Every weekend, for the past couple of months, my parents drive a total of four hours both ways to visit my grandfather in the hospital. It’s one of those things that they often dread. It starts with them getting up early enough to miss the traffic, and still managing to hit the traffic despite it being a Sunday, because, well, L.A. Once they finally reach the hospital, it’s a depressing sit and visit with my grandpa, who has lost his ability to speak due to a stroke and is frustratingly trying to gain it back. The hospital is full of several elderly people who have similar problems – inability to walk, Alzheimer’s, dementia. My dad will sit and talk for several hours with my speechless grandfather, who’s not able to reply with much else than a head nod or a smile. After the depressing visit, my parents embark on the journey back, where they hit even worse traffic going home and get to witness several accidents along the way. On one ride back, they even had a rock fly up and hit the windshield, cracking it and leaving them with a nice, pretty bill.
Now all of these things sound just enough to torture a soul and possibly cause a personal, full-fledged meltdown, right? Apparently not. My parents take it all in as just another experience. The ride there and back is always a chance for them to talk without much distraction besides the ones the road provides. Visiting my grandfather is a chance for my dad to be grateful that his dad is still in good enough health to laugh and show emotion. My parents get to talk to many of the other people that reside in the hospital, and since many of them are elderly, they have their fair share of good ol’ stories to share and laugh over. The nurses in the hospital truly show my parents that they are working their best to restore my grandfather to full health, and show the most hospitality whenever they visit. And on every drive back, my parents get to try a new food place. They’ve gotten to try some of the best tacos and carne asada burritos that Los Angeles has to offer.
For so many people, the first described experience would be the one that they choose to endure. It’d be one of those chores that consume their weekly schedules, one that they dread every Saturday night. They’d do it purely because of the guilt they’d feel for not visiting their sick parent in the hospital. Instead of the chance to bring joy to their parent pulling them towards, it’d be the pain of the guilt that’s pushing them away. Unfortunately, people who carry this attitude tend to carry it through all aspects of life. The daily commute to work is a trudge through traffic rather than a chance to listen to their favorite music or podcast. Work itself is a sufferable task that they have to sit through to pay the bills instead of an opportunity to advance and make a difference in their company, or even the world. Even home life sucks for them. They can’t stand their spouses and constantly nab at what the other might do. Instead of seeking out therapy or solving the issues on their own, they divorce.
That’s why vacations for some couples and families are more of an escape from their real lives rather than a chance to share the experience of life with people in other countries and locations around the world. These couples will seek out the most expensive resorts, in pursuit of massages on the beach and margaritas by the pool. Nothing is wrong with these type of vacations, but these types of investments don’t tend to yield the best return. I personally think people would be better off spending that money of a vacation that will get them a once in a lifetime experience, such as getting to go on a safari in Africa.
Our personal experience of anything in life can change simply by what meaning or purpose we attach to the experience itself. My parents look at their experience with visiting my grandfather as a chance to bond with each other, with my grandpa himself, and even with the staff and other people within the hospital. Other experiences, such as those we have in our professional lives, are no different. If you think your job is just a way to pay the bills and survive, then it’s either time to change your attitude, or it could be time to change jobs (if the company culture is toxic and you have absolutely no way to influence change). If you are unhappy with your relationship with anyone, it’s time to reassess your relationship with them and see if you can repair the damage if you really value your bond with the other person.
Don’t let a negative attitude shift your perspective in the world. I’m not saying to be a Pollyanna and expect everything to be rainbows and unicorns. I’m simply saying attach a bigger purpose to what you experience, and the suffering that you endure will build you into that much of a stronger person. The world isn’t out to attack you, I’m sure it has much better things to do anyways.