More often than not, opinion columns at The Daily Pennsylvanian involve an angsty columnist (i.e. me) jabbing furiously at the keyboard, on another godforsaken Saturday night, riddled with regrets of procrastination. He or she is fueled by some campus issue (“this week, students protested … ”), some policy (“the Penn administration … ”) or some other thing about Penn students (“Penn’s climate of pre-professionalism”). 

But this week, I choose to be grateful.

No, nothing extraordinary has happened to me this week. I struggled with the same few things. I got annoyed at the same few things. But for some reason, I felt that this was going to be “Stop and Smell the Roses Week.”

It’s hard to be grateful at Penn. Whenever a semester starts, I feel like I am on a train, hurtling relentlessly forward, with no stop or station in sight. No time to reflect, to re-evaluate or to be grateful. It’s hard to feel settled, to feel completely satisfied, to “count my blessings,” instead of the number of clubs I got rejected from. 

Don’t get me wrong, becoming more grateful doesn’t mean suddenly ignoring that certain problems exist or dismissing all the grievances we have. It means acknowledging the little deeds and silver linings alongside the problems we face.

Gratefulness is a bit like a muscle — you have to use it or you lose it. It’s something you get better at with practice. I have begun trying to catch myself whenever I am upset and come up with a “gratefulness statement” instead. 

For example:

I am grateful that CVS was trying to get rid of some nearly expired stock of the usually pricey Nature Valley bars this week, allowing me to snag boxes at a wonderful price.

Though traffic lights usually work against me, I am grateful when they turn at just the right time, allowing me to absolutely blaze my way to class.

Though I have to plow through stacks of readings every week, I am grateful for my classes. On some days, I would very much prefer to take a nap instead of writing a response on Canvas for English class, but I genuinely feel like I am getting an education here. Education isn’t cheap or easy or painless, and I have to remember that.

Though friendships often require effort and patience, I am deeply grateful for my friends, with all their quirks, insight and humor. I treasure their company, and they make Penn more than just a school.

I am grateful that it became a little cooler this week, so I am not drenched in sweat when I (finally) arrive to class. I know my friends in non-air-conditioned college houses are sleeping a little more comfortably these past few nights as well and I am happy for them.

Though the changing of the seasons reminds me of the passage of time and the transience of life, I am grateful for it, for very soon it will cause the campus to erupt into its parade of fall colors, trees decked in their red, orange and yellow dresses. 

Though sunlight bursts fiercely through my feeble window blinds early every morning, rousing me, bleary-eyed, I am grateful for my room, for it has become a nook of comfort and rest from the frenzied life outside of it. 

Though Philadelphia is sometimes a sweaty, messy beast, I am grateful for the city. It has helped to instill a sense of normalcy and serves as a reminder of the larger world beyond Penn. 

Though Penn has its faults — like any other institution, really — I am grateful for the world of opportunities it has provided. I have never had too few classes to choose from, too few professors whom I could reach out to, too few activities to be involved in, too few events to attend, too few places to eat, too few avenues to start something new or fight for change. 

This week, and hopefully for the rest of my time here, I choose to be grateful, to slow down, to reflect, to settle, to be satisfied, to stop and smell the roses.

SARA MERICAN is a College sophomore from Singapore. Her email address is smerican@sas.upenn.edu. “Merican in America” usually appears every Monday.

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