It’s the little things

Exploring the small joys in staff and students’ lives


Graphics by Kripa Mayureshwar

MVHS students and staff share the small things that make them happy

Our lives are a collection of happenings — some profound and others seemingly insignificant. But at the end of the day, it’s the little things that count — the split seconds of laughter, the instants of relief — it’s these occurrences that determine our mood and, even more importantly, affect the quality of our life. These little things deserve to be noted and appreciated. Below are responses from six members of the MVHS community about small things that make them happy. 

Robbie Hoffman — His children’s laughter

On a chilly Sunday morning, U.S. history teacher Robbie Hoffman drove to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk with his family: his wife, his wife’s sister, his 2-year-old son and his 4-month-old daughter. Because Hoffman’s sister-in-law was visiting from Montana, he wanted to do some “tourist-y things” with his family. As he got closer to his destination, Hoffman’s stress increased — getting two small kids out of the house to go to an amusement park wasn’t easy, and the traffic and crowds were unpredictable. But most of all, Hoffman was worried about whether his son, Riley, would want to go on the rides at all. 

Because he believed his son to be a “daredevil” of sorts, Hoffman had already paid for a wristband that would allow his son to go on a certain number of rides. As Hoffman and his family waited in line to enter the park, he grew concerned at the possibility that his son wouldn’t want to go on the rides because he wanted his son to have fun at the park. 

Having arrived early, lines were relatively short and the scent of cotton candy and pretzels filled the air as Hoffman and his son waited in line for a rollercoaster. Barely tall enough to ride with a guardian, Riley and his father sat side by side in the small compartment. As the ride started and the wind hit his face, Hoffman heard his son laughing and “having a great time” next to him, and his nervousness dissipated. The ride was relatively short, but the moment Hoffman and his son got off, Riley said, “I wanna go again!” Accompanied by beautiful weather and a light ocean breeze, Hoffman and his family spent the next several hours at the park, leaving late in the afternoon, exhausted but happy.

“[My kids] laughing always [brings me] great joy,” Hoffman said. “Seeing [Riley] laugh and just be outside, enjoy himself and be a kid was great … As a parent, you want to see your kids happy and healthy. You know that they’re going to go through tough times and they’re going to have some speed bumps in the road, but [happy], I think, is something that you [always want] your children to be.”

Adrian Du — 75 degrees Fahrenheit

Seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit is what junior Adrian Du describes as “absolute perfection.”

Every day, Du walks home from school and feels his world line up perfectly as he steps out of the scorching heat and into the perfectly air conditioned house, kept at seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit. Du’s walk home takes about 10 minutes, but he believes those 10 minutes are the worst 10 minutes of his day. His body seems to forget how to maintain homeostasis and his legs are suddenly the host to a pair of extremely heavy ankle weights.

Du’s grandparents determine the temperature of his house and, although it remains constant, Du is awed at his grandparents ability to select such an optimal temperature each day. Interestingly enough, the effect works the opposite way as well. 

“Even if it’s a colder day, I still really enjoy walking into the house because it always feels nicer than the air outside,” Du said. “It seems really insignificant, but it’s honestly the best part of my day.”

Although similar instances of instant comfort have occurred at school — like walking into a warm classroom after standing in the rain during brunch — Du confidently declares that the effect “has nothing on” the feeling he gets when he walks into his house. After all, home, when kept at seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit, is where the heart is.

Lourdes Diaz — The twilight sky

Buzzing with energy after watching anime for hours, junior Lourdes Diaz lay wide awake on a cold summer morning at 5:40 a.m. with the thought of sleep far from her mind. Her parents and two brothers asleep, Diaz saw a faint light stream in from a window, as she was relaxing on the couch in her living room. As she got up to peer out the window, she faced a deep blue sky.

Despite being indoors, Diaz shivered, her t-shirt and pajama pants not offering her much protection from the cold. She began to play soft classical music on her phone as she sat back down on the couch to watch the sky and listen to the relaxing chords of the music. The royal blue sky that accompanied twilight only lasted for 20 minutes, but in that time, Diaz felt immensely happy and grateful that she got to witness something so beautiful.

Just before the sun began to rise, birds chirped softly outside, the sound like music to Diaz’s ears — loud enough to be clearly audible, yet quiet enough that it wasn’t annoying. In the absence of her dad’s snoring and cars honking, the silence allowed Diaz to take a moment for herself.

