“Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.” ~Anthony J. D’Angelo, The College Blue Book
When I was 14 my dad announced that we would be moving to Japan….WHAT?! Where the heck WAS that anyway? My father worked for GE and moved up quickly in the company, which translated into lots of moves for our family. I was born in NY, lived in San Jose, CA, Big Lake, MN, Joliet, Illinois, back to San Jose, CA, then Japan.
We had lived in San Jose for about 6 years when my father made that announcement. It was the longest I had lived anywhere and I was at that age where your friends are more important than family – or so it seems. Ha! I was pretty angry about the whole thing and began to make my own plans to move in with my best friend Pam (do you remember that?!) and her family (hey, it seemed like a great idea at the time). THAT did not go over well with my parents and so, a few months later I found myself on an airplane heading to Japan….
Before we even touched down I KNEW that I hated Japan and the people and customs that I would find there. Not surprisingly, I had a horrible experience my first year there – where people walk on the wrong side of the street and stairs (I bet you didn’t even realize we have a “right” side of the street to walk on!), speak a strange language and read a foreign alphabet (in fact, 3 alphabets!- really?) and do it from the “wrong” side of the page and furthermore, read up and down instead of across the page! I won’t even get into their weird food or dress! I became a hateful, ugly person!
I was able to return to “the states” for home-leave for the summer and was so excited to be back in America! I had a great summer with friends and longed to stay behind when it was time to return to Japan. My friends kept telling me how lucky I was to be having such a great experience – that they had never even been outside of California, etc. and I kept responding, “That is because you don’t have to actually live there!” The flight is a loooooong one and gave me a lot of time to think. I was failing classes (I had been a straight A student in the states), didn’t have any really close friends and was miserable. I thought a LOT about what my friends thought about my great experience and how much they wished they could be living in Japan and the thought occurred to me that I had made my first year utterly miserable because I had DECIDED it was going to be horrible. I knew that I was going to be there another 3 years and decided that I could learn everything I could about the culture and the people and DECIDE to be happy or I could be miserable for another 3 years. I put on my “rose colored glasses” and decided to make it the best 3 years of my life.
WOW! What a difference an attitude makes. The country with its customs and people and culture really is amazing. They are not “wrong” – they are different. I was young and immature and wish now that I had done more and taken advantage of more opportunities, but the lesson of looking at life with a positive attitude has never left me. Japan was the same – it was ME that was different for those last 3 years. And those 3 years were the best years of my life (up to that point anyhow). I met amazing people, had awesome teachers, made good friends (many that I am still in touch with), learned to love the food and the culture.
We don’t always get to choose all of our experiences, but we can ALWAYS choose how to respond to them. Life is hard sometimes and it is easy to become discouraged. I have learned to ask, what can I learn from this experience (instead of “why me?”) and that I will handle ANY situation better with a positive attitude. I have observed many people over the years in a variety of experiences and trials and know that without question, those that are happiest really do wear those rose-colored glasses. They accept trials and hardship with a cheerful outlook. They look outside of themselves and ask how they can make life better/easier for someone else. They understand that really, why should they NOT expect to have hardships? I am still working on becoming that kind of person myself. I KNOW for sure that when I put on my good attitude in the morning, my day goes better. I know that if I can honestly feel grateful and recognize the hand of the Lord even in the hard times – that the hard times can be good times too. Feeling super grateful for all of life’s experiences – good and difficult. Looking back over the years, most of my best memories center around difficult experiences – interesting, no?! It is during those times that I feel closest to my family and my Heavenly Father. It is when I look the hardest for His influence in my life. It is when I am the most quiet and open to feel God’s spirit and love. It is when I am the most humble. Life IS good.
Put on your GOOD ATTITUDE and go out and have yourself a fabulous day!
“Attitudes are contagious. Are yours worth catching?” ~Dennis and Wendy Mannering