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How to Turn a Bad Day Around

Recently I cried in a Trader Joe’s. I’ve heard of people having breakdowns in public places but I’ve never seen one and I’ve certainly never had one. This was a first.

A few minutes prior, I was parking in a “compact” space. As I was pulling into the spot, a lady came out of the trader Joe’s claiming that I hit her car. “I did not,” I maintained. I certainly didn’t hear a sound. There was no collision. But I told her that I’d finish parking, and then we could inspect the damage, if there was any.

I got out, and she pointed to a mark the length of two fingernails. “You scratched my car!” I had no idea if I was even the one who made that mark. But then she pointed to my car, where an equally small black mark was. Later, I found that it rubbed off. It was just a paint mark that came off without even using water. She tried to get me to pay her for it and I, overwhelmed, explained that I was a student. I had no money to give her. So we exchanged insurance information.

Challenge: find the damage

I staggered into trader Joe’s. I called my mom, shell-shocked. My mom explained that this lady may try to get me to replace her entire bumper. “But I can’t afford that,” I said. My head was spinning, thinking about all the money that I now had to give this lady, and the money I spent yesterday on a credit card that I didn’t open– money that I don’t have… And before I knew it, I was crying. Not cute crying, either. “Get a grip,” I told myself. I realized that people were staring, so I escaped to the bathroom. The only thing more awkward than crying in public is crying in a public bathroom, but there were two separate ones, which made me safe, or so I thought.

Except before long, I realized someone was waiting outside the bathroom for me. Shoot. I splashed water on my face and emerged, looking like a clown with a very red nose. Apparently I was such a wreck that I left my phone AND my license in the bathroom. The lady chased after me, took one look at me, and  awkwardly patted my shoulder. I prayed that no one in this Trader Joe’s was or ever would be my client. I checked the time. I had about ten minutes if I wanted to make it on time to practicum. 

My brain entered survival mode. I drove, parked, and ran into the building. I had time to think in the elevator. It’s a slow one. So I remembered a trick that my friend, S, taught me. S and I went to middle school together, which was when she developed a love for anime. Apparently there is an anime with a main character who is always full of sunshine and rainbows. No matter what happens, this main character never stops smiling. As a consequence, all of the other characters started to like this one.

So in sixth grade, S adopted this persona. Her parents are actors, and she was always a good one, even though she didn’t make it a career. “I became this character,” she explained, “and what’s funny is it worked.” It did. S became the most popular person in our class, at least in sixth grade.

As the elevator huffed and puffed its way to the third floor, I decided that nothing was stopping me from pulling an S and pretending that I had sunshine and rainbows coming out of my butt. So I wiped my face for the last time and  grabbed a drink of water. When an intern looked quizzically at me, I mouthed “allergies”. That whole day, the assessments that we learned were not hard– they were “exciting”. We weren’t stressed — we were “working hard”. I was grateful for everything. I was smiling about everything.

And an interesting thing happened. Even though I was faking it, my reactions were starting to feel more and more like me. By the end of the day, I was able to (mostly) put the morning out of my mind. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but next time your day sucks, try making “sunshine and rainbows”.


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Hi everyone! I started my doctorate in clinical psychology in fall 2020. A google search revealed that there are no current grad school blogs for psychology students. Anyway, I happen to know a girl who wants to document her journey to getting a doctorate (spoiler: it's me). Welcome. Hope you stay awhile!

One thought on “How to Turn a Bad Day Around

  1. Interesting! Sometimes, these visualisation methods really do help. I do the same for when I’m tired, and in those moments, I picture my best self and what he’d do in the face of adversity. Sometimes those thoughts alone are enough to get me through the day. Thanks for sharing!

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