Just this morning, I was stuck behind somebody on my walk to the subway. You see, most Manhattan subway stops are underground, but the stop closest to my apartment that I take 90% of the time is above ground and the way up is via a tiny one-lane escalator.
Now escalators that don’t have a parallel option of stairs are incredibly overwhelming to someone like me who needs to be constantly moving. In the city’s defense, there is a set of stairs across the street, but by the time I wait for the light to cross the road and so on…
So I take the escalator on my side of Broadway. However, this morning, someone cut me off, stepped in front of me on the escalator, and simply stood still. They just stood there. And so for the entire ride up the long elevator, I was stuck behind them.
Okay, so this has happened before. No reason to be irrationally upset or impatient. But here’s the other thing about having the above ground subway stop. You can see when the train’s coming.
So I watched from the escalator as the train I needed came and went before I could get there. When I did finally make it to the platform, I had to wait seven minutes for the downtown train (which is a lot for the morning commute. They typically run every 4 minutes and I hardly ever wait more than 2).
Then I was frustrated because then I was late. And I was late because this individual had stepped in front of me and not walked up the escalator and made me miss the train and now I was going to be late for work and I had to wait on the upper platform in the cold wind for seven minutes and oh boy, how cruel and unfair the world is, right?
Despite how much of my time is spent focusing on Happiness, I think it’s important to do a little of the other as well to give yourself perspective.
I spent at least half of my commute being upset that I was going to be late for work and I spent at least half of that time subconsciously directing my anger at a stranger I will likely never see again.
And for what purpose?
I still made it to work. I still completed all my assignments and projects and tasks. I still got to eat my morning oatmeal at my desk and talk to my coworkers about their holiday travel plans. Nothing about my day was so radically ruined by the case of the stationary escalator ride.
So why did I even bother spending a minute being upset?
I have a sticky note I keep on my computer that outlines the “5x5 Rule.”
If it won't matter in five years, don't spend more than five minutes being upset about it.
And really, how much of the stuff I find myself complaining about on any given day won’t matter in five years? In fact, what will matter in five years? There are many profound moments that we will experience throughout the course of our lives that will radically influence not just our next five years, but our next fifty.
But people who don’t walk on escalators are not one of them.
Sure, there are things that are naturally always going to make me upset. But if I think back to who I was 5 years ago, I can’t remember the little nuances of the days or weeks that made me angry or hurt or embarrassed. Five years later and it doesn’t matter.
I’m 100% that 27-year-old Liz will not at all care about her morning commute on a windy Wednesday in mid-December back in 2016. I’d rather not waste another second being upset about it.
The reason I find myself writing about things that point about my ridiculousness is twofold. First, I want to show that The Smile Project isn’t all happiness and good things. Sometimes it is tears and frustrations and outbursts of anger (justified or not). More importantly though, second, by putting my silly stories of the day into print, I realize just how silly they are. It pulls me away from the moment and gives me necessary perspective.
This week, I challenge you to be slow to anger. Don’t honk at the car in front of you for driving too slow and don’t snap at someone who is taking too long to understand what you’re saying.
More importantly, though, don’t allow the emotions of the situation to consume you for more than five minutes, if you know you will forget the entire incident in less than five years.