Stamatakis: Get angry about something today

By Nick Stamatakis

So is it an unhealthy habit to see the worst when everything seems so good? I’d argue no.

MCT Campus

Just two people having a playful argument

Sunshine makes me miserable.

It’s not because I hate myself or because happiness makes me want to throw bricks through windows.

It hurts because all the less-than-average things in the world get magnified. A mild blemish on a rainy day suddenly turns into herpes when it’s sunny.

Take Arrival Survival 2012. Summer, for a week at least, stopped its assault on Oakland. Temperatures were in the low 80s and precipitation was limited to pleasant evening rainstorms. No pit stains on this kid.

Everything was perfect. Then, I opened my eyes.

I couldn’t get to the park because new arrivals, in an attempt to form friendships, refuse to go anywhere without walking seven wide and three deep and prefer to walk down the street in civil war formations rather than in any manner actually conducive to the transport of oneself to a new location.

Of course there was the issue of traffic. A certain level of traffic is expected; on move-in days, I’m willing to tolerate more. But with the sun exposing people’s secret behavior, every texting-delayed punch to a gas pedal at the start of a green light struck as a personal assault on my efficiency. Every GPS-consulting father waffling at a right turn was a gut punch to my effectiveness. And the driver blathering away on his bluetooth, ignorant of the fact that his seven-block-long right turn signal was leaving a trail of destruction in its wake, left an indelible mark on my soul.

No undercooked hamburger went unnoticed. No over-warmed beer went down smoothly. With a glorious week providing a perfect foil, everything wrong felt far more wrong than it ever would during a typical dreary January.

So is it an unhealthy habit to see the worst when everything seems so good? I’d argue no. Being critical is the sign of a functioning brain: the “critical” in critical thinking holds real meaning. It captures that oddly uncomfortable fact that people can be wrong, and that there is almost always a more right way to do things. Thinking requires the ability to be critical.

Recognizing this is preferable to the complacency most people have about everything today. Instead of screaming about peers chewing sunflower seeds in a classroom or drivers not using both lanes to the merge point, we instead prefer a collective relaxed, chilled-out attitude toward these issues. For some reason, unless you are assaulting me, I’m not supposed to have strong beliefs about your behavior. Just text back, “aight, whatever,” “sounds good” or “awesome.”

In fact, the only thing we are allowed to get upset about is somebody telling us what to do. It isn’t necessarily what you’re saying that makes me mad, it’s that you would have the audacity to say it at all. This probably happens most with relationship advice, when we hear somebody talking “smack,” as it were, on something that may have happened the week before. You’ll hear “he’s a douchebag” or “she’s a douchebag.” Yet we all want everybody to get out of our business: nobody has a right to tell me what to do.

But we are mistaken. This talk of rights doesn’t at all involve the behavior of others toward you. They can and should do what they want. It is only you who has the right  to not obey their input.

So here is my task for you: on the next beautiful day, in four months or so, look at the daily ongoings of the people around you, the discussions you hear and the acts you witness, and try to come up with an opinion about it. Try to create a response to whatever you see.

If you see somebody talking loudly on a cell phone, offering a position about water pollution, discussing Downton Abbey or ordering a salad, try to think about what they are doing, and try your hardest to not reach the bland conclusion that they can do whatever they want to do or believe what they want to believe.

Constantly challenge yourself, and don’t fall victim to our generation’s pleasantness. You don’t need to get in somebody’s face for preferring a chicken salad over a tuna salad, but just keep in your head a little tally. Tell yourself why they are wrong or right.

After all, you are the only person responsible for your own happiness. You are the only person who cares about your own happiness. Because we keep our critical thinking abilities on the shelf most of the time, preferring the ever-cool, relaxed attitude of being chill, the muscle that enables us to guide our own happiness by picking one alternative over another gets soft. We lose the ability to recognize our own preferences and float without direction, unable to make decisions.

So criticize. When I say bichon frise, tell me why I should say shih tzu. Pick over the roll or under the roll. Stop being cool, and embrace the misery of a perfect day with imperfect people.

Forward all complaints to [email protected]