You’re seeing the wrong “little things”.

Anyone who has ever traveled by airplane can understand the frustration that can come with it.  The woman ahead of you in the check-in line can’t find her ID.  You’re randomly chosen for a pat-down by the friendly TSA officers.  As you’re rushing to your gate, it seems like everyone in front of you is taking a Sunday stroll.

“Why is it that people turn into gawking idiots in airports when I’m in a hurry?!” indignant, you think to yourself as you weave through the terminal.  Your blood pressure is rising as you arrive at the gate to find your flight is delayed.  For ten minutes more.  Excuses.  It’s delayed an hour now.  Looks like you’re going to have to really rush to catch your connecting flight.  Naturally, you don’t get the window seat you wanted, and you’re sitting next to Mr. Important-Laptop-Using-Businessman-Armrest-Hog (side note: don’t be that guy).

Each little thing builds your frustration.  You’re on the edge of snapping.  In the blur of all the little things, you missed the big picture.  Maybe you’re on your way to visit family or friends, or maybe you’re on a business trip or headed to a conference.  Regardless, you’re on an adventure of one type or another, and if you’re anything like me, flying also gives you the chance to marvel at the physics of airplanes.  How they take off and land safely, gliding through the clouds at dizzying speeds and altitudes, all while you sit (sort-of) comfortably and sip your ginger ale.  It’s almost miraculous.  The point is, you might be letting the little nuisances of your day blind you to what’s important.  You should, in the words of everyone’s favorite princess Elsa, “let it go.”  Here’s why:


You’re seeing the wrong “little things”.

Before my diagnosis with cancer at fourteen, there were a lot of things in my life that took top priority.  Given, I was only fourteen, so naturally my focus changed with maturity, but bear with me.  A few of the things that topped my list of utmost concerns were as follows: getting my hair perfectly straight for school every day, my “Top Friends” on MySpace, and whether I was better than Susie-So-and-So in my ballet class.  Trivial as they seem, with some introspection I would bet you could search out a few fixations in your own life that are equally as meaningless in the long run.  To be clear, there is nothing innately wrong with those things.  It’s important to take pride in your appearance, and while sometimes vicious, my passion for dance is part of what shaped my character (I have no excuse for my social media dependence, but I digress).   My problem is that I was absorbed in what really didn’t matter.

This isn’t to say that only the big things matter.  They do, but on the contrary, I’d like to point out the necessity of noticing the right “little things”.

As I began my cancer treatments, some of the aforementioned pillars that held up my life began to crumble under my feet.  As each clump of hair fell to the floor, with it dropped a little bit of pride and vanity.  As each Friday night passed in a hospital instead of in the bleachers of my high school football stadium, I slowly faded from the social scene.  As each drop of chemotherapy filled my veins, my body began to lose its vigor and capacity to flit across a dance floor.

As each of my accolades fell to the side, I could finally see the true reward in what life’s “little things” really had to offer.  A word of comfort spoken out of sincerity means more than a hollow compliment.  The value of a handful of friends that prove true in hardship are of more value than useless popularity.  The saying, “quality over quantity” absolutely rings true.  The beauty in my love of dance began to transcend the physical.  So much sweeter now was each executed movement, knowing it was a luxury earned back through the pain of illness.  My passion for dance became rooted not in competition, but in true enjoyment.  It’s amazing how poorly placed focus can strangle a healthy perspective and delight in simple things.

As what I saw as my daily necessities disappeared, I realized the joy in simplicity.  A hug from your mom after a bad day—the kind that squeezes the breath out of you and makes you feel unquestionably loved.  An evening of junk food and absolutely nothing with a trusted friend.  Skipping out on a concert for a morning of fishing with your dad.  Taking the time to write letters to your grandma far away.  Having a conversation with a stranger over coffee.  Joy is found in Christ, and it is in Him we are afforded the ability to enjoy all these things.  I think that happiness day-to-day can often be found in these “little things.”  Getting frustrated about things that really don’t matter only smudges the lenses with which you see the good.


Focus on what will last.

At the end of February, my grandma Carol passed away, and my mom and I traveled to Pennsylvania.  During the eulogies, what stuck out the most to me in everyone's recount of their fondness of her was that she always made time for each one of us.  All her daughters, grandkids, nieces, nephews--we all cherished the time she took with us individually (and that's quite a task in an Irish family like mine, trust me).  Serious or silly times, my grandmother understood the importance of the little things.  It's not always the grand gestures.  It's the little moments that somehow transcend years and mean the most. 

My grandmother was not her beauty, though she was beautiful.  She was not her accomplishments, though she had many.  What mattered most to all of us at the end of the day was the sum of all the little moments we had with her that reflected the beautiful, stubborn, vibrant woman that she was, and the way she loved each of us so fiercely. 

I say all that to say this.  Belongings only hold value that we assign to them, beauty fades, trophies tarnish and collect dust, so where is the value in wasting precious time fretting over these things?  Fixating on the little things that grind your gears hurts no one but you.

I challenge you to slow down and consider what trinkets of life you're actually cherishing day to day.  Take time to notice them.  Appreciate them.  Take joy in the fact that there are tiny blessings upon blessings that you overlook every moment.  All it takes is a change of mindset.  I beg you to treasure those moments while you have them.  Make that coffee date with that old friend you've been putting off.  Let your niece give you a makeover even if it's inconvenient.  Bake with your mom.  Allow a small gesture to make your day.  Appreciate the love and goodness that is already in your life, and I can bet that happiness will follow.

Hillary is a lover of science, travel and Jesus Christ whose repertoire includes baking, dance, and defeating cancer three times before turning 21.  She hopes to make an impact for Christ by loving others genuinely.  Recently, she drove cross-country to do chemistry research at Notre Dame.