What We’ve Always Got

I used to live on a country road in a town no one ever heard of, in the heart of midwestern farm country. This place was my father’s dream. Despite its wide-open sky, there were only certain jobs available, certain places to eat or drink. Where one shopped, played, and worshipped were limited. To me, that end of the world felt small. I needed something more. I had a different dream and it didn’t include farming or being a small fish in a secretarial pool.

I moved to a bigger city. I found a job in a mid-grade steakhouse and bar as a waitress. I was happy to have escaped small-town thinking. Now I had hundreds of options!

Eventually, I heard the same hopelessness that I’d heard in the small town. Regulars came in, sat at the bar, in the same seat and ordered the same drink and were doing the same thing every day, expecting some kind of miraculous change—that never came. They sat with the same people, talked about the same things and complained about their never-improving lot in life.

I moved from there to an even bigger city in the deep south. A total map change, with a free side of sunshine and culture shock. The weather was bright and hot most of the time. Among different people, I saw different perspectives.

Nearly a thousand miles from everything and everyone I knew, I did a lot of thinking. There was some of that unhappiness I’d heard before. But I didn’t need to get away from it.

My friend Karyl, who I met in the south, helped me see you can look at everything in life as drudgery or it can be the next big adventure. I learned people weren’t upbeat or happy because of where they were, they were happy because they chose to be.

A place can’t make me happy, but my attitude can. Whether I’m in the south, in the city, the country, or even quarantined.

So what does this mean for you?

To change my life, I don’t have to move across the world. There are simple things I can do to change my perspective.

What’s on your plate? Changing up your menu is a great opportunity for new experiences, new flavors and new spices. Check out different grocers in your area. Buy something new to try. Find out what other people eat. It’s endlessly fascinating.

Listening to different kinds of music opens a whole new part of your brain.  I do this especially if I’m cooking a new food. (If you listen to their music while you eat, you might feel like you’re on vacation!)

Read outside of your comfort level: a book completely opposite of your personality just to see how someone else deals with life. Authors from a different culture can surprise you. I’m always in awe of the myriad ways a story can be told. A whole book seems too daunting? Try an anthology. (America’s Best Essays; or Short Stories for example) You get between fifteen and twenty perspectives for the cost of one book.

Get on Google Earth and search for a country you’ve always been curious about. Go to street level to see the kinds of houses they live in and what their geography looks like.

There’s so much that is wonderful about our world. If you haven’t been curious lately, you’re missing out. If we do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always got. The point is that to think a different way, you need new input. New input=new output.

Let me know how it goes!

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