Adaptable

I’ve always found one of the most compelling things about the human species is its adaptability. To live so successfully in nearly every climate in every corner of the globe is amazing in both its perseverance and its stubbornness.

I do wonder sometimes what people would do if their land didn’t feel like a part of them. Perhaps everyone would make like the retired do and move to warmer climes. I doubt anyone would look to the harsh winters and disappointing summers of Massachusetts and choose it over the consistent loveliness of Aruba, if given the choice.

But, land does matter, and so people adapt–stubbornly, wonderfully. They adapt to having an ice scraper in their car at all times, even in July. They adapt to sudden heat waves followed by a week of sleeting rain. Here, we adapt to unpredictability. Perhaps it is a side effect of living in New England that makes me equate land to weather, but it is an important thing.

Beyond weather and land, people still adapt. They adapt to long commutes, to suffocating subways, to polluted cities or quiet nights. Moving out, moving in, people being born or dying. Nothing feels abnormal if it happens enough times.

It is this inane ability to adapt to whatever life throws at us that makes me wonder if we are meant to be a wandering species. I know we were at first, but then agriculture happened and now here we are. After the huge leap of my great-great-grandfather moving to America from Italy, my family has lived in the same 20 square miles ever since. Now, I feel a deep inner pull to leave. To adapt to somewhere else.

Maybe those who stayed in one place adapted to staying. Staying eventually felt normal to them. Maybe I’ll eventually feel that way, too.

Driving for nearly three hours every day has begun to feel normal for me. I don’t mind it anymore. I’ve adapted. Sitting in a cubicle for eight hours straight no longer makes my eyes hurt from the computer screens. I’ve adapted to these things I thought I never would, in an exceptionally short amount of time.

Let’s go back to weather for a moment. I’m sure everyone has an inkling that warmer weather makes people happier, and I believe it’s true. However, more than the cold, I think the unpredictability of New England weather has a profound effect on the population. Yes, we’ve adapted to the unpredictability, armed with layered clothing and umbrellas at all times. But it makes us anxious. Having to prepare for anything weather-wise makes us wary of other things too. Perhaps that is why my grandmother clutches her purse in the city as if it may be taken at any moment. Perhaps that is why I look both ways when  crossing one-way streets, my faith in drivers so low as to expect someone to go down the wrong way. Perhaps that is why so few of my family members have left the western hemisphere or gone below the equator. They always expect a sudden change, they expect the dangerous and unexpected due to their upbringing spent expecting a sudden snowstorm to brew from a mild morning.

When people have adapted to an ever-changing world (be it due to weather, technology, globalization…) they can’t help but feel anxious and pessimistic. Whatever is present—the sunny sky, the new iPhone, peace in the world, the economy—is only temporary, and will soon change for the worse.

We are adaptable, but some embrace that and some shy away. Some refuse to adapt more than necessary. Some don’t find it a hassle at all. Some adapt by moving, and some adapt by sitting still. No matter our view on it, it’s part of what makes us human and a huge part of what keeps us alive.

Learning sign language

I’m taking a class in American Sign Language, and I absolutely love it. The hour and a half of complete silence, where we speak with our hands and enjoy the stories told by our deaf teacher are just the best hours of the week.

Sign comes pretty naturally to me. I think it’s because I took dancing lessons for so long. I already associate meaning with movement, so associating language to movement was a small leap to take. I now spend a lot of time practicing, fingerspelling words as I read, doing .gif flashcards on my Memrise app, and watching these lovely “TheDailySign” videos where this girl signs along to songs:

Uptown Funk: https://www.youtube.com/watch? Y

Thinking Out Loud: https://www.youtube.com/watch

I just really like it. It’s the first language where I don’t have to hate my accent while using it, and the first one that I feel good about using. Did you know more people use ASL than Italian in the world?

But anyhow, it is amazing what people can do, isn’t it? Communicate with hands…we are so adaptable. Sometimes our schedules and our problems seem like too much…but we adapt. We can do anything, that’s what being a human means. We can learn to speak with our fingers, we can build flying machines, we can use a pocket computer to have food delivered to our doorstep. We know these things exist, and don’t think of them as being remarkable, but they are. They are innovation leading to adaptation. The reason why they don’t seem remarkable anymore is because we’ve—say it with me—adapted.

This is why things we love get boring. And why we sometimes feel an urge to sabotage ourselves. Why we sometimes want to run away to greener pastures, and why if we do we eventually get tired of the greenness.

Sometimes, adapting isn’t the best thing. New is exciting. Once we’ve mastered something, we look for the next challenge.

Perhaps this is why learning ASL is exciting to me. I’m constantly in awe of how deaf people adapt, and I’m constantly learning more vocabulary so it’s never boring.

Maybe that’s the key? Find something you’re comfortable with but that keeps surprising you. A helpful tip for relationships, as well.

In the meantime, I’ll keep signing. I have a midterm soon, gotta study up!