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Thursday, October 18, 2012

finding joy in small things

I'm very excited to share Finding Joy's first guest post! Sara from Fabularz: In Pursuit of Fabulous is sharing her thoughts on finding joy in small things.  Sara is a St. Louisan/Bostonian who loves everything international and fabulous!  I know Sara from high school and have always loved her small but mighty nature.  Enjoy!

I cried when my pediatrician told me I wouldn’t get any taller. But he was right. I was always the smallest kid in my class, and I’m still the smallest person in my family. I believe our physical characteristics do a lot to shape our personalities and attitudes. The really short kids usually grow up self-conscious and a bit defensive (the really tall kids probably feel this to an extent, too, or really any kid who stands out for a noticeable difference). It took me a while to shift my attitude from “small as weakness” to “small as strength.” But it turns out that being small is pretty great, and particularly the concept of feeling small has huge lessons and benefits on the way I live my life.

But you don’t have to be below-average height to feel the strength of small. Here are three major areas where feeling small is most meaningful in my life:

Feeling small in a big world
I travel a lot, for work and for fun, and I surround myself with people who plan on stepping foot on every continent. My favorite part about travel, equal to the joy of learning about new cultures, is the feeling of modesty it gives me. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our own personal drama. The best remedy for that? Going face-to-face with a breathtaking mountain range. Going to a massive religious structure belonging to a faith you’re unfamiliar with. Going to a city where you are completely illiterate and need to rely on sign language or pictures to express what you want. It’s humbling. Compared to the magnitude of natural wonders and the dizzying flow of an unfamiliar culture, our squabbles seem minuscule and even irrelevant. Travelling makes me feel small, and it feels great.

Having a small space in a big city
I have always lived in cities, some of them massive (Beijing) and some of them medium (St. Louis). One of my favorite parts of cities is the way people manipulate small spaces to create their homes. We live in a society where “big” is glorified – superstores, mega-mansions, and cars that could double as boats – but living in the tight quarters of a city makes you question all that. I am forced to be considerate of my neighbors who would not be happy with a noisy party and of my fellow commuters who have to share space on a packed train. I have to think about every purchase I make, because we don’t have customized walk-in closets or garages to store the occasionally used things. And I like it that way. If I find myself wishing I had more storage space or fewer neighbors, I remind myself that stockpiling stuff is not freeing but disabling, and that sharing small spaces makes me more tolerant, selfless, and cooperative.  

Small judgments make big impressions
A question that I still get a lot from people is, always awkwardly, “…but how old are you?” My height, weight, and I guess youthful looking face make people think I’ve barely graduated high school. This used to make me feel annoyed and insecure. But as I went through the graduate school and job search process, I realized this was actually an advantage: the younger people think I am, the more impressed they are when they find out all that I have accomplished! Acknowledging my smallness ends up making me feel more confident. But more importantly, it’s taught me a valuable lesson about how I treat others: replace assumptions with conversations. Just as I don’t want people jumping to conclusions about me, I cannot let my assumptions get in the way of my new relationships. If your knowledge is small, grow it.

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