My summer was kind of rough. I worked two jobs, took classes and had to deal with some discouraging obstacles in my personal life. It was disheartening to see my friends together at home without me via photos on Facebook. I also hadn’t spent time with my sister in months and her missing presence in my life was painful, to say the least. A friend recently asked me how I motivated myself to keep up my work ethic in such difficult times, and after much reflection, I thought about my friend Jack-Jack.
Jack-Jack was a spunky brown-spotted Dalmatian who sat with his owner outside of Shields Library where I worked during the summer. My grumpy morning treks to my job were always immediately brightened when I saw the fuzzy pup’s wagging tail and sweet eyes, ready to greet me. His owner was a friendly older man who never seemed to remember me (even though I pet Jack-Jack often) and would always say, without fail, “This here is Jack-Jack. (To Jack-Jack): Be nice, say hi!” Petting Jack-Jack, even if just for a moment, always reminded me to cheer up. Knowing that someone was happy to see me in my early morning unpleasantness (yeah, man, I’m talking about the dog) made getting through that summer sadness just a tad bit easier.
So what’s my point? Well, Jack-Jack was one of the reasons I was able to get through my day. He reminded me that dogs exist, that dogs are awesome and that if I got out of bed to go to work, I might get to pet a super cool Dalmatian. Did Jack-Jack solve my personal issues or cut back my workload? Of course not, but his adorable smile reminded me that there were lots of good things in life I had to look forward to and that this rough patch I was experiencing was only temporary.
In other words, I learned to get through the difficult times by focusing on the positive little things — the joys and pleasures of my surroundings that helped me stay afloat when I felt like hibernating.
Since the start of fall, my workload has increased, and this practice continues to benefit me. When I start to feel overwhelmed or discouraged I try to remind myself that you don’t need a reason to bake cookies at 1 a.m., Arboretum runs are cathartic, Cher’s Twitter is a national treasure, I get to sing in an a cappella group with people as dorky as I am, hair is fun to dye, there is always a lady in the lower level of the library that hums Ella Fitzgerald, Pokémon is on Netflix, I get to work with talented editors and writers at The California Aggie, string theory is so cool, I have two names which is weird and fun, “there’s always money in the banana stand,” I have the most amazing friends anyone could hope for, Beyoncé exists and there’s always something new to learn no matter what, among many other things to remember that make me happy to be alive.
I’m not saying focusing on random positives in life is a solution to all stresses, nor am I claiming that this works all the time, because it doesn’t. I’m human and some days are harder than others, but in the end the more I reflect on small bits of happiness, no matter how seemingly insignificant they may appear, the more I find I’m able to conjure up far more positive days than negative ones and am able to truck through the temporary rough patches toward the light at the end of the tunnel. As long as I know there is a lot of beautiful stuff – like my friend Jack-Jack – in the world, I know everything will be A-OK. It’s all about the little things, guys.
If you too would like to “invest” money in the banana stand, you can shoot AKIRA OLIVIA KUMAMOTO an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet her @akiraolivia.