As the alarm goes off on Monday morning, the first thought in my head is “I’d rather sleep some more.” This week I’ve really struggled with the “I’d rather feeling”, so much so that it could be called “The I’d Rather Syndrome”. Starting a new teaching job has forced me to work overtime and spend a lot more time on lessons than usual. As I’m standing by the copy machine, I often find myself slipping into a lot of I’d rathers. The result is that I get more depressed and unhappy. Yet this I’d rather business seems impossible to surmount sometimes‒it is like a reflex reaction to pain and discomfort.
The Widespread Reality of the I’d Rather Syndrome
The I’d rather syndrome has become a phenomenon across the world. I see shirts for sale that say “I’d rather be fishing” or “I’d rather be driving my motorcycle.” This “I’d rather” business is really how most of us live our lives‒secretly or not so secretly‒conflicted about where we are and what we’re doing.
I also see the “I’d rather” issue going on with my students when they enter the classroom with their headphones on and their cellphones in their hands. Clearly, they’d rather be somewhere else mentally and physically. I have to admit though that as adults we’re no different. We also take every opportunity to be on our phones.
What I’d Rather Means
I’d rather means there is something else out there that is better. Often it implies there’s something that could entertain me more, but I haven’t found it yet and maybe never will. At heart, it’s a form of ennui or boredom with the status quo.
The I’d rather syndrome can also be an excuse for laziness. It can be a refusal to pick up one’s cross and deny oneself in the words of the Gospel: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24). For instance, even if the “I’d rather” person does the odious task, it is often done half-heartedly or late.
Finally, the “I’d rather” syndrome can be a form of greediness. As I took a walk last weekend, I found myself thinking, “I’d rather be in a more beautiful place than this neighborhood.” This greediness for more was the temptation to close my eyes to the goodness of where I was.
Antidotes to I’d Rather
The first antidote to “I’d rather” is to think about things with the optimism of Pollyanna who could always find the silver lining to a raincloud. This goes against our grain because we are used to finding the bad, a habit the movie makes clear.
The second antidote, I think, is slowing down. The “I’d rather syndrome” is a form of boredom and impatience. Technology gives us the impression we can simply whiz through life’s experiences like we might whiz through Facebook. We need to disconnect and slow down. We need to see the goodness that exists where ever we are, as the saying goes, “wherever you are, that’s where you are.”
This acceptance demands spiritual childhood. The Gospel tells us that God is in control and we are simply children. Christ says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:2-4). We become great when we realize our smallness before God. It’s God who has put us where we are‒not ourselves.
It is natural for us to think about the things we’d rather be doing. It is natural for us to want to be somewhere else or someone else. At times, life is difficult and we really are in a situation that in the eyes of the world is awful. We might ask ourselves whether even the worst situation has something redeemable in it. That being said, no matter if it is simply that we don’t like something about our personality or we aren’t happy with our job, we can grow in our fortitude and self-control by accepting where we are.
Before I end, I should also say that the “I’d Rather” feeling can be a great catalyst for getting things done if we really have the courage to get up and do something. The “I’d Rather” feeling can be an indication that we really aren’t where we need to be and that something should be done. It can also be something immature and lazy as I said above. I think each person has to know themselves and make the right judgment about this feeling.