My mom gave me the best piece of advice on the first day she and my dad dropped me off at college. I had been looking forward to this day for years. I went on a dozen college tours in high school (on my own accord, not my parents’). I fantasized about my future dorm room, partying like a grown-up and being romanced by a guy who would become my college sweetheart.
My incoming class was larger than previous classes so many of us were assigned three to one dorm room. The dormitories were rather tight living quarters and I remember when one of us got sick, everybody on the same floor would get sick. Any who, back to that first day. I arrived later than my two other roommates so I had slim pickings when I arrived. The last bed available was a top bunk and my desk was very obviously the most worn and scruffy. I didn’t say anything as my two other roommates were in the room but my mom saw my crestfallen face and said to me in Korean, “you have the power to transform dirt into gold.” I have no idea where she learned that saying or if it is a well-known saying but her words ended up being the most valuable piece of wisdom in my life up until today.
I did indeed turn that situation into gold. I got myself the cutest bed set and decorated my desk in a way that looked more shabby chic instead of just shabby. And it turned out, having the top bunk was to my advantage because it meant less people sat on it, messed it up and soiled it with their dirty shoes when they hung out in our room (I’m Korean so I have a thing about dirty shoes not being worn in the house and especially not on the bed! My husband is slowly learning.)
This dorm room experience would be one of the smaller instances when I would heed my mother’s words and encounter a less than ideal situation and transform it to my liking—jobs, homes, relational conflicts and even a limited wardrobe when I needed something a bit more stylish.
There are those who can turn gold into dirt—people who receive the best in life and yet they complain about what they have and want something else. Then there are those who can turn dirt into gold. It just requires creativity and resourcefulness. Sometimes, it will take a bit longer than you wish but the transformation is still happening nonetheless. I mentioned in my last post that the home we moved into was far from my ideal situation. When we arrived, it had a pretty bad cockroach infestation, major pipe problems that made the house smell like sewage and was much smaller than our previous home. Month after month, we steadily remodeled and now, I find myself saying to my husband every evening as I get ready for bed, “I love this home. I love this home even more than our last one.”
There are times when you just have to leave a situation. In other instances when you can’t quite leave yet or you feel drawn to that situation even still, remember this: You have the power to transform it into gold. Like a brilliant chef who can look into a paltry pantry and say, “let’s see what I’m working with” and creates a delectable spread. You have the imagination, resources and wherewithal to do it. In fact, I would even say that transforming a situation is so much better than if you would have been handed your preference from the beginning because when you do the former, you exercise a uniquely human capacity that is the source of your life meaning and fulfillment—crafting a life of your own making.