Letting it go

When I watched “World of Color” at Disney California Adventure, a group of women standing near me spent the entire show complaining about how “disjointed” and “boring” this latest version was in comparison to last year’s. Even though they distracted me, I pitied them for being too cynical to appreciate Disney magic. I still managed to enjoy “World of Color” despite their complaints and the kid who blocked my view with a giant Mickey hat.

This year, I vow to “let it go” more often. By that, I don’t mean “run away and isolate myself” like Elsa in “Frozen.” I mean that other people can be annoying, but because there’s nothing I can do about it, I might as well enjoy life.

I’m excited by this new epiphany, because it runs counterintuitive to my old habits of overreacting to little things. Usually, when someone is about to cut in front of me in line, I fume silently. If a friend takes too long to reply to my messages, I might goad them through my unresponsive computer screen: “Come on, RESPOND TO ME!” I’m not the only one who takes personal offense at every inconvenient situation. I’ve watched, amused, as friends and family rage at other drivers for driving slightly too slow.

But the world is full of strangers with annoying little habits, and while it might be cathartic to curse out every person who irritates us, our resentment toward these other people builds up until it turns into balls of negativity sitting in our stomachs. Our own impatience allows random line-jumpers, movie texters and slow pedestrians on the sidewalk to ruin our mood. Meanwhile, the offensive strangers go about their day whistling happy tunes, unaware of our hatred for them.  

In our perfect worlds, we walk right up to the counter and order our coffees without waiting for other cranky people to get theirs first. The sidewalks are empty, but for the few people who walk at our exact same pace. Oh, and if only we could watch the new movie without listening to the baby’s loud wails or shielding our eyes from our neighbor’s bright phone screen. But the world is becoming increasingly crowded, and the best way to survive this overpopulation is to remind ourselves to be calm and polite even in the face of others’ rudeness.

I’ve also realized what an irritating person I can be. I always have to prove I’m right, even after everyone else has moved on to the next topic. I also admit to accidentally kicking the chair in front of me during my first viewing of “Star Wars VII” (In my defense, I was squirming in my seat to accommodate my full bladder). Knowing that I can sometimes be insufferable makes it easier for me to let go of my anger for troublesome people, because I would want someone else to forgive me for my own accidental rudeness. So I forgave the old man kicking my chair during my second viewing of “Star Wars VII.”

Besides, confrontation is not always helpful when people won’t admit that they’re being rude. Once, a family of Chinese tourists hopped in front of my friends and me after we had been waiting in line already for three hours to get into the Palace of Versailles. When we scolded them, they had the nerve to lie to us with bright smiles, saying “We were here the whole time! Maybe you just didn’t see us!”

There was nothing else we could do except laugh. In the grand scheme, the Chinese line-jumping tourists were inconsequential. Later, as we walked through the palace, my friends and I recounted the family’s reaction to our Western brashness and complete lack of shame. I preferred this laughter to our earlier rage. Versailles was too beautiful to let these tourists ruin our experience.

It’s helpful to have a sense of humor about these small situations, because we have to reserve our real anger for the larger issues. As long as others’ behavior causes us no harm, we shouldn’t spend our energy worrying about them. We have neither the power, nor the right to “fix” other people. We can’t change strangers’ irritating habits, just as we must accept our loved ones for who they are.

We are all annoyed by other people. We are all annoying. But we have more serious, systemic injustices to worry about, such as social inequalities or threats to our safety. There is no time to waste raving about inconsequential matters, the way our bodies overreact to seasonal allergens. We’d be much healthier if we could let go all of our rage towards other people and work with them to fix the more important problems.

So my new quest is to tolerate and be tolerable, and in the process, have fun laughing at the insanity of humanity. Maybe like a certain ice queen in a Disney movie, I’ll even sing about it.

“Off the Beat” columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the spring semester’s regular opinion columnists have been selected.

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