I finished a book today. For fun, for pleasure or for learning, take your pick. I’m not completely sure how I feel about it quite yet; I’m still thinking about it.
It was well-written, interesting and brought up some viewpoints that I hadn’t considered. But I didn’t enjoy it that much. It kind of drug on, meandering on some ideas too long, trying to make something out of nothing. It forced ideas instead of developed them. The characters were flimsy cardboard cutouts propped up only to make a point or two.
Was it a waste of time? Worthless fodder, conquered just to say I did? To put it on a book list? Far from it. I don’t think I could ever say any of those things about any book. Hell, I don’t think I could say any of that about any experience whether it be a movie, a class, a date or a meal.
In every human experience there is always something gained or found, a thought provoked or an example made, that is of some interest or some value. Even if that something is confirming or discovering what a person doesn’t like, there is still something learned from the experience. From this book, I gathered a new perspective on the American view of death and how our society deals with it. I also learned about broken homes and family dynamics, among other things.
This idea, this concept, learning from every experience, whether bad or good, helps me out immensely. It aids me in dealing with bad situations, hard experiences and negative thoughts.
Here’s a good example: when my best friend and I went to Nicaragua at the end of this past summer with the money I had earned working construction, I made us a full day late for our flight. It left at 1 a.m. which meant we checked in on what was technically the day before. My buddy and I had to pay $250 each to get on the identical flight the next day not to mention miss a day of Nicaraguan waves. It was hard to deal with not to mention embarrassing. It was pretty ridiculous: a $500 dollar mistake that affected not only me, but my friend. And I consider myself a savvy traveler. Better believe I received piles of steaming shit for that.
But I didn’t let it get to me, despite my friend’s teasing. I thought, “I’m never going to let that happen again.” I learned my lesson, albeit an expensive one. I was more determined than ever to make the most of my trip, to really savor it. It also taught me that money is fleeting. What you thought you had a minute ago is now gone. Would I really throw away a vacation I’d been planning for months over a $250 charge? Definitely not. A shitty situation, certainly, but not one without value.
This mindset keeps my sanity intact. How often does a person have to do something they don’t want to? Often. Today I rode my bike in the pouring rain, wrote a paper for a boring class and did a pile of my roommates’ and my dishes. I didn’t want to do those things, but they happened and some were even necessary. But I made sure to enjoy and learn what I could from them. I liked the exercise I got riding in the rain, I earned a more solid understanding of pool filtration systems writing that paper and I mused on the psychology of my roommates, who don’t seem bothered by a stack of rotting, molding dishes. All learning experiences, all valuable. My thoughts and mindset make me feel better in these situations.
I suppose this aligns with what Socrates was thinking when he said: “An unexamined life is not worth living.” I don’t think I would go so far as to say that, but I would say by examining my situations and surroundings, I am able to extract the worth from what is around me. It makes me more happy, more sane and more productive. I’m not saying it’s for everyone, but it’s worth trying.