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In big things and small. In our day-to-day routines and more special moments. In old memories and new experiences. In songs and books. In the things we do for ourselves, the things we do for others and the things others do for us. These are just a few of the ways in which we can find joy in our lives.
A student achieves a major academic success, a young couple buys their dream home, a retiree escapes to a tropical haven. Each person feels elated, incandescently happy. Then a phenomenon called hedonic adaptation takes hold, and the wonderful feeling subsides over time.
I watched as the USPS truck sped out of our sleepy cul-de-sac. I scurried up to the mailbox, flung open the lid and ripped open the letter. It was finally here, and I was in. I had been accepted to Duke University’s Talent Identification Program (TIP). I would get to spend three weeks of the summer on a college campus with other seventh graders. The only caveat was it was an educational camp, but that was the part I was most excited to experience: learning at a college with other kids my age.
I’m going to be honest, when I heard the fall magazine was going to center on the theme of joy, I didn’t think I’d have an article to write. Being a Hopkins student is stressful enough at the best of times, let alone during the chaos that has been 2020. I’ve been all kinds of overwhelmed, and I’m not alone; according to a survey conducted by the University of Chicago, American happiness is the lowest it has been in 50 years.
Three Jane Austen novels deep into quarantine, I found the pattern. I glanced out of my bedroom window, situated at the front of my house facing the street, then back to my copy of (the extremely underrated) Mansfield Park and back again. In quarantine, one of the first things I noticed upon returning home to my locked down state were the walkers. I have lived in the same neighborhood and stared out that front window all my life, but the pandemic brought with it an entirely new view. At any given point during the day, a flood of people walked by, usually ones I had genuinely never seen before.
I’ve always loved nonsense. Nonsense words. Nonsense phrases and rhymes. Nonsensical conversations. So fittingly, my favorite poem as a child was Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll. I always loved how the words meant nothing but I still knew what they were saying. In Jabberwocky, sound plays the starring role. We can’t imagine the “slithy toves” without it. I’ve always pictured the setting as a slimy, murky bog with a monster hidden in the mist, waiting to pounce on a passing traveler.
My instinctual idea of joy mimics the physicality of the word itself: a short burst, a dynamic syllable emerging from the mundane sentence around it, full of energy and brief color like a small dancer lifting her head and jumping in the air for pure love of movement. It’s akin to ecstasy, to giddy happiness. I find this version of joy in moments that overtake me, when it feels like everything is falling into place, like I’ve finally found my nook in the tableau of my life.
The hardest part of doing school at home for me is not being able to differentiate when I should be doing schoolwork and when I should be using time for myself. What ends up happening most days is that I spend hours in my bedroom, alternating between lying on the floor or sitting hunched over my desk, and either procrastinate by going on YouTube or half-heartedly read assigned texts. As unhealthy as it sounds, there are days when I feel like I get more light from my laptop screen than from the sun.
While I was home this past summer, the rest of my family started watching Schitt’s Creek. Having already seen the series and loved it myself, I started rewatching it with them as they watched it for the first time. It was during this rewatch that I fell even more in love with the show and realized that it was the perfect antidote to all of the chaos happening in the world right now.
You know that feeling when you look around Hop and feel incredibly detached from what life was like at home? Then your mind shifts back, and you remember your home friends, your family, your spot on the couch and that one food you love that just doesn’t taste the same in Baltimore (currently missing good pizza). It's a warm nostalgia trip that I think everyone experiences just a little bit. Every once in a while, I really crave that warmth of home, so I find an incredibly legal website to watch movies and throw on My Cousin Vinny.
“We decorated our Club Penguin house for Halloween. Y’all should see it.”
In the midst of a global pandemic, it’s important to find and appreciate the little sources of joy in our lives. And not only that, but the cozy fall season usually calls for one thing:
Coming back home on March 12 was a very surreal, and ultimately very boring, experience. The final three days of school that were supposed to launch us into spring break were instead filled with long hours where I spent more time on YouTube and Hulu than should be legal. As my eyes glazed over during my 200th consecutive episode of Chopped, I knew there had to be something more to this life of captivity than met the eye. Then I began the chefsta (shorthand for chef Instagram, of course).
I took a class this semester on Emily Dickinson for a very simple reason: I, like many people my age, was really into John Green in high school. Green, who is really into Dickinson, introduced me to what has been my favorite poem since 2014 — “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers.” And since that was my favorite poem, I thought a class entirely about Dickinson might be kind of neat. So here I am.
My mom’s name is Ellyn Joy Weisfeldt Margulies. From the day she was born, she was stuck with joy being a part of her life whether she wanted it to be or not. As a consumer of mass media, I know that the classic response to such a prescriptive name would be to live in lifelong defiance of her so-called destiny, ultimately coming to begrudgingly accept the attribute that was bestowed upon her. But not my mom. With defiant fervor, my mom embraces joy as a defining principle. Her primary goals are living her life joyfully, bringing other people joy and looking to the future through a lens of joy.
Science and love are thought of as two concepts that exist virtually separate from one another. While science uses facts and data to conduct experiments for the purpose of explaining the paradigms of the world, love is a feeling that is unpredictable and unique to each person experiencing it. Never mind the scientists who try to attribute love solely to a series of biochemical reactions in our brains — we know that that isn’t all there is to love. The 36 questions, however, are an idea that brings both science and love together.
For as long as I can remember, I have always loved to sing — when nobody’s around, that is. I frequently host late-night karaoke parties for one, wail in the shower like nobody hears me and hum in the kitchen when I’m alone.
In my freshman year at Hopkins, I did my first service project through Baltimore First. Every other week I would visit Carmine Gardens, tend to the crops and maintain the landscape for sustainable growth. I befriended Hopkins alumni who taught me about the value of civic engagement and working with the community. I also learned how to use gardening tools to shape the land and how to design a sustainable and affordable community garden.
“What a fkn noob.”