“I’m going to appreciate every one of those positive degrees.”
It was Sunday morning, and the temperature outside was approximately 5°F. Which sounds bitterly cold, but the day before we had been skiing in -5°F with a wind chill factor that felt like -17°F. Needless to say, we lasted a little longer on the slopes the second day.
When I moved to Pittsburgh, everyone told me that the past two winters had pretty mild, so even though this winter might be a little longer and colder than what I’m used to, it wouldn’t be that bad. Flash forward about nine months when some friends and I spent an hour outside in -3°F digging my friend’s car out of six inches of snow because Google Maps incorrectly told us the place we were staying was up an unplowed road, and I’m really grateful I bought the warmest coat I could find.
In November, I was complaining about 29°F, because to me, anything under 30°F is unnecessary, but after a couple of weeks in the single digits, 25°F now feels like spring. The number hasn’t changed one bit—25°F is still 25°F—but my perspective has shifted drastically.
While living in Munich, I often pondered the differences between American and German cultures and attempted to find the positives in both in order to create a personalized blend of the two. I saw the benefits of a more clear separation of work and free time and fell in love with the orderliness, sensibility and punctuality that Germans prize, but I missed the friendliness, openness and temperature control of the United States. Quick trips to Spain and Italy furthermore introduced me to cultures that cared much less about the time of day, which forced me to forget about my ever-present wristwatch and simply soak up the moment.
Moving to a new city—and a new state—has presented me with a variety of new perspectives. Whether I’m marveling at the fact that the world still turns even when Pittsburgh gets more than half an inch of snow or I’m having an in-depth discussion of the vastly different kinds of churches my friends grew up in and the ways each one has taught us to view and worship God, I’ve enjoyed realizing not everyone sees the world the same way I do.
From exploring various customs and philosophies through the Nationality Rooms at Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning to exploring a variety of ethnic foods, I’m thankful for my friends who have taught me that life can be so much more than oatmeal, salads and yogurt. Taking the time to understand someone else’s history reminds me that life really is an adventure and not merely staring at a computer screen in a gray cubicle.
Life is like playing a game of Clue or participating in a murder mystery; everyone starts out with different facts that provide an incomplete picture of what really happened. Only through asking questions and cooperating with one another do we realize that we all have something to contribute and each voice needs an opportunity to speak. As more evidence comes to light, we can filter through our previously conceived ideas and decide how to alter our perspective to incorporate this new knowledge.
“Empathy begins with understanding life from another person’s perspective. Nobody has an objective experience of reality. It’s all through our own individual prisms.”—Sterling K. Brown