I went to a tiny middle school and a massive high school. We’re talking 24 kids at my 8th grade graduation and then… BAM… 620 on the first day of 9th grade come summer’s end. I knew three people in my grade. A building constructed to house 1500 students was brimming with about 1800. I was an outsider in a sea of kids who had been in school together since kindergarten. Seniors stood against the walls to block freshmen from navigating their way to Geometry or World History. I was (seriously) in need of something to be happy about and I was pretty darn sure it couldn’t be found inside the walls of my high school.
Thankfully all of us are past the rough early days of high school, winding through mazes of hallways and trying to make friends, but I still have days or stages in life that don’t feel too far removed from the feelings of frustration, anxiety, or even despair that swept over me when I realized I was on the opposite side of the building, on the wrong floor, and completely alone, looking for Freshman gym class.
My one moment of respite each day came after lunch. I would leave lunch a little early to make sure I could get to my next class before the crowds began their tidal wave through the halls. This meant that I had a few merciful moments of peace in the hallway before 5th period. It was in one of moments that I saw it – a poster – on the AP European History teacher’s door: Things To Be Happy About.
“Perfectly toasted golden marshmellows”
“A new toenail polish color”
You’re starting to get the picture, I’m sure. The little things. The little things that seemed completely insignificant in the face of hallway confusion, constant strange faces, loneliness, and feeling generally overwhelming. Nevertheless, those things, and others, were worth being happy about. The poster was right.
As I started to make some friends, I began to share my discovery with them. By the end of the year, there was a little crowd outside of that door every afternoon before 5th period, scrolling through the long list, shouting out their favorites.
“The sound a new can of tennis balls makes when you first pop off the lid!”
“Milkshakes for breakfast!”
“Old people holding hands!”
One of my friends, who is now a teacher, keeps the spin-off book, 14,000 Things To Be Happy About, on a table in her classroom. Another made a customized list for a friend’s birthday recently. You can even click here for today’s list.
What’s on your list? How can you remind yourself about the little things to be happy about, even when there are 1,797 unfamiliar, pimply, sometimes-smelly, and maybe-exclusive teenagers threatening to sweep you off your feet and carry you down the hallway?
– Ellie Poole