Diaz describes her family to be loud, and herself as someone who spends a lot of time with people and expends a lot of energy through social interaction. For this reason, Diaz considers having time to herself to be “precious” and watching the sky during twilight allows her the chance to admire something and be alone.

“[Watching the twilight sky] feels like a very intimate thing [because] I feel like I’m being intimate with myself,” Diaz said. “I feel like [it’s] like self care, because it’s something that I alone can treasure and appreciate.”

Abha Dash — Small acts of kindness

The three most hated words in sophomore Abha Dash’s vocabulary are: Algebra. Two. Trig. The very first test she took last year went “bad” and the second one is simply left unspoken. After seeing her second result, Dash came to a bold, yet simple conclusion: “I can’t do math.”

And yet, Dash went to her Algebra 2 Trig class every day as if that test had never existed, eager to improve. Her motivation and resilience stemmed from one place — her brother. 

“My brother comforted me [and reminded] me that just because I did bad on this test, I’m not going to do bad on the next one,” Dash said. “He said I was going to improve and all these [other] inspirational words which made me not stress out so much.” 

While these words may have been the generic response to someone failing a test or perhaps said out of pity, Dash took them to heart. The small, seemingly insignificant response from her brother made Dash “really happy” and she felt that the words of affirmation demonstrated how much he cared for her. 

Dash describes small gestures and uplifting comments to not only make the person on the receiving end happy, but also inspire them to be a better person. Oftentimes, she explains, these small actions are unexpected, making them even more memorable. She believes that the person may never understand the impact of their actions, but that impact can be appreciated. 

Now, having completed her Algebra 2 Trig class, Dash remembers these encouraging words from her brother after each test and uses them to refuel her determination. 

Ritu Kandi — Instagram posts

Stressed and panicked, freshman Ritu Kandi’s fingers furiously flew across her computer keys — the task of website building for a school project seemed to stretch on endlessly. The onslaught of homework was bound to take her several hours, but Kandi was determined to finish that night. After all, the next day was her birthday, and she was not going to spend it doing homework.

Kandi sat hunched over at her desk in front of the window, the glow from her table lamp casting a yellow light all around the bedroom. The smell of rain and gasoline wafted in through the window, and the incessant honking of cars did nothing to help with her concentration. 

In the throes of her work, at 10 p.m., Kandi received an Instagram notification that indicated a friend had shared a post with her. Not wanting to break her workflow, Kandi allowed herself a brief moment to be happy that her friend was thinking of her before getting back to work. 

The smell of coffee lingered in the air six hours later at 4 a.m. when Kandi was finally able to appreciate what her friend had sent. Kandi was immensely grateful for what she had received — a post featuring a drawing of Kaeya, one of Kandi’s favorite characters from the video game Genshin Impact.

According to Kandi, her friend was not at all interested in Genshin Impact herself, but knew Kandi was because she listened to Kandi talk about it all the time. Touched by her friend’s message, once they got to school the next day, Kandi gave her friend a “big hug” and thanked her for sending the post, which she thought of as an “early birthday present.”

“When someone sends [me] a post it reminds me [that they] were thinking of me, and that makes me feel happy,” Kandi said. “So [I] try to send things to my friends that [they might like or that] relates to us [to] make them happy too.”

Lia Vorthmann — Sports with her dad

Senior Lia Vorthmann was 4 years old when her dad taught her how to throw a football. Fast forward 13 years and Vorthmann is now “better than him at throwing a spiral.” But that’s the case with almost all the sports that Vorthmann and her dad play together. Though they’ve tried nearly every sport, some of their favorites include football, soccer and basketball. 

Vorthmann and her dad used to do outdoor activities together almost every weekend when Vorthmann was younger, but as time went on, both Vorthmann and her dad became busier and these hangouts became more scarce. Although they still found time to take occasional bike rides or kick a soccer ball back and forth, Vorthmann found herself missing the quality time she used to spend with her dad. 

“I enjoy it because it allows me to take a break from other stuff and give me an opportunity to hang out with my dad,” Vorthmann said. “I’m inside all the time and it’s nice to get outside and get the exercise.”

This school year, Vorthmann has made an effort to do an outdoor activity with her dad at least every other week, not only for her own enjoyment, but also because she knows how much it means to him. Since they are both athletes, Vorthmann finds sports to be an easy avenue for them to connect, while simultaneously appreciating the additional benefit of becoming stronger and healthier. 

“It’s one of those random small things that you don’t realize you miss until it’s gone,” Vorthmann said. “It’s nothing too big or time consuming, but I want to make sure that I’ll always have it no matter how busy I get.”