Blog. Take a look around and join the conversation.


“Are you part of the solution? Or part of the problem?”


My dad used to say that to me all the time in high school when I complained about anything, and it really annoyed me. It wasn’t my fault! The other kids did it too. The teacher didn’t like me. The coach was so unfair. My job was stupid – and the government! Don’t even get me started…


Yet his patience – and his persistence in annoying me! – paid off. I love solving problems, which is good if you’ve ever had anything to do with computers. Some days there are nothing but problems. Hardware issues. Printer problems. Software glitches. Missing links and files.


And that doesn’t even touch on people – you know if you have anything at all to do with people you’re going to have problems. And even though quirky people are my very favorite kind of people, there’s no doubt they can cause you problems; everything from the client who wants it yesterday but won’t answer email, to the unreasonable teacher who counts you tardy when you’re late because your car has problems – problems on top of problems! – to the friend who suddenly isn’t speaking to you right when you need them most…


Just like you, I try to have a good attitude in general, but sometimes life gets you down. And sometimes, let’s face it: complaining feels good! Complaining lets us feel important and lets us off the hook: nobody could do all that we do already, be all that we are, and still solve the problems of the whole world – boy, would that be unreasonable!


Every year about this time I have high school seniors who develop that well-known American phenomenon, senioritis. Suddenly, everything is too much for them. They are tired of school, of work, of BPA, even their hardworking teachers – I know! What’s that all about? Complaining feels good, and it lets off stress, and it’s a way to broadcast our accomplishments: look at all I’ve done!


We’re not allowed to say that in our culture very often: look at what I’ve done! Look at me, practically alone, without any help, against incredible odds, and with a very unreliable car – look at what I’ve accomplished! I’ve practically finished school while holding down a job AND putting up with my teachers and parents – I did it!


So maybe my dad, smart as he was about me, missed something. Sometimes a problem is a disguised enjoyment of life. Sometimes it’s just an ending. A change. A way of transitioning. A feeling out of what’s coming up next. And that’s fine – I’ll bet you could go to any culture in the world and complaining is an art form, all beginning with, “You think you’ve got it bad? Let me tell you…”


See what I did there? You thought I was going to tell you to have a better attitude and stop complaining, didn’t you? Nope, I think you should complain more. I think we should have a complaining radio show, allowing ourselves to complain like “The Moth” tells stories. The person with the craziest, most compelling problems wins. Because you do succeed against incredible odds, and sometimes it does feel all alone, and because no one can do what you do…


But, because I do this too, I also want to point out to both of us that sometimes you go around solving problems right and left all day, and have that habit of scanning for new problems on the horizon all the time – until you look back and realize you saw life as a series of problems. You forget to acknowledge and/or complain about your accomplishments. And that would be a shame when life was happening all around you anyway – and it was fine. Sometimes, everything works out fine without your doing anything – isn’t that great? I mean, a little unsettling, but great?


Some days you look up and suddenly realize: there isn’t any problem. You can stop looking for them. And you hardly know what to do with yourself. And I think we should complain about not having problems too – let’s call it gratitude. The car that taught me there’s a reason the red light comes on. The dad who taught me to love problems. The teacher who taught me to be on time. The problems that made me feel important and alive because I survived them. Let’s tell our stories and acknowledge our accomplishments – particularly you seniors! You go first, and I’ll listen…


There are 2 comments. Add Yours.

Sarah Sturgis

Interesting perspective to think about! It’s funny how the way we see the world, ourselves, & each other, changes as we get older. I know for me, my worldview has drastically changed from how it was when I was a teenager, almost a 360, & I’m sure it will continue to change.
And I agree, regardless of whether we verbalize our complaints (and achievements) or not, we still feel them, and most of the time it eats us up if we DON’T verbalize it in some way or another. Even if we simply write it down, complaining about the good & bad is healthy. It’s why we invented shrinks! 🙂

Reply »

Daniel Kline

One thing to consider is that one cannot grow unless they make mistakes. Mistakes are opportunities. Like the old adage “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” And sometimes change can be overwhelming and/or scary. But life is about making opportunities. Throughout life we are presented with choices. And it may be easy to think that things are going bad. When in actuality, things are going good. The sun always comes out after the darkness.

Reply »

Share Your Thoughts!