71: The Small Things

71: The Small Things

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness

The Small Things

Why not learn to enjoy the little things — there are so many of them.

~Author Unknown

I dated Dan for two and a half years, through the end of high school and my first year into college. Like any other naïve teenager in love, I hadn’t anticipated that someday we’d break up, so when this happened just before my sophomore year of college I was devastated. I clung to my feelings for him, and tried masochistically to maintain a friendship with him through the semester that followed. It hurt worse than I could have imagined seeing him go out with other girls and pretending to be happy for him. As I sank further and further into a solitary depression, my friends could see that I was turning into an entirely different person. Weeks turned into months, summer turned into fall, and as the air chilled and the last leaves fell I began to seriously consider transferring to another city where I couldn’t torture myself anymore.

On one of my particularly down afternoons — one of those gray days in early winter where even nature itself seems to be in low spirits — I met up with my good friend Jon for lunch. We sat in the dimly lit second-floor common room, eating sandwiches from the nearby Wisemiller’s deli (a student favorite, affectionately nicknamed Wisey’s). I unloaded my troubles on him, and, like the patient and caring person he is, he listened sympathetically and gave me a shoulder to cry on. He also gave me what I later realized is some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten:

“Do something each day that makes you smile, no matter how tiny or how dumb that thing is.”

“I’m going to need an example,” I said.

“When I feel down, I call and place a pickup order at Wisey’s. When they ask me what name the order is under, I say ‘Pants.’”

“... Pants?”

“Yep. There’s usually a pause on the other end of the line, and then they ask me to repeat. By the time I pick up the order and announce myself as ‘Pants,’ I can’t stop smiling.”

I’m fully aware of how odd and insignificant this may sound, but it worked where nothing else had. The next day around lunchtime I called and placed the order. I hadn’t even said the word “Pants” before I felt a huge and genuine grin spread across my face for the first time in months. I’m still not even sure why this works so well, but it was definitely worth it to take the time out of my day to do something silly, solely for the purpose of making myself smile.

This quickly became my go-to tactic when I needed a quick grin. I changed it up a bit, sometimes ordering as Harry Potter or other fictional characters, and slowly started to get over Dan and climb out of the slump I had fallen into. I began to find other small pick-me-ups to add into my daily life: letting myself eat Spaghetti-O’s out of the can for dinner, watching the sun set over the city from the benches on the rooftop of my dorm building, keeping a baggie of peanuts in my coat pocket for feeding the squirrels...

The best advice I can give to anyone who needs that extra boost on an off day is simply to find your own version of “Pants.” Do something tiny, something silly, something relaxing, something pointless... most importantly, do something every day that makes you smile.

~Michelle Vanderwist

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