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Rediscovering Joy

RWC tutor Daniela Gutierrez asked fellow tutors how they define joy and what their past and present experiences with joy are.

Entry: November 8, 2022

“I opened a window to let the fresh air in my room. There are no clearer skies than after it has rained. There is no laughter as sweet [than] after the sadness and pain has subsided. Looking up at the [night] sky …, I saw a glint shimmering amongst the hazy clouds.”

A little more than a year has passed since I etched those words into a blackleather-bound notebook of how a little rain brought me hope as I traversed a difficult time. Like any college student, life’s mishaps and tragedies intervene and impede the usual diligence and dedication we owe to our studies and our futures. However,howcanonefocusonthefuturewhenone’slife seems devoid of any hope or happiness in the present? In times of struggle, many components and factors help us navigate difficult times in our lives. Joy, the central element in this paper jam, played a crucial role in surpassing these moments.

When asked what joy is, the only answer I have reserved for it is that it is the opposite of what it juxtaposes. If happiness is the opposite of sadness, the image of a kid losing their dog won't come to mind when thinking of joy. If the stark contrast of white is black, one wouldn't think of their favorite sports team losing the season's biggest match. Instead, when one thinks of joy, delightful images, and accompanying sensations emerge from our psyche. Although this answer may appear vague, there is a reason for this. Before the reason becomes clearer, there are three questions I, as the writer, must ask you concerning joy. The following questions are: what brought you joy as a kid, how do you define joy, and what brings you joy today? Although there was no mention of any specific event or thing that generally brings most people joy, we all had a unique image of what joy is in our psyche.

I invite you to contemplate what joy is to you in these moments and how you can create it in your own life. Even more daring, I propose you make a Joy list. What is a joy list? A joy list is like making your Christmas gift list. Every letter and list are unique to the individual and following the same note, so is your Things-that-Bring-me Joy-List. Whether it be a cup of chocolate, rewatching old childhood movies, or sharing laughter with a loved one, joy is within your grasp. Your personalized joy list is meant to grow as the rings on a tree as the years progress.

Joy is the essence of life, for it gives us something to hope for, form connections with others, and, most importantly, the courage to live. Just like the joy and hope the rain brought to me afterward, these reasons and things can keep you cozy and warm this season, making a living every bit worthwhile.

Below I have asked three of my fellow colleagues, including my own, of what brought joy to them as a kid, as well as how they define joy and what brings joy to them today. Please take joy in reading our responses.

Jackie Arriaga -

What brought you joy as a kid? My greatest joy growing up was going over to my cousin’s house and spending an entire day with them, playing outside and using our imagination. We would run around the street chasing and taunting one another, go to the store on the corner and spend all our money on candy, and then, when it was finally time to go inside, put on a talent show and prance around the living room with our ballet shoes. After we would dance our little hearts out, the smell of my aunt’s enchiladas would fill the house, and we would all gather around the kitchen table to get a taste. Although we are all grown up now and no longer play tag with each other, these memories will always be my favorite because anytime I was with my cousins, I was at my happiest.

How do you define joy? Joy is often described as a feeling of great pleasure or satisfaction that comes from success or a sense of well-being, and though I agree with this statement, I believe that joy is not merely an emotion, but a choice and mindset to respond with inner contentment to external circumstances. It is the ability to have a positive attitude and still be thankful even in the midst of turmoil. Therefore, joy is a spiritual practice and not something we accomplish by our own efforts or that can be manufactured.

What brings you joy today? Finding time alone to play the piano brings me joy today. I have been learning and playing the piano since I was eight but never fully appreciated the opportunity that was given to me because, as a young girl, I always wanted to play with my friends instead of having to sit down and be still. However, now that I am an adult with more responsibilities, life can sometimes get overwhelming with the feeling that I am being pulled in every direction, and in these stressful moments, I have realized the joy I get from taking time to myself and allowing music to carry me away.

Jannette Rodriguez -

What brought you joy as a child? Growing up, I lived in an apartment complex with my mother and 3 siblings. My siblings and I are close in age with my sister being a year older than me and my brother 2 years younger. On my apartment block, there were many kids close to our age so we would all gather and play kickball at the basketball court near my apartment. It brought me joy to run around and play. I wasn’t that good but during this time, but I was a fast runner. I remember racing these kids and always winning. We also played cops and robbers when it got dark. The game was basically hide and seek but the only difference was that there were teams. We would chase each other all throughout my apartment complex with the only rule being we can’t leave the apartments. We all eventually grew up and went our separate ways, but I still think of this moment in my life and laugh at how carefree everything was.

How do you define joy? Joy to me is something that has made a positive impact in your life where you can just reminisce on the moment and smile.

What brings you joy today? Joy, today, comes in the form of anything that could heal my inner-child. Money was a struggle growing up so now that am financially independent, I spend it on forming a happy memory. For example, going to the theaters, buying stuffed animals, and all the things little me wanted but could not afford.

Daniela Gutierrez -

What brought you joy as a kid? Before I developed a deep love for expressing myself through writing or even learned to put a sentence together, I expressed myself through music as a kid. I loved to sing; I sang in the shower, after coming home from school, while cleaning, and in any moment of silence. One of my favorite toys was a rainbow-colored xylophone. I felt the frustration of yearning to compose a coherent melody rather than a cacophonous orchestra of noises. Music brought me immense joy with its diverse harmonies and feelings.

What does joy mean to you? I definejoyasone’sactiveengagementwiththe world that surrounds oneself in gratitude and appreciation. It is a constant effort, and at times, a strain, to seek how I can make this day special or unique. It is to be mindful of anything lovely; when I see a flower or the sky before me, inwardly, I become aware of it and give thanks that I can experience it. This can also include trying new food, listening to new music, etc., that I have the privilege to experience.

What brings you joy today? On an everyday basis, the joy list keeps growing. On a deeper level, my inward joy emerges from the love and care I receive from others. This keeps me anchored even on my worst days. Of these people, the whole RWC has a special place in my heart, and in bold letters, it forms a part of my Things-That-Bring-Me-Joy-List.

Hannah Kleinkramer -

What brought you joy as a child? Reflecting on my childhood, the most joyful moments were those spent with the people I loved. Watching Gilligan's Island with my sister, learning the ukulele from my dad, and singing Fleetwood Mac on family road trips are cherished memories filled with music, laughter, and joy.

How do you define joy? Joy is in small things. It appears on a still morning alongside a cup of tea. It is found in handwritten notes and smiles between friends. It arrives in laughter –in moments shared. Joy is found in love and fellowship with others.

What brings you joy today? I often think about that little girl who laughed so easily. Today, I am the same. I still find joy in dueting on the ukulele with my dad, watching goofy reruns with my older sister, and singing in the car at the top of my lungs. The older I get, the more I appreciate the little moments of joy found between friends. Ones of sharing smiles and sweet memories. Ones spent in comfortable silence. Ones spent in laughter and understanding.That is to say, quality time with the people I love brings me immense joy.

Final Thoughts

Finding joy amongst the hazy clouds in search of a glimmer of hope is possible if we become active seekers. Take Anotoine De Sainte-Exupery’s words to heart: “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

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