It only took one less-than-ideal grade to find myself jumping from one fatalistic thought to the next. Within mere moments, I went from seeing a grade on a paper to convincing myself I would never get into grad school. The weather was gray and cloudy. I had a massive headache. Nothing was going right — and it didn’t seem like it was going much better for many of my peers, either. It’s not like everyone around me was getting A’s and enjoying the weather.
I couldn’t wait to burrow under my sheets and hide from the world. But when I got to my room and set down my backpack, I noticed the pot of daffodils blooming on my desk. The buds were just opening up and that corner of my room was covered in a yellow kind of joy that I hadn’t been able to find throughout the rest of the day.
Last month, on a separate occasion, my Persian professor and I were walking back from Persian language table during a snowstorm. It was windy and cold; it was the kind of day when the chill gets into your bones. I was ready to start complaining about how awful everything felt when she stopped me in my tracks. “Look,” she said, pointing. “That tree! It’s pink!”
The only color I could see for miles in any direction was fluorescent, snow-induced white. But sure enough, as we walked up the hill, I began to see that there were tiny pink buds on the tree. She bent down to pick up one of the fallen ones. “Isn’t it beautiful?” she whispered, her breath making barely perceptible coils in the cold, blustery air. I had to admit that the image of a bud on the snow was enough to take my breath away, particularly on a day when I hadn’t expected to see anything blooming.
But more than anything, my professor’s ability to find beauty on that seemingly forsaken day left me speechless. I was prepared to let the afternoon go to waste, just as I was ready to declare my day earlier this week a total failure. But my beloved professor wasn’t. Instead of seeing the obvious ugliness that sometimes surrounds us, she chose, instead, to see something beautiful. She saw blossoms in the midst of a snowstorm.
When I found myself staring at the daffodils in the corner of my desk, I had found my own flowers buds in my psychological blizzard. The flowers I had on my desk — just like the buds that my professor saw — were an opportunity for me to find something beautiful on a day that wasn’t.
Let’s face it: we have plenty of days like that at Princeton. Classes are hard. Relationships are difficult. Friendships have drama. We have good days and bad days alike. But if you let yourself get caught in the spiral of social media and negative thoughts, maybe it’s worth trying to find some flowers.
I acknowledge that finding light in a dark tunnel is challenging. And I’ll admit that I’m not the best at it, either. But maybe it’s worth putting a plant on your desk, or, more importantly, spending time with people who, like my professor, have a natural gift for finding beauty. And, the next time you have a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day, you’ll be prepared and find blossoms in a snowstorm.
Leora Eisenberg is a sophomore from Eagan, Minn. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.