A close friend of mine once told me that everyone’s a collector, and someone who claims they aren’t is someone who doesn’t yet realize what they’re collecting. I’m a collector, of sorts; not only do I keep memories and photographs, just like my dad, but I’m rather fond of old books! And I’m talking old, as in you-almost-don’t-want-to-touch-them old, their-binding-is-in-leather-and-gold old, you-sneeze-just-looking-at-them old, printed-before-your-great-grandparents-were-even-born old.
I could say it was my father who got me started along this path, what with his love for antiques and maps, but honestly, I believe it was my grandfather. Every summer my family travels out to St. Louis to see my grandparents, and every year I must spend at least 20, 30 minutes in my grandfather’s study admiring his collection. You see, Grandpa is a collector too. He collects TIME magazines! He has every issue published since 1980, some still in their plastic mailing covers.
Collecting these books wasn’t just a way for my dad and I to bond (although that was the way it started); owning books like these gave me a sense of responsibility and a feeling of connectivity to the generations before me, especially my grandpa. As one of my favorite poets says, “the beautiful thing about reading old books, is realizing all your struggles, aren’t a ‘you’ thing but a ‘human’ thing.” My collection is one of my prides and joys in life, and entrusting my 14 year old brother not to sell them on Ebay was one of the hardest things about coming to college!
My dad recognized and understood that. He even had to talk me out of packing a suitcase of just books (it was later turned into the shoe-case)! In the end, we compromised on me bringing only my favorite, which is currently on the shelf above my head as I write this.
Little did I know that he had his own plan! My mother snuck a National Geographic Calendar into my suitcase, my little brother hide a 8” by 12” picture of himself (“so you don’t forget what I look like!”), and my father hide a special edition of TIME magazine. It’s called “The Science of Happiness: New Discoveries For a More Joyful Life”. On the cover are those ridiculous iPhone emojis that you just can’t help but smile at, complete with the sunglasses “cool guy”, a very interesting looking winky face, and the heart eye emoji that cannot contain his feelings of love inside his head. My favorite would be the smiley face that looks like it’s trying to hug you (complete with jazz hands)!
The magazine was interesting, to say the least. I often refer back to it when I’m in a bit of a rut, or when an exam gets me down. One of the most powerful sentiments that I often find reciting to myself is on the first page: “Most folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be”. I can hear my dad and grandpa saying that, in their calming voices. I can feel them hugging me, just like that little emoji on the cover whenever I’m sad. I can even smell the dust and paper that both Grandpa and I have from our collections.
One of the wisest pieces of advice that this edition offers is to “find the activity that allows you to settle your mind, emotions and desires so that you become grounded in the present.” For me, that’s reading one of my old books. It’s curling up next to the fire with a cup of cocoa, my puppies at my feet and book in hand. It’s also Face Timing with my mom and brother and seeing them compare who’s taller, walking down Military Walk at night when it’s all lit up, seeing a still sky and thinking, “it’s a great day for flying”.
Happiness comes in many different forms. It can sneak up on you when you least expect it. I never thought I’d be happy to wake up at 7:30 in the morning, but when it means that I can meet my best friend for pancakes, I’d do it every day. I never expected to be so happy that the temperature can get below 50 deep in the heart of Texas, but every time it does down here, I smile and wonder what my family is up to back home in Connecticut.
I’ve found my happiness, and it exists all over. I encourage you, with these final few weeks of 2016 left, to think about all the things that make you happy. Whether they’re little things, like drinking a bottle of chocolate milk when you’re stressed, or big things, like traveling 400 miles to see your sister for Thanksgiving, reflect on your happy things, and then keep doing them. Life is too short not to have your own grand collection. We are all collectors, after all, and joyful memories make the most wonderful collections.