I don’t like surprises. Never did. My life is filled with so many unexpected things, x and y and z factors, that I feel if I have more, I’m not going to be able to handle it. Even as a child I never liked the infamous jack-in-the-box that my friends adored. I like things neat, planned out systematically, wrapped with a ribbon on top.
But this is the kind of surprise that shatters long-held belief, that rearranges the world and reduces it to one moment in time. The kind that disrupts my plans for the future, that throws an important factor to my equations that I simply can’t ignore. There are some instances where I enjoy the unexpected. As you might expect, it is when the surprises are good, when they are in sync with what I want. It might not be as grand as winning a million dollars, but they make up those little, everyday joys that gives us strength and hope that, maybe, in the future, the surprises that come along might not all be storms and hurricanes but little bouquets of flowers or glimpses of the sun behind heavy clouds.
There is one moment in time that I find to be a perfect example of this. I had expected the worst, and gotten something good instead. It might be small, mundane, insignificant, but for me it painted the future into something beautiful and hopeful.
It was 2007. I was on my way to school, which took about an hour by car. There was a heavy rain outside and I couldn’t see what was around me like I always did. The rain smeared the landscape into ugly blobs of color that made me want to close my eyes and forget. Every tree was a trembling stick, every building a sad gray block, and every person I saw braving the rain a reminder, not of my own luck at having a car, but of how bad the day was. I had this belief that when things went bad before ten in the morning, things would get worse as the day went on. I can safely say that I was not a happy person when I arrived at school.
I sat next to my friend in class. We talked a bit, but she noticed that I wasn’t feeling it, and as was her custom, went away to mingle with everybody else. I sat leaning against the wall, felt it press uncomfortably into my shoulder blades, and had no intention of moving. I could imagine what I looked like: a child with a gaze that warned everyone to stay away; unmoving, unsmiling, a statue that no one would care to approach.
This made it all the more surprising when a girl suddenly plopped on the seat in front of me. She had hair ridiculously long, sleek and black, reaching her waist. She was the girl that my friends and I talked about a lot…we found her to be “too much; too friendly.” I glared at her and sent a mental message to go away, but she merely smiled wider and said something that, in an instant, made my day.
Here’s the thing: I’m an artist, and back in my middle school, people who could draw were regarded as champions. “Draw me” and “draw this” followed me wherever I go. I felt misunderstood and a little annoyed, because when I refused their requests they would get mad. I longed for someone to understand. So when this girl said, “I hear you draw. I do, too!” it came as a wonderful surprise. We quickly became friends, and even now, seven years later, she is still one of my best friends.
It’s as simple as finding someone who can draw, or realizing that the guy at the coffee shop gave me extra biscuits with my order, or seeing a flower bloom in the cracks of the pavement. For everyone else, this list of little surprises might be silly, but they are wonderful to me. They are tiny building blocks that I hold on to, vehemently, because I can contract them to form the picture of a beautiful future.
The other kind of surprise can easily destroy this illusion. With one mistaken swerve of the steering wheel or a few sentences in a health report, these little surprises would come crashing down. And the frightening thing is, the storm is ever-present in our life. But when I find things to be unbearable, when I start wondering why I even bother going through this torment we call ‘life’, I try to remember these little surprises. I bring to mind these silly joys and replay them in my mind.
I don’t know why reliving these moments gives me strength and hope, but I guess that’s part of the surprise. It comes as a packet with the confusion and infinite questions, and there is no sense in trying to understand because we just can’t. I know; I’ve tried, and no matter how much I search for the reason why I felt so happy because of the memory of seeing someone hand out free cookies, it’s always, and shall remain, out of reach.
But here’s the surprise…when I think about these things, I realize that life isn’t bad. It can’t be Hell, it can’t be torture, when there are good things happening. They might be small (because what are the odds of winning the lottery, anyway?) but they exist, and that is enough.