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The Dartmouth
May 30, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Why Can’t We Have More Sunny Days?

Rain-inspired reflections on learning to give up control

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Let’s start with two different ways to wake up.

Option one: I awake to sunlight slipping in through the bottom of my green Dartmouth shade. The sound of birds chirping drifts into my ears, and even though my sleepy eyes urge me back to sleep, I can’t help but rise to meet the day. As I step outside my dorm, squinting to adjust to the light, the sun’s warmth tingles down my arms. It just feels like it’s going to be a good day. Even if I have to sit through an hour of dry math lecturing, it seems like nothing can go wrong. 

Option two: I wake up to rain thudding against my glass window. It’s dark and dreary. There is no sunlight streaming in and no birds chirping outside. I reach over and check the time on my phone, only to discover that I have a mere twenty minutes until my 10. Ugh. All I want is to let the sound of falling water coax my anxious brain back to sleep. But I can’t. I have a midterm in a week. So I begrudgingly get dressed and put on that raincoat with the hood that drapes over my eyes. Vision somewhat obscured, I walk outside my dorm as rain pours off the gutter up above. Splash — my right foot lands in a massive puddle. Damn. Now my shoes are wet. I slowly trudge to class, weaving around puddles that seem to have sprouted out of nowhere, yearning to return to the coziness of my bed. Instead, I have to deal with the stupid rain. 

I may have tweaked those two versions with a bit of creative license, but let’s face it: Sunny days are simply better. Especially after my first real Dartmouth winter — and a truly shocking snowfall on my first day of spring term — these recent warm spring days have felt like magic. There’s a possibility in the air, a newness of life — to put it simply, the vibes are immaculate. Of course, not every sunny day is perfect. There have been many beautiful days where I felt sad and overwhelmed, or felt some innate anxiety to take advantage of every moment, even if there was nothing to do. But even so, on the whole, I can conclude with certainty that I feel happier on sunny days than dreary ones. 

So why are we so inclined to sunshine? Science has a lot to do with it. In 2011, a study found that people interviewed on exceptionally sunny days report significantly higher levels of life satisfaction than people who were interviewed on days with “ordinary” weather. In 2013, Canadian researchers showed a strong correlation between a lack of Vitamin D and depression, suggesting that the “sunshine vitamin” really does play a role in our mental health. And let’s not forget about seasonal affective disorder , that cruel beast that sneaks up on us every winter. Despite skiing and frozen ponds and hot chocolate, the fact that the sun disappeared at 4:30 everyday slowly took its toll on me this winter. I simply felt worse without the sun. But life doesn’t have to be like that, right?

I remember being shocked to hear that one of my friends from L.A. had never shoveled a driveway before. I looked at him with a strange mix of confusion, jealousy and pity — I mean, how have you never shoveled a driveway? But then again, part of me wondered what it would be like to live in California. Sure, it’s not perfect weather all the time, but even as I write this article, the weather report for the week doesn’t list a single day below 65 degrees in L.A., with no chance of precipitation. What would it be like to live somewhere with exceptional weather, to go to a school like UCLA where “bad weather” means 55 degrees with a chance of light afternoon showers? I think we all dream of a life of perfect weather.

But we don’t have it. And even in California, it doesn’t exist. So why do we let the weather affect our mood? Why do we give weight to something so far out of our control that many have attributed it to the mood swings of Gods above? If there’s nothing we can do about something, why let it control us? 

The truth is, I do it all the time, and not just about the weather. I let a friend’s playful smirk trigger my anxiety into a spiral over whether they like me or not — and when I ask them if everything is okay later, they look at me like I’m crazy. I let a comment on my paper from a professor I barely know become a massive part of my self-image for the week. I let the menu at Foco change how I feel about the whole day. Isn’t that ridiculous? After suffering through the pandemic and finally acknowledging my mental health despite years of pithy boomer expressions running through my head (“You’re not sad, Street. You’re just not working hard enough”), at a certain point it just hit me. Why was I letting the uncontrollable control me? Why was I letting bad weather affect my life so drastically? 

When I think back on the happiest moments of my life, many of those memories don’t take place on a perfectly sunny day. I remember dancing in puddles with my family outside of my childhood home during a torrential downpour, singing and laughing hysterically. We didn’t care about the rain. I didn’t care that my clothes were soaked or that my feet were starting to prune. I was only focused on trying to duck out of the way while my dad splashed me and my sister with a bucket. I also remember playing soccer in a random park with my brother and two Nepalese men who barely spoke English. Rain was pouring down — hair so wet that droplets flew off everytime I spun around — and yet all four of us, who could barely communicate with each other, ran around that field like little kids, giggling when our clothes became stained with mud. 

There’s something wonderful about embracing the rain. Of course, I am still grateful for those days when the sun peeks its head out from behind the clouds. There’s nothing I love more than an afternoon spent lounging on the Green or a hike up Balch Hill to a sun-soaked meadow. But on days when that doesn’t happen, and those dark clouds circle around Baker tower, there’s no use clinging on to some idealized version of the weather. Why not embrace the rain? Why not get out of bed and walk out into the world — even if I might step in the odd puddle along the way.