and say, "This is a choice. Things can go one way or another way based on this choice. What will I do?"
Think what the world could be like if we all made more choices instead of feeling helpless. Tons of refugees fleeing war and horrors unimaginable? I choose to help in any way that I can. Sexual assaults on campuses more rampant than ever? I choose to not be silent. My friend has a problem and is very distraught? I choose to listen and console. There is so much we can do if we just make choices other than choosing to be lazy and apathetic. Some things really don't even take much energy, and the more I think about how lazy I'm capable of becoming but how much I'm capable of doing to help, the more I wish I thought more about my choices.
Anyway, I'm confusing myself with how many times I've used the words "choose" and "choice." I think the goal for me is to just be more mindful and to realize how much I truly do have control over. I hope you all had a very lovely Thanksgiving, and know that I missed all friends and family over the holiday. Ciao for now.