On my bookshelf sits a little, inconspicuous jar. It’s surrounded by beautiful books, make up brushes, box sets, study equipment and a little bit of mess. It’s quiet, it doesn’t shout out to anyone who sees it, other than it being a little bit hipster because of the blackboard sticker stuck on top. Even now, after having it for so long, it’s strange to me that such a little, seemingly meaningless jar can hold so much joy.
What this little jar is, in reality, is just a jar. But if you were to come and open it up, other than this being a bit of an invasion of privacy (what are you doing in my room anyway??), you would discover it’s basically fit to bursting with little bits of paper.
When I was in fifth or sixth year of high school (which is getting worryingly long ago now) I decided to write down little things that made me happy for a year and put them in a jar, to cheer me up whenever I was feeling down. And like most good ideas I have, I was sure it was probably going to be exciting for a month or so and then ultimately teeter out.
But as you can probably guess, it didn’t. Over the past 4/5 years, I’ve been writing down things that have made me happy and putting them in that jar. And this morning I looked back in that jar for the first time in a few months, and the warm feeling I felt in my stomach was enough to dispel the anxiety that has been rumbling away there for the past few days (exam problems, amiright).
What I didn’t realise when I first wrote down something like ‘I passed my prelims!’ was that I was about to start collecting little forgotten moments of joy in my life, moments that time extinguishes with bigger things and new challenges. Little moments of joy are, I think, what get us through life, and without them I don’t really know where I’d be. A good book on a cold night, making a new friend, laughing with my family – lots of tiny things that are forgotten within even a few weeks. But I wrote so many of them down, and now I might never forget them.
Looking back was honestly like reading a book of my last few years. I found excitement over being accepted into Glasgow Uni of all places, but then even more excitement about accepting my place at Strathclyde. I suddenly remembered the absolute horror of waiting for replies from unis, and the ultimate excitement in realising that yes – I was in, and four years of my life were now planned.
I found the excitement in friendships developing that I had thought would never happen – friendships which, even though I am incredibly thankful for, I do take for granted because they’ve become just like breathing to me. I forget that there was a time when I didn’t know these people, or that I was worried we wouldn’t still be friends when I got to this stage in my life – and the utter joy on those tiny bits of paper at the realisation that I was getting somewhere helps me to relive and re-appreciate the people in my life.
There are moments that I don’t remember, but bits of paper celebrating God’s provision and plan for my life, and though I don’t know why I was celebrating that at the time, it’s beautiful to see that God was working then, as He is now.
I found moments in Daniel and Nathan’s lives which were massive milestones to me – the first time Daniel giggled at me, the first time Nathan smiled when I sung to him. Things that now happen every time I see them, but then were new and big and exciting.
And there are things I’ve taken out of the jar. Plans I had which were never going to happen, some friendships which naturally drifted apart, futures I saw for myself which I know now weren’t what was best for me – but instead of just putting them in the bin, I replace them with the lessons I’ve learned, with what I’ve been taught from the bad times, and what I have now that can go and be remembered in such a happy little jar.
I forget to look in it often when I am feeling down – typical really, but sometimes all I want is to feel a bit sad, and have a good cry. But on a morning like this morning, when all I feel is that studying is never going to end, that I’ll never reach where I want to be – it’s amazing to see the little things that used to make me happy that are now just life to me. It makes me wonder what, in a few years, I’ll be reading from today in my little jar and going…’Oh yeah, that was such a big deal to me back then? That’s normal now.’ There’s something so beautiful to me about the happy things in life becoming the normal things.