Almost four years ago I was on a trip and a new acquaintance said, “Matt, you’re a curmudgeon!” I thought about it, agreed with her and even liked being called that. I am a curmudgeon and age has nothing to do with that, I have always had a proclivity to the dark and sarcastic, it’s just part of my personality. I have, obviously, thought a lot about that comment since then and have not only decided that being a curmudgeon isn’t bad, I think it helps me be a better traveler. Or at least I used to think that.
For those of you who may not be up on this vocabulary word, a curmudgeon is someone who is easily annoyed and who often complains. And my favorite part of the definition? Ahem, ‘usually an old man.’ Since I have a birthday on the horizon some might think this accurate, but in my case it’s not. When I was in the 6th grade I vividly remember a teacher telling me that I was “born a 40-year old man,” right before she warned me that I’d have an ulcer before I turned twenty. Luckily the ulcer never happened, but as you see my personality hasn’t waivered that much over the years. At this point you’re wondering why I’ve written a post about being a cranky not-old man? There’s a point, I promise.
And the point surprises me actually. I was prepared to write a post about how being slightly grumpy helps me keep an edge when I travel, to trust but verify and stay safe in the process. But a quote I just read has me rethinking that altogether.
I abhor all of the seemingly pointless quotes on Facebook, it’s perhaps the greatest affliction of our age behind disease, war and poverty. But once in a while someone shares something that touches us on a very personal level, just like the one I read not five minutes ago. The quote in question is:
“Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys.”
I think that’s right. I think that has been one of my great weaknesses over the years and I think it’s time to stop. Far too often in my life I have taken setbacks, even minor ones, personally. If something goes wrong in my life I haven’t been able to just take it on the chin and move on. It has usually sent me into a deep, dark spiral. I don’t know what it is in my life that has shaped my personality in this way, but it has had repercussions.
I am not a fan of new age, touchy feely mumbo jumbo. But one thing I have seen in others over the years is that people who are happy are usually successful (in whatever way you define that) and people who are perpetually cranky or angry aren’t. There are of course exceptions, but on the whole it proves the maxim that nothing breeds success like success. And it’s true and it’s time I’ve adopted that not only in my travel life, but my everyday life as well.
I’ve experienced a lot of betrayals in the past 12 months or so, both in business and my personal life. I have absolutely taken these to heart and have promised not to be so naïve in the future. Looking back though I’m not so sure that’s the right tact. Instead of forming more defenses, or separating myself from others, I think I need to do the opposite. I need to surround myself with good people and talk about our joys in life and not the hardships.
Will I still go through bouts of heartfelt curmudgeonry? Yes, I’m not changing everything that makes me who I am after 38 years. But I will tone it down. Instead of looking for the next big shock, I will look for the next big joy in life and I bet not only my perceptions on everything will change, but that life in general will reflect this outlook.
What do you think? Is it better to be a slightly grumpy curmudgeon or instead to look at the proverbial glass half full?