Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.
- Vincent Van Gogh
Think about it, what small thing happened today, just today, that you didn’t stop to take notice of? What if something happened that you overlooked, that could’ve been a lot more important than you realized?
It’s the small things in life that matter. Sure, we all have big events that are easily memorable. But it’s the series of little things that serve as the glue in between the big events that truly add depth and meaning to our lives.
That’s what my eighth grade experience has been. A series of small things that brought about an evolution from a person that’s dreaded writing since I’ve know my ABCs, to somebody that is thinking about writing professionally, or at least teaching writing.
How exactly did this profound shift of mind happen? Was there some huge “Aha!” moment where I suddenly woke up and realized I wanted to be a writer? Hardly, quite the opposite indeed. It happened slowly, as some people would call “baby steps.” It actually didn’t even start with that first step into 8th Grade English class. It started in my last unit of Integrated Studies – Poetry. But that unit didn’t last too terribly long, not even long enough for our teacher to get into the mechanics of poetry. I suppose poetry is not exactly at the top of the list of fun things to read for the typical middle school boy.
Summer came and I took a long break from writing anything. Looking back, when it came to our first assignments in 8th Grade English, I wasn’t paying attention to anything other than getting the assignments done. I kept going on through the Fall Term, constructing paragraph after paragraph. Broad Theme, Narrow Theme, One/Two Punch, Smoking Gun, Head and Heart, Get Out or Get On! These became household words as I cranked out each rubric. All the while failing to see the small things that were leading me through this writing metamorphosis.
And now, I’m sitting in my kitchen writing my final exam. That’s how fast life goes by and how much you can change in nine months. So much has happened.
This past weekend, I was listening to one of my favorite bands, The Killers. One of their songs, Mr. Brightside, reminded me of how small things can turn into something huge. The song is about a man who thinks his girlfriend is cheating on him, but he also isn’t sure it isn’t just his imagination getting the best of him. The lyrics in one of the song’s refrains are:
It started out with a kiss
How did it end up like this
it was only a kiss
it was only a kiss.
He’s referring to how his relationship started with a small thing, and how it has now taken over his life completely, to the point of obsession. This is similar to how my writing started with that kiss of poetry, and has evolved into a passion.
Later that same day, probably with the song still stuck in my head, I sat down to complete an assignment for English. We were told to write down 20 different memories from our eighth grade year. I struggled at first to remember all the way back to the first day of school, but once I got going, I jotted down a few things pretty quickly. I listed memories of things that I hadn’t even thought about when they happened. I remembered the good and the bad, some of which caused feelings of emotion that almost brought me to the brink of tears. Almost.
But when I counted up my memories I noticed that I only had fifteen. The first thought that came to my mind was that not that much worth remembering happened in my 8th Grade year at Fenn. But then I realized that there were a ton of things I hadn’t remembered at that time as I was rushing through life and just trying to get through the year. I didn’t stop to remember the small things. I should’ve, but I didn’t. That realization helped me to complete the assignment. In the metacognition that was also a part of the assignment, it hit me. I would do my essay on the importance of the small things in life that create memories. As I wrote in my metacognition:
Small things that can easily not even get noticed, and too quickly forgotten. The small things like talking with friends and sharing memories with those friends. Even having a tough time can be fun, when you look back at them, and seeing how stupid you were or how stupid the other person was.
Like Mr. Brightside, I’m also finding that relationships can make you think about the small things. The other day, my girlfriend was able to come to our track meet. She’s a runner, and some of her classmates from Nashoba Brooks were competing too, but she is coming back from an injury and couldn’t run this Spring. So it was special to me that she was able to come to the meet. I’m sure it was hard for her, being an athlete and not being able to run!
I collapsed next to her after running a 400 meter leg in a relay, gasping for air. She and I just sat there for a little bit while I regained my wind, talking about our week. And I notice something. She cared that I had a really rough math test that day. If I were to talk to most of my friends about the test, they’d most likely just tell me “tough luck,” and go on with their day. To her, the small things that we can connect over actually matter. And when she told me about a classmate of hers freaking out in her school, it mattered to me. When someone cares about you, whether it’s a parent, a teacher, a good friend, someone that you’re in a relationship with, or even a family pet, it feels like you have a whole army behind you.
As I think back, I remember many times in my life where I’ve had to appreciate the small things. I remember back in fourth grade, the head of lower school started to call out names of boys who held the door and acted politely. This fueled a passion for holding doors open for my grade. That memory makes me want to have a little contest for all the school’s divisions so that people don’t just go through life not appreciating things to the fullest.
I remember small things about my old school in Connecticut. The cobblestones in the courtyard that could jump up and trip you if you weren’t paying attention. The colors at lunch that we had to choose from to have a complete plate.
But mostly, I remember the different assignments that I’ve had this year in several of my classes that have each played a small role in bringing about this awakening in me about writing. I remember the first hero cycle, which I did on the movie The Karate Kid. I remember the reflections on The Odyssey and the Epic Poem. I remember the endless blog and journal posts. I even remember how I didn’t get as good a grade on an essay on Animal Farm as I had hoped, because I used what the teacher described as a narrative style that was distracting. Maybe I would have fared better with that style in English class. It didn’t fly in Social Studies. And writing reports for Lab Science required a different reflective writing style altogether.
So as I finish 8th Grade and begin 9th Grade, and then high school, I’ll try to pay attention to the small things that continue to contribute to my passion for writing. I’ll try to view them less as individual assignments and more as collective opportunities to express myself and build my portfolio.
Because small things happen often enough in your life. Small things add up. And when they do, it’ll feel like your life is far richer than you probably realize. If you just take the time to notice them.