Rhodes_Headshot_Sketch“The line is way too long. This is the absolute worst! It will take forever to get through this!” used to be my reaction.  Before I got sick, bemoaning traffic or agonizing over a torn dress seam was my natural response to the minor daily aggravations we all experience.

When I faced a larger dilemma, like a disagreement with a friend, I would spend hours overanalyzing the situation, blowing it out of proportion and wasting my time doing so. It’s a common trait among young adults to gripe over the smallest irritations, and I was no different.

Getting sick put life into perspective. Celiac disease takes many forms, and, quite uncommonly, mine manifested in debilitating joint pain. Since I did not present any of the normal symptoms for celiac disease, no one thought to test for it until a month and a half after my excruciatingly painful symptoms began.

That meant six weeks of not being able to walk and not knowing why. Six weeks of roadblocks and endlessly hearing “well, Samantha, we still aren’t sure what’s going on.” That was all it took to change my perspective on what it means to be dealing with something truly serious. Today, I’m different for it; many of the tribulations and inconsequential matters of my life quickly lost importance. In an instant, they became child’s play in comparison to immobility.

The pain eventually abated, but this change in my outlook remained.

By habit, I still find myself instinctively reacting negatively to small issues, but the feeling quickly passes. Though an argument over a grade or dealing with the logistics of a night out merits a half a moment of attention, make sure it is no more than that.

Learning to let the petty vexations go unburdened me. Instead of needlessly carping over them, I now quickly stop short.  I take a moment and recognize that life could be a lot worse, and then move on.

The common sense reflected in simply learning to take a breath and move on to more important things is an invaluable skill. For me, it was an acquired one that began to come naturally only after I went through something that put it all in perspective. I wish I had known earlier, and I hope you can be more mindful than I was.

When faced with an issue, think back to a difficult period or moment in your life, and then assess whether or not you need to expend energy on what’s before you. Can you imagine how much happier you will be? How much more time you will have?

Exert yourself when it’s due, and live without wasting your time. If you make a habit of keeping in mind that there are many worse things, then should they arrive, you’ll have the energy and focus you need to confront them.

Samantha Rhodes is a rising senior in the College. Watch Your Step appears every other Tuesday.

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