Sunday, August 18, 2013

Adversity: A Gift, Not A Curse

My recent staycation began on a dubious note. Embracing the first day of a work-free liberation, I opened my refrigerator to grab ingredients for making a hearty, celebratory breakfast. Instead of the familiar chill inside the big box, I was greeted with a stale, warm air. There were no noise from the appliance. My refrigerator had died.

I called the rental agency and reported the broken appliance. I was told that it would be two days before they could send someone to replace the refrigerator with a new unit. Despite my inquiries, they were unable to schedule the replacement any sooner.

I immediately let the adversity go. There are things that I can control and things that are out of my control. A new refrigerator in two days' time was the best that the rental agency could do. But I was curious about how I would have responded fifteen years ago. The younger, impatient, and angry me would have immediately adopted a "victim" mentality, and would have raised a shitstorm of epic proportions. I would have demanded that the rental agency reimburse me for 2/31th of the rent or help defray the cost of spoiled food in my refrigerator and freezer. I would have taken to the Internets to blog about the cruel injustice of the whole situation, and lamented that this was unacceptable--especially with technical exams scheduled the following day! I would have demanded justice--how dare my refrigerator die during the first day of my vacation?

But I really couldn't get angry at the situation. The timing was perfect for the appliance to die. Normally I take vacations in New York City in early August, but this year I staycationed. I felt grateful that I didn't come home from an East Coast trip and discovered that my entire apartment stunk like rotten foodstuff. Also the refrigerator died on my day off, not on a day that I was supposed to be at work--I didn't have to take additional time off work to receive the replacement appliance. Thankfully, the day I discovered the broken refrigerator and the day of replacement sandwiched my exam-taking day. If anything, the death of the kitchen appliance was timed conveniently. Plus I used this unexpected equipment malfunction to visit an amazing sandwich shop in my neighborhood.

There were minor inconveniences involved, including throwing out 80 percent of the contents and buying a portable ice chest and a bag of ice to Noah's Ark the important stuff. But the equipment malfunction gave me an opportunity to declutter. For years, I've kept stuff in the freezer and refrigerator for "just in case" purposes. Five year-old red lentils, falafel mix from 2011, and packages of konjac with unknown expiration dates all took residence in the nether depths of my refrigerator. They were banished during decluttering. Getting rid of stale shit felt so good!

I also took advantage of the refrigerator swap-a-roo to eradicate the dirt and grime from the wall and floor sections that were inaccessible when the refrigerator was in place. It felt great having the appliance installers compliment me on how clean the refrigerator area in the kitchen was. After the new appliance was installed, having a sparse, minimalist refrigerator contents feels refreshing. And my nearly-empty freezer now has room for ice cube trays--I rediscovered the joys of having glasses of ice cold water and spirits on the rocks. Ah, simple pleasures!

I've learned to embrace adversity as a challenge and springboard for opportunities. Many of these unexpected events are "First World Problems," and they are not end of my world. Didn't get the job I've applied for at work--a chance to be on a great team? I build and strengthen relationships, and seek collaboration opportunities with those awesome people. A close friend leaving town and moving back east? I discover the incredible joys and energy of New York City (a turn of events which led me to meet my awesome friend Jackie several years later: Jackie introduced me to the works of great thinkers and action heroes, which led to both of us attending World Domination Summit for the first time last month). Isn't it funny how everything turns out?

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