The Alternatives to Complaining
(Dedicated to my mom.)
My mom has never complained about anything. Ever.
Today is my 13th anniversary living in Canada. I’ve been here for exactly half of my life. From the time I arrived there has never been a morning when I did not feel grateful for the decision that my mom made when she applied for immigration. The first year in Canada was a great challenge for her, but I have never heard her complain about anything. She did not complain when an immigration officer called her diploma “garbage” or when she was coming home from a temporary job at a chocolate factory with a fever and icicles stuck in her hair.
She chose to forego complaining because complaining is a lot like holding a grudge. It’s a burden that you have to carry. If you opt out of complaining, things can be easier to handle. Somehow complaining always was an off-limits activity for me (unless I was in pain or danger, but that’s different).
Thankfully, I took her positive mentality with me to grad school. Last academic year, I worked 44-60 hours a week while also going to class and completing my schoolwork. How did I manage to juggle all these work projects and grad school? In short, I followed my mother’s lead and chose to hop off the “Complain Train.” It was not always easy, because sometimes this pesky train would just park outside of my window and wait for a good moment to carry me away. But I resisted the urge to hop on. A couple of times the Complain Train managed to drag me along for a couple of miles. But as soon as I came to my senses, I always chose to disembark.
Of course there were moments when I wanted to vent to my friends. But somehow at that time most of my friends happened to be in need of emotional support themselves. Focusing on helping them and relating to their situations helped me to put my own challenges in perspective. I wanted to stay calm and supportive for my friends who needed my help.
Mostly, my students were the ones who kept me going. As a teacher, I couldn’t tell my class, “Sorry, class is cancelled. I quit.” I had a responsibility to inspire my students no matter what.
I knew I needed to take care of myself to stay productive, so I kept going to the gym (especially to Zumba classes), finally learned how to do push-ups, and started attending Argentine tango events again. I met new people and listened to new music. Making time for myself helped me remember that life does not consist of work deadlines only.
There are a few other steps I took to keep the complaints at bay. Instead of venting, I would treat myself to a movie, a cup of peppermint tea, or a chat with a loved one. Whenever I felt like painting my life in dark and gloomy colors, I took a deep breath and breathed all my worries out. Sometimes breath works just as well as words to let out the worries within. I kept in mind that my crazy grad school situation was temporary, and I never passed an opportunity to reflect on things that I’m grateful for, like my friends, my family, a warm cup of coffee, or fresh snowflakes on the ground.
Our twenties are the time when all of us are building our careers. It is often difficult and stressful. We have a lot of items on our to-do lists and riding the Complain Train just takes away the energy that we could use for accomplishing all the cool goals that we’ve set. Next time you hear it approaching your house, just close the blinds, make yourself your favorite hot drink, breathe all of your problems out and watch the Complain Train pass by.
[Photo by Julie Bloom.]