Learning to appreciate the little things

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One of the things I was most excited for when I was entering college was writing for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s independent student-run newspaper, The Daily Illini. I was so excited by the chance of potentially writing for it that I had inquired about when to apply for a spot on the staff the April before my freshman year, when I still had a month and a half of high school left.

I don’t remember what I expected to do there if I got hired. I knew I wanted to be a sports writer there, but that was the extent of it. I do, however, know that I never expected to cover the women’s gymnastics team. I didn’t know what to expect out of that beat coming into it, but I ended up really enjoying it and found a new appreciation for the sport—so much so that I decided to be the women’s gymnastics beat writer for this past year. The most surprising thing I got out of covering women’s gymnastics for two-straight seasons, though, doesn’t really have anything to do with the sport or my being a sports writer.


★★★

When you cover a women’s gymnastics team for just one season, you can guarantee that “the little things” will be a topic of discussion.

“What have you been working on in practice?”

“Oh, just working on the little things.”

“What are you focusing on fixing for this upcoming meet?”

“The little things, like handstands and stuck dismounts.”

“What was your biggest takeaway from the last meet?”

“It just goes to show how much the little things matter.”

You hear it so much that you come to expect such an answer, and even the gymnasts acknowledge it. But it’s the truth, and that’s why they emphasize it so often.

After hearing those three words so many times, though, I’ve come to the realization that it’s not just in gymnastics that the little things make a huge impact, but it’s also applicable to life itself.

★★★

In my first two years of college, one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is to appreciate what you have—even if it’s just a little.

I don’t have everything with me in college as I had for all of those years before. I don’t have this nice house with my own bedroom, a decent-sized bathroom that I share with just my siblings, various televisions, and a spacious kitchen. I don’t have my family and friends by my side most every day. School is nowhere near as easy as it was for me in high school. I don’t have my favorite teachers to help me when I could need some guidance with school work. I don’t have as much time to tweet, text, and converse with my friends as I used to. I don’t have the freedom to watch NBA basketball as often as I did before, and I miss all of that.

I’ve gotten used to it all, to the general ideas of that past and not being able to have them anymore, but in a closer light, I realize that’s not quite the whole story: I miss the little things about it all because that’s what made it all worth missing.

I miss the comfort of my own home, the familiarity I have with it, the way my home is always cozy regardless of how much time I’ve spent away from it. I miss coming home from school, going from the garage to the confines of my house to find the smell freshly cooked rice still lingering the airways.

I miss how studying and finishing my homework wasn’t so stressful. I miss not needing to spend most weekends doing work for school because it didn’t require that much time.

I miss how easily I was able to schedule my life around Chicago Bulls games and how little I had to miss them play. I miss spending my nights watching NBA games, having lazy Sundays by watching NBA games and wearing a different jersey for each game, being free to tweet about games endlessly with no other obligations pending.

I miss getting to school so early that I could talk to my favorite teacher for a good half hour about various subjects from basketball to school to life, hear the strange music he’d play on his laptop or the latest B.S. Report, find the grammatical errors written on his whiteboard, look up quotes to write on the board because he was too lazy to do it, hear his sarcastic remarks and him teasing me for loving Kirk Hinrich so much.

I miss looking forward to Publications every single day, getting to work on the yearbook for a whole hour, being nitpicky about the layout of everyone’s spreads and making sure all of the elements on there were aligned and spaced evenly and properly, being in the family-like atmosphere that the yearbook staff provided.

★★★

Five days have gone by since I’ve come home from college with half of my undergraduate education completed, and I may not have all of those little things back, but it really is nice having some of it back.

I get to be in my own bedroom, and I get to use a bathroom that has a high-pressure shower and is much more comfortable to be in. I get to be in a nice house with a spacious kitchen, and I get to use a washer and dryer that isn’t used by all of the other residents in my building and full of nasty lint.

Yesterday, I even had the chance to visit my high school and see my favorite teachers. I got to see the latest yearbook and issue of the school paper, and I got to catch up with my favorite teacher as we bonded over our disappointment in the Bulls.

It’s been a nice summer break so far, but I know that, in about three months, I’ll have to leave that all behind for a little while. But it’s for that same reason that I’m going to appreciate the little things I’m fortunate enough to be able to appreciate before it’s all gone. Knowing that there will come a time again when I’ll miss all of that has made me realize just how much I do need to appreciate the little things—not just now, but for the rest of my life—because everything doesn’t last forever.

I need to appreciate what I can now, and it’s the little things that make any person, place, or thing worth missing. Nothing would be worth missing if not for the little things.


 “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” ― John Wooden

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