The Upside of Fickleness

In my hometown, we have a saying: “Today it only rains once.” It means that, when you look out the window in the morning and see some drizzle, you already know the forecast for the whole day. About 9 out of 10 times, the weather stays exactly as it is early in the day, and that’s both comforting and frustrating.

When I went to study abroad near Boston in 2012, I was first confronted with a new weather-reality for a sustained period of time. On one of the first days I was there, stormy morning clouds gave way to a day so sunny you could spend it at the beach. An early acquaintance there promptly introduced me to the famous saying: “If you don’t like New England weather, wait a minute.”

After my return, when I eventually moved to Munich, I quickly noticed the same pattern: A day that started off looking gloomy might turn around soon enough, and just because it was sunny in the morning would not guarantee you made it home before the rain.

Like its more reliable counterpart, fickle weather is also comforting and frustrating at once. It does, however, offer something steadier climates do not: the potential to change at any moment. It introduces hope to an otherwise foregone conclusion — if the weather can change any minute, it may as well change for the better. At least that’s the version of the future we tend to hold on to, and that optimism alone is worth a lot.

Thankfully, the upside of fickleness does not stop at the weather. If your boss is a moody person, you can find out her favorite drink and turn many a sour conversation sweet. And if your first web comic falls flat, someone can still discover and send it viral six months later. Whatever may be a hard friend to keep around might also be the savior that suddenly jumps to your side when you need it the most.

We want to avoid volatility because our brains crave certainty, but let’s remember: Fickleness is potential — and if you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute.