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Happy Accidents

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Back in eighth grade, I used to categorize events in my life as “good” or “bad.” For example, a “good” event happened when my parents said I could spend the night over at my friend’s house on a weekday. A “bad” event was the time I misspelled the number nineteen as “n-i-g-h-t-e-en” at the Oktibbeha County Spelling Bee. I was blessed, however, with a particular “good” event that same year. I met Annie.

Annie always tied her curly brunette locks in a ponytail with gaudy bright pink ribbon. A patch of freckles dotted her cheeks so that when she smiled, all of them would curve up a teensy bit. Her favorite outfit consisted of lemon-yellow Converses, tattered denim jeans, and a plaid shirt in every color you could imagine. Whenever Annie spoke, she always seemed to sing her words. Being with her was like being in a real-life musical. Everything about Annie shouted “happy.” We all seem to have that one friend who is always annoyingly happy and cheerful about everything even when the worst possible situations happen to them. And for me, Annie was that friend. I often had to restrain myself from screaming, “Stop being so happy all the time! Failing my math test isn’t a good thing!” But I knew she never meant any harm. To be honest, I was secretly envious of Annie. Everything seemed to come easy to her, like she had the power to ward off “bad events” in her life.

So, it had been a bad Tuesday, to say the least. I think the number of “bad” events for that day totaled three. I had forgotten my English homework at home, and for some reason, the teacher did not buy the excuse that “it blew away in the wind.” My parents also rejected my fervent request to attend a party at Bulldawg Lanes, the local bowling alley, where the popular kids hung out (i.e. freshmen and sophomores). Thirdly, my piano lesson was immediately after school, an automatic “bad event.” For a dramatic, hormonal eighth-grader, it was indeed the end of the world. “I don’t know how things could get any worse,” I wailed to Annie. She replied with a smile as usual, “Oh, they could be worse, you know.” Feeling annoyed, I snapped back with sarcasm, “Thanks a lot, Annie. That was so extremely helpful.” Unfazed, she said, “Oh, cheer up, Catherine. Just remember that life is a series of happy accidents.” At first, I brushed off her advice with rolling eyes and annoyed sighs. It stuck with me for a while, but it wasn’t until a year later that I seriously thought about what Annie had said.

I had always looked at the outcome of any situation as “good” or “bad.” However, I realize now that “bad” events do not necessarily mean my life is bad or unhappy. True happiness lies in living and learning, almost like a process, not a goal. I figure that one of the biggest illusions of life is the fact that I have any control over it. Sure, I can control what grade I make on my math test or whether to eat fried chicken or tacos for lunch. But, essentially, the only real power I have is how I choose to see the world. I view every situation, whether it’s considered “good” or “bad,” as an opportunity: to take advantage of the moment. Annie doesn’t know it, but she gave me the best advice I have ever been given. My eighth-grade self would be appalled at how I strive to be like Annie now – that annoyingly happy, go-lucky girl who views life as a series of happy accidents.





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