Coming back to west campus after being gone Halloween weekend, I knew my apartment would be a little grimy. Halloween is my roommates' favorite holiday, and they celebrate accordingly. On my Uber ride back from the airport, the driver delivered an insistent speech about why AI would eradicate humans by 2030, which allowed me time between empty nods to plan my day. Sleep-deprived, starving, and with work to catch up on, I envisioned myself walking in, ignoring the slight living room damage, eating some cereal, taking a nap, and attempting to be productive for the remainder of the day. I was not prepared.
Greeting me the moment I opened the door was a gust of air, damp with the odor of dried alcohol and old Qdoba. My eyes watering, I stumbled over some detached electrical wiring and a giant Subway advertisement covered in foot-prints. A half-empty, slight-greened, gallon of milk sat next to our fridge door, as if someone had intended to refrigerate it, but, at the last moment, decided it wasn't worth the effort. I scooted the jug towards the small piles of garbage around our overflowing trash can. Slowly losing my appetite, I turned to the sink. I caught a glimpse of the edge of my one bowl which was marinating in a soapy sea of scrambled egg bits, broccoli, and other unidentifiable food scraps, giving the water a brown tinge. I briefly considered leaving it behind and eating my cereal out of mugs for the rest of the semester, but then mustered up the courage to plunge my hand into the murk and attempted to fish it out. As the soft food bits tickled the webs of my fingers, a strand of hair wrapped around my palm. I decided to save the challenge of retrieving my bowl for another day, and resigned to my room.
I believed my room, a haven isolated from the havoc of the weekend, would save me from this ordeal. I opened the bedroom door, and sadly realized that, I, too, am a slob. In my rush to catch my flight, I left the room in an equally post-apocalyptic state. An assortment of tissues, dirty clothes, objects I had thrown out of the way whilst rummaging for other objects, and a suggestive tea stain covered my bed. To lie down, I contorted myself around everything, careful not to disturb any of the trash like it comprised a carefully arranged art piece, and rested my head on an empty Chipotle bag. Then I started laughing.
One of the most trite yet helpful sayings I've worked hard to internalize is "go with the flow", accepting each situation with nonchalance. A few years ago, I would've been furious at that scene. Furious at my roommates for not picking up after themselves, of leaving a half-full jug of milk sitting outside of the fridge, of shedding into the sink, and furious at myself for not anticipating my need for a clean room on the return of my trip. I would've stressed about how I could pressure my roommates to clean as soon as possible without being annoying or passive-aggressive or I would've begun hating how, on top of having to do a bunch of homework I did not want to do, my apartment smelled like the inside of Madam Mam's.
Instead, I just ignored it. My desk was a lost cause, so I finished my work sprawled out on the floor. I told my roommates to clean, but didn't think about it past that. I found the situation kind of hilarious.
Last semester, I unknowingly scheduled an outdoor bike tour in Bogotá during a storm. Traveling has tons of opportunities for things to go wrong, but it's still so upsetting when they do, since we idealize it in our heads and only have a few chances to do it right. I, my friends, and the other travelers on the tour, were wholly unprepared for the four hour downpour. My hands were freezing, my wet shorts uncomfortably clung to my legs and my hair to my eyes. Pictures were a lost cause, but it was so much more memorable. The chaos of splashing through puddles in an already crowded city, the camaraderie of tightly huddling under sparse overhangs, and our final stop for the greatest cup of coffee I've ever had, definitely in part due to my body's craving for anything cozy, made the stormy bike tour not worse, just different, in a good way.
When caught in an undesirable situation, I'll try to put myself in the role of the protagonist of a comedy film, which turns any mild unpleasantness into humor. Our living room remained in that grotesque state for almost a week. New forms of bacterial life incubated in our sink and the milk jug needed to be strategically placed to keep the trash piles from spreading too far. The fumes probably shaved a few weeks off our lifespan, but it's more than made up for by how much I laugh about how ridiculous it all was. Awareness of an uncomfortable moment as an interesting experience and anticipation of that fact that it will turn into a funny anecdote have been incredibly helpful in not sweating the small stuff.