My mom frequently says that she wants to live on the water. She thinks that living on a lake, an ocean, or even a pond would somehow change her outlook on life and make her officially happy. Of course, the home she has nearly paid off is situated in a decidedly non-aquatic area. One of the things I must have learned from my mom is this idea that setting can make you happy. My first college tour was at a university 2 1/2 hours away from home, and while the school may have had a great academic reputation and was near a lake and had a great college town just down the street, something about the ugly concrete buildings was unappealing. I decided against the school based primarily on architecture.
My next college tour, however, went much better. The school, with its ivy-covered brick buildings and lakefront view, was beautiful. My freshman dorm even looked out over the lake, and the sunsets were incredible. The setting could not have been better, and yet I wasn’t constantly inspired by the beauty around me. Along with my friends, I bemoaned the small campus size and the lack of things to do, and I am ashamed to admit that I only swam in that beautiful lake a handful of times. In fact, weeks would go by where I barely even noticed the lake. It may be surprising, then, to hear that for my graduate school, I picked again based mostly on location. This time, my school wasn’t just on a lake–it was near the ocean. The apartment where I currently sit typing this blog entry is only a five-minute drive from the Atlantic, and my bus goes past an ocean inlet every morning and night. I live in a vacation destination, a place where cruise ships frequently stop, and yet I often ignore my surroundings and bemoan my homesickness and the lack of things to do.
The point is, the way my surroundings look seem to have very little to do with my level of happiness or contentment. Attitude is a choice that you have to make each day, and while nice surroundings might help nudge you towards a positive experience, it is by no means a guarantee.