Today I am thankful for …

Combatting my state of perpetual annoyance

lf17-AlyLee

I am at a point in the semester where everyone and everything is annoying to me. Here are some examples: lugging a lunch bag and a 10-pound backpack simultaneously because I am no longer in the haven of unlimited meal swipes — annoying. Losing my digital watch and having to wear this nice analog one, which I can’t even read because analog clocks are confusing — aggravating. Eating Matcha green tea powder in some form every day because it’s going to expire soon, and I don’t want to waste it — irritating. Having the bus driver greet me cheerfully as it’s humid and rainy outside, and I’m drenched in sweat even though it’s October — infuriating. Getting frustrated with my perpetual frustration over extremely petty experiences — frustrating.

You would think that fall break would have alleviated some of my mid-semester slump. But, in fact, it made it worse, as it reminded me what a true joy real food — not cans of corn for sale at Kroger for 40 cents — and a clean floor can be. So first off, I want to extend a warm, public apology to anyone or anything I have encountered in the past few weeks.

Maybe you feel like me, or maybe you’re feeling just dandy — which would probably be annoying to me — but in an effort to combat my petty negativity, I have compiled three trivial things for which I am grateful. I know this is terribly hippie and cliché. I can already picture the self-help-guru with bright blue eyes asking in a tender voice, “What are you grateful for today?” as a harp plays in the background. I would normally roll my eyes, but I am desperate for some positive reframing, so, “Today I am thankful for …”

1. Starbucks

As desperately as I try to be hipster and love all the off-beat, small-business coffee shops around C’Ville, my truly basic heart can never stray too far from the green, two-tailed mermaid. I need strong coffee. As a die-hard coffee addict since the seventh grade, I need some real jitter-inducing caffeine to keep me coherent. Starbucks always delivers. Truly, it’s the consistency of Starbucks that really keeps me grounded — pun-intended. No matter where I am, I can always count on Starbucks to offer a nice soy latte for $3.65. When the world outside those cozy Starbucks walls is constantly changing, it’s nice to have the stability of this hallowed coffee chain. Plus, their cups are just so pretty right now — the warm blues and pinks with minimalist white circles — I dig it. So thank you Starbucks and the new Maple Pecan Latte — you keep me sane.

2. Walking

Besides those few ungodly hours on the bridge between Clark and Thornton where literally the entire student body and their professors are out for a post-class stroll, I love walking around Grounds. In days with very few breaks, I crave those 10-20 minutes walking from class to class or class to home. It gives me a short — but crucial — mental reprieve where I can just focus on the physical act of moving one foot in front of the other. I love planning my route so I can pass by my favorite parts of Grounds. Seeing the Rotunda in all her glory, if only in passing, makes me a little bit more grateful to be at this school, which can sometimes make me want to go insane.

3. Smuggling food from dining halls

As mentioned previously, I no longer have a meal plan. I had lofty, idealistic visions of meal-prepping veggies and tofu to create various combinations of stir-fry and Buddha bowls. That dream quickly died and has been usurped by a desperate attempt to find food anywhere it’s offered for as little money as possible. As such, whenever anyone with a meal plan offers me a guest-swipe, I swoop down like a vulture. My favorite part of this generosity is milking it to its greatest extent. I stock up on bananas, mediocre apples, off-brand cereal, baby carrots, etc. The girl at the ice cream bar stuffing a Ziploc with chocolate chips and sprinkles? That’s me. The girl filling up her water bottle with unsweetened almond milk? Also me. The girl waiting until the dining employee turns around to snatch a few onions and zucchini from the counter to store in her tupperware? I’m afraid that’s me as well.

It’s kind of like a game — what is a socially acceptable thing to steal from the dining hall today? An entire loaf of bread? Maybe not. A pile of goldfish from the soup station? Heck yes. Besides gaining a week’s worth of food, I just like the small thrill of feeling like I’m shoplifting — a thrill I never let myself experience as an angsty but entirely moral teen in the suburbs. I know most dining employees say that it’s pretty acceptable and that I’m not really stealing, but I like pretending I’m doing something very titillating and unlawful.

Well — those are three trivial things in my life for which I’m grateful. And just like the self-help-gurus said, I do feel a little less annoyed with everything. In fact, these small things have pointed me to the greater things I appreciate. So, thank you to my family for fielding my complaints over text and reminding me who I am and who I want to be. Thank you to friends who stay with me in the frigid air of Clark StatLab until 3 a.m. Thank you to professors who truly care and advocate for my well-being. Thank you to roommates who vacuum and share tea when I feel sick. Thank you for friends who are vulnerable and encourage me to not act like I’ve always got it together. And thank you to those who are bold enough to tell me to stop being petty and to look at all the ways I’ve been blessed. 

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