[This post was originally published on my self-hosted blog on June 18, 2016 at 7:10 am. Migrated to Medium on Jan 6, 2020.]
Today I got in a car accident. I was stopped at a stoplight in downtown Chicago with my whole family in the car when an SUV blindly hit the back of our sedan. It wasn’t a huge accident and didn’t cause too much car damage, but it was enough to give my mom a whiplash and hurt my back.
What happened next was incredibly frustrating. We both pulled to the side and got out of the car, and took pictures of the scene. Clearly the SUV was at fault and the lady even admitted it, and so I asked to exchange insurance information. She asked for mine first, so I politely showed her my insurance card on my phone.
Then, she started demanding a hard copy. I didn’t have mine on me at the time, and kept insisting that this is literally enough to process an accident report, but she didn’t budge (she’s not a cop, she doesn’t need to demand physical proof of insurance). In general she was just being incredibly difficult to work with. We asked for her contact info and she gave us the wrong phone number. She just wouldn’t show her insurance info. Eventually I got frustrated, didn’t want to waste more time, so left after getting her correct phone number, name, and license plate (so I could file a claim later).
The rest of the way was pretty much ruined because of this. My mom was in a lot of pain (she was already suffering from a chronic neck problem after a more serious accident 10 years ago), and my back started hurting a lot too. Plus it didn’t help that we had just come from my sister’s college graduation commencement and this completely killed the mood / ruined her big day.
Anyways, the first thing I noticed my family do was complain about the situation. “Why does this kind of thing happen to us every time we’re together?” “How does this happen?” “Why does this happen?” (To be fair, we’ve had a bad streak of inexplainable back luck on all our family trips — just yesterday we lot our car keys and spent 6 hours trapped inside and digging every corner of our Airbnb, last Christmas our dog died while we were in Singapore, etc.). The rest of the day was filled with more complaining and things just got worse (subjective IMO) as we nearly froze to death on a tour bus and had a terrible experience at a restaurant.
But I actually felt completely fine the whole time. Yeah, I got a little bit impatient/frustrated during the immediate accident scene, but afterwards, I was fine. Why? Well, glad you asked.
So lately I’ve been experimenting with this new life attitude/mindset of “going with the flow” or “whatever happens just happens.” I personally have been calling it the “CHILL lifestyle” (which inspired the CHILL series for Sebastian Park, but that’s another story), but the basis of it pretty much is that everything happens for a reason and it’s literally your attitude towards it that determines its ultimate outcome. In a more scientific(?) equation, any situation/decision (good or bad) yields a single unit of opportunity that holds the equal potential of positive/negative outcome, and your attitude (and subsequent actions) steers/biases the final outcome. It’s kind of like a hybrid between belief in fate and the theory of self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ve been living by this for a couple months now, and it’s relieved so much stress from my life. Since then I’ve experienced the same frequency of shitty moments as before, but they all turn out fine (or even better).
In this specific case of today’s accident, it was a bit harder to do but I adopted the same attitude. For one, the accident made me change my mind about canceling my auto insurance which I was literally going to do tonight. Second, I’m now finally going to start going to the chiropractor, which I’ve been putting off for months since I discovered I have a crooked spine. Third, it made me write this post, which may lead to someone significant reading it and reaching out to me. Third, I don’t know yet, but I can make it good.
I think I’m such a big supporter of this mindset (almost a religion) because so much of my life was built on top of mistakes and “bad” events (at the time). The only reason I’m here in the US is because our family got scammed by my sister’s exchange student program and we lost hundreds of thousands of dollars (with both their kids in North America already, my parents decided in 3 days to just immigrate to the US). The only reason I got to Stanford was because I failed my ISEE tests, got rejected from all the nicer boarding schools in Seattle, and had more time to do entrepreneurial projects instead of choking on more AP or IB classes. The only reason I met my von Hughes cofounder Matt was because my sublet fell through last moment and in a desperate last-minute Craigslist hunt, I found Founder House. The only reason I write is because I got super depressed and my friend told me to just spew words on paper.
I look back and so many of these experiences were bad at the time (and sometimes continued to be for a while), but they all led to other opportunities. These opportunities are neither good nor bad; they’re just balls of potential energy that could yield completely positively or negatively. The best part is, according to the CHILL Lifestyle™, you can completely Choose Your Own Adventure™.
My back still hurts. My mom’s neck will continue to hurt. We still wasted 6 hours of our lives yesterday. My dog is still dead (in vain). But like, whatever. Yeah it sucks, but focus on what you can do afterwards. There’s literally nothing you can do to “undo” a situation or turn back time, so just move on and think about what this (what at the time seems like an awful) situation could now lead to. Stop bitching, kill the process, and spool up a new thread (lol computer joke).
So with all this new lifestyle adoption and “let it be” attitude and whatnot… Am I turning into a huge pacifist hippie buddhist hipster freak?
I don’t know, but you know, like, whatever.
FOOT NOTE: One could argue that this mindset works for me because I “haven’t truly experienced absolute tragedy” or because “I’m born with privilege.” My answer to that is sure, to some degree that’s true, but I still think this theory applies to everyone. The different levels of inherent/foundational “privilege” may affect the magnitude/size of new opportunities that are yielded from situations, but the core concept of situational output holding equal positive/negative potential stands true. The only exception to the CHILL Lifestyle theory would be death, when subjectivity literally implodes and disappears.