The Worst of Times

This weekend has been a crazy string of one bad event after another. I went home for the weekend because my long-distance boyfriend was also going home for the weekend. We had planned on going to a festival coming to town, our little homecoming. It started out fine, until I had to cart my sister around, made my boyfriend’s family miss their reservation because of it, got an iffy haircut, and broke my phone irreparably, losing all photos and information from the past three months and being phoneless for about a week. Not to mention several smaller grievances, such as wasting a bag of minute rice trying to heal my phone before realizing that only worked for water damage, or burning myself when trying to cook lunch.

There are a lot of topics I could focus on from this terrible weekend. I could talk about how privileged I am to call a weekend where I got to go home from college to attend a festival “the worst of times,” or about how sad it is that I’m going to have a genuine problem with both school and work until I can get a new phone, or about how even though seeing my boyfriend was the only good thing about the weekend one person should not be the source of all your happiness. I was between “how it feels to go home after being at college for extended time” and “an introvert’s guide to when you made everyone miss their dinner reservations” but I think I’m going to go with “why do bad things happen one after another?”

(Don’t worry, I’ll do the other topics a different time.)

Our brains are very good at noticing patterns. It’s in fact one of the things they do best. This means, basically, that if it notices something happening twice, it will notice it happening more times, and be on the lookout for that thing.

If you notice one bad thing happen, then another bad thing happens, you’ll be more likely to notice more, as your brain is looking for the pattern. Unfortunately, much like with the placebo effect, even if you know that’s what’s happening, you can’t stop it.

When I went to sleep last night, I counted the bad things that happened. Now, looking back, I realize that a lot of those bad things only seemed so bad because the other things had happened previously. Like right after my phone broke, my poster fell off my wall. This is what sent me crying, the fact that my room seemed to be kicking me while I was down. On a normal day, the poster falling would be a non-issue. Yesterday, it brought me to tears.

Beyond my brain noticing patterns, it also likes to exaggerate, and think bigger than it would normally. While I was listing the bad things that happened that day, I added onto it, thinking about the bigger-picture bad things, such as the fact that my relationship is long distance, and that I’ll never be fit enough to hike the Appalachian trail, and on and on until I was distressed over the flaws of capitalism.

Then, in the morning, I woke up and ate breakfast.

Breakdowns are healthy in small doses. If you can live in this world blissfully and not get sad, there’s something wrong. Ultimately, in the end, we all have to wake up and eat breakfast, no matter what. It’s never as bleak in the morning.

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