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The Importance of Being Thankful
By Guest Blogger Rachel Gribling

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“I’m so cold” has become an all too common phrase just like “I love you” or “I need my coffee” (you can tell where my priorities lie). As an US expat living in Scotland for over a year now, I have grown accustomed to the dreaded winter weather. The 40 mph wind gusts, cold pellets of rain (I swear the raindrops here are the size of quarters or 10P pieces if you’re a Brit!), and the grey clouds that seem to hover over your head. The weather is a “hot topic” (oh, the irony) in this country. I have never lived anywhere before where people genuinely want to talk about the weather, and not just because it’s the go-to topic on an awkward first date. Just like an overabundance of cheddar in the Tesco cheese aisle, the weather is something you are signing up for when you decide to live here. This fall in particular has witnessed a plunge in temperatures much sooner than I would have liked, giving my pea coat and mittens the chance to make their first appearance this year.

So why would you put up with this, Rachel?

Many people from home have plagued me with this question (often over skype) taunting me with their Starbucks Frappuccino’s and flowery sundresses (I’ve only worn a sundress for two weeks this July when the high was 80 F).

While I crave the warm sunshine and convenience of driving to the market when I’m out of milk, I would not be the same person had I never ventured to the Motherland. The Scots have taught me something valuable about life that I could have never gleaned from any other human species.

Let me explain. There is a reason Scottish men have recently been labelled “the manliest men on the planet”.  If you just have a look at the Scottish landscape – rugged mountains, Artic conditions,  harsh wilderness – it is no wonder that the Scots are some of the most hardy and rugged people to exist. Hard work, a what-you-see-is-what-you-get persona, and thick skin are common traits of the common Scot. When I first met my fiancé, he introduced me to the phrase “touch luck”.  Hardships and setbacks were viewed as mere inconveniences and met with a “tough luck” let-it-slide-off-your-back attitude. My initial shock at his behaviour had me conflating his determination with insensitivity and complacence.

How can you just “get on” with life when life is giving you a giant kick in the pants? Uncomfortably at first, yes but after a while you learn to make use of what you have and “get on with it”.

943128_10200154953136411_1197815579_nThis valuable life mantra came particularly into play this October. Having recently finished my master’s degree, I was interviewing with a consulting firm anticipating that a graduate position would be offered to me. My plans fell through one morning as I walked to get a cup of coffee at Starbucks. I nearly stopped in the middle of the street whilst glancing down at my iPhone to read my rejection email (to the annoyance of local drivers). Along with four other job rejections, a council tax bill, and an expiring student visa, I was spinning several plates, and in the midst of life, all of them came crashing down at once. Already struggling with high anxiety, my instinctive response was to lose it. My pride was certainly humbled and my faith put under fire. I was experiencing what I would like to call a “quarter-life-crisis”. I still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, and after all of these years, after building up my CV, earning good grades, and achieving two degrees…I was found wanting.

I think it is no coincidence that grey skies and winter winds were looming during this period  of my life. Just like the winter air, feelings of hopelessness permeated my down jacket and down to my toes. I was truly experiencing the “harsh” side of life, and I was left feeling like a failure. I am not going to say that rejection is fun, as the past month was very troublesome and dark and I would not want to romanticise any feelings of hopelessness. However, experiencing rejection this October has been one of the most beneficial times in my life. I stopped pretending to be someone I was not; applying to jobs I wasn’t passionate about. I began to direct all my energy into pursuing the only career that mattered to me – teaching students. Had I been successful at securing a corporate job, I may have never found the determination to pursue the one area of life where I felt like I actually belonged. I was set free because my greatest fears, failure and rejection, has been realized and yet I was still alive. Rejection taught me how strong I was, and that I had possessed more determination than I suspected. It revealed to me the true feelings of loved ones, how loyal they really proved to be. Rejection taught me things about myself that no degree or qualification could have. I would have never learned this vital lesson in the comfort of my Toyota in the bright Virginia sunshine. Underneath grey skies, I have learned perhaps the greatest lesson of all and that is something to be thankful for.

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”  Anne of Green Gables

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