I’m a big believer in appreciating the little things in life. After all, those grand, important things that, presumably, make life worth living – falling in love, watching your dreams come true, going to Disneyworld – they all happen so rarely, and sure, that means that we enjoy them all the more when they do arrive at long last, but still, we need to find some semblance of joy in the meantime.
So what sort of little things am I talking about?
Things like the way that black ink from a pen marks the white paper so smoothly.
Like the way that hot, summer sun feels as it warms your exposed skin.
And, most recently for me, like the experience of living so close to an airport.
I have been living in my university’s residence for about four years now (with the occasional break for weekends and summer, of course), and one of my favourite parts of it has always been watching the airplanes as they pass overhead.
I enjoy walking through campus and then suddenly catching the sound of that great, mechanical roar, announcing the arrival of another airplane. I enjoy being able to look up and see it there, that great miracle of science that we honestly don’t appreciate enough. That giant, metal tube built by human hands and capable of crossing whole countries, whole continents, in mere hours.
I enjoy lying in bed at night and watching as the collection of lights glide across the inky, black sky. With the darkness concealing the airplane itself, it’s easy to pretend that I’m witnessing a UFO, that I’m going to be the first human to come in contact with an alien race. In those moments, I like to imagine what the aliens flying that spacecraft must be like: are they friendly, merely visiting our planet out of curiosity or in search of aid, or are they hostile? And, in either case, do they like what they see? And when I inevitably meet with them, will they be able to understand a word I’m saying?
But what I enjoy the most are the moments, just moments, where I’m laying beneath my window, and suddenly I hear that familiar mechanical roar, and I see that miraculous metal tube gliding through the clouds above me, and all I can imagine is that I’m on that plane. I picture myself in those seats, my long legs cramped up by the guy who leaned his chair back far enough that it bothers me but not far enough that it helps him relax at all, my stomach growling and finding no solace in the tiny packet of cookies and pretzels that the flight attendants are handing out. But at the end of the day, it’s alright, because as uncomfortable as it is, it’s only going to be for a short while. Sometime soon, whether it be twenty minutes or twenty hours from now, this plane is going to land and then I’m going to be somewhere – and I don’t know where.
Maybe this plane is going to New York City, where I can stand in the middle of Times Square, that place that I’ve seen so often in movies but never in real life. And at long last, I can stand there and look around and I can feel like a real artist, as though doing so means that I pass some initiation I didn’t know was required.
Or maybe this plane is going to England, that country that produced some of my favourite writers. Maybe I’ll step out from the airport, take in a deep breath, and discover something in the air – something that inspired Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein. Something that inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to write Lord of the Rings. Something that inspired J.K. Rowling to write Harry Potter. Maybe, once I take in that air shared by some of my favourite writers, maybe then I’ll create the most magnificent story.
Or maybe this plane is going to France instead, and I can play the role of the tourist. I can enjoy the food that I’ve heard raved about so often, and I can take in the sights of the Louvre or the Moulin Rouge or the Notre Dame.
In those moments, without even moving from my dorm room, I find myself struck by just how massive the world is, and by just how accessible it it. All that I need to do is as those tiny people, sitting amongst the clouds in their giant, metal tube have done: board a plane and get gone. True, in order to do that I need money and time, but I’m young. There’s still so much ahead of me, and so much opportunity.
It’s in moments like that, those little, insignificant moments, where I’m glad to be alive.