(49) Little Things In (My) Life

A few days before my Duke graduation weekend, an idea struck my mind. I was listening to SoundCloud on my bed when it autoplayed a song by an indie artist I had not heard from for a few years. And you, the very person who introduced me to that song, struck my mind. Funny as it sounds, I actually smiled.

Right then, I realized (again) there were many things in life—little things for that matter—that could make me happy. The pursuit of happiness is universal, and while I do not refute the pursuits of larger values in career, in philosophy, in religion, in the arts, or in love, I must be reminded as well that everyday little moments do need to be cherished and appreciated too.

Thus came the idea of this list. Ever since, I have been jotting down whenever I could little things in life that make me smile. I stopped at 49 just because it is the square of 7 (one of my favorite numbers), and 50 or any other multiples of 10 seems too “done”. This list is no way exhaustive, nor is it sorted in any criterion. I guess this is my way to say hello after my 24th birthday (on June 29), to July, to another chapter of my life in graduate school (to commence in about a month), and to more regular blogging here on nvpt.wordpress.com (soon to be nvpt.blog when WordPress gets the domain through). I have meant to write more often after graduation, but perfectionism gets in the way of writing. So this is it. Enjoy.


“When I can find a pic I have taken to post to Instagram that perfectly matches the line of lyrics on my mind at that time.”

1. When YouTube or SoundCloud “autoplays” a song I have not heard for quite a few years, and the memories surge back: Where I was, what I was doing and who I was with.

2. When a friend and I finish each other’s sentences seamlessly.

3. When I am hugged.

4. When a new experiment – one that I design myself – works on my first attempt.

5. When a friend asks me for places to eat in Ho Chi Minh City as if I am some master of the subject. http://bit.ly/saigonannvpt2015 by the way.

6. When Facebook throwbacks “On This Day” to a photo that I don’t remember existing.

7. When I can find a pic I have taken to post to Instagram that perfectly matches the line of lyrics on my mind at that time.

8. When friends ask me to host Mafia, One Night Werewolf, Resistance, Secret Letters, Coup, Spyfall, Zombie, or any other kinds of social bluffing deduction game as if I am the master of social bluffing. I am not though.

9. When my favorite “iced mocha, two percent milk, no whipped cream” I order from a barista comes out perfectly balanced between chocolate-y and sweet.

10. When friends of mine from two different circles somehow meet and acquaint and particularly tell me they have met, almost as if I brought them together.

“When I season my soup or broth perfectly to perfect on first try just by estimating the seasonings to the pot/saucepan volume.”

11. When students or mentees say “Cảm ơn anh ạ” after a meaningful conversation.

12. When I see an act of stranger’s kindness. This NEVER fails to make me smile.

13. When I sit down on the floor between the stacks in the quiet section of the library and start on an old book. It always feels like I am the only person left in the world, and it’s pretty awesome.

14. When the friend sitting behind me on my motorbike sings along (bonus points for harmonizing) and does not think it’s weird that I sing out loud when I ride around Saigon.

15. When I run into somebody I know on the street. How small the world can be.

16. When you say “anh Thụ ơi” – It’s actually my pet peeve when somebody younger than I am does not properly address me with “anh”.

17. When an underdog in a reality show comes out on top. I always tear up a bit.

18. When I season my soup or broth perfectly to perfect on first try just by estimating the seasonings to the pot/saucepan volume. And when I successfully save my soup or broth when I fail that after many tries.

19. When my “new” hair cut turns out not awkward.

20. When I could estimate correctly on first try the ISO, shutter speed and aperture opening of a particular light setting to be photographed on my Canon 550D (I shoot almost exclusively in Manual mode).

“When I spend the afternoon with a half-read book in my favorite hideaway cafe in Saigon. “

21. When an odd VSCOCam filter somehow works with a photo.

22. When a house with dark wood floor is lit by yellow ambiance lighting.

23. When the rain pitter-patters outside the window while I am reading a good book.

24. When I spend the afternoon with a half-read book in my favorite hideaway cafe in Saigon. Well if you know me, you know which one it is. Bonus points when 23 and 24 happen at the same time. It’s Saigon after all.

25. When somebody else knows my order in my favorite place (drinks or food).

26. When my teammates perform a perfect team wipe after my Echo Slam ultimate as Earthshaker in Dota.

27. When my brother calls me “Lùn”. That used to be my family nickname.

28. When I eat homecooked cá kho tộ, rau muống xào tỏi and canh chua Nam Bộ cooked by my mom. My comfort meal.

29. When my dad semi-fakes a surprise-toned “Giỏi quá ta!” after I achieve something, small or big.

30. When I could harmonize to a song. Sometimes I pull it off, sometimes I don’t.

“When the sunset is majestically purple or breathtakingly red.”

31. When I flip a sunny-side-up egg to over-easy and do not break the yolk.

32. When somebody recognizes me as the Head of the Order of Phoenix for 5 years from Harry Potter Vietnam Network.

33. When somebody calls me “anh Gấu”.

34. When I see an old friend and it is as if there has been no time separation between us.

35. When the sunset is majestically purple or breathtakingly red.

36. When I could recall some obscure pieces of information from a long time ago. Same goes for when I could sing along to a song I can’t for the life of me tell where I have heard it, let alone known and memorized it.

37. When I kick off my shoes after a long day on my feet.

38. When a Vietnamese poem makes a good end-of-line rhyme with some particularly unexpected or obscure diction.

39. When I receive a postal mail (no, not emails). Bonus points for handwritten letters, post cards or greeting cards.

40. When I realize the etymological root of a word (in English or Hán-Việt Vietnamese) I have always used but never thought about.

When I get comfortable into my bed, turn off the light,…

41. When I finally know the exact breakdown of a Vietnamese Hán-Việt proverb I have always used and roughly known the meaning, but never understood the narrative (“tích truyện”) behind it.

42. When I can tell the note sequence of an instrumental piece of music. I have some pseudo-semi-ish-kinda ear training, and I could sight-sing to perfect pitch sometimes.

43. When I could break open with my teeth hạt hướng dương or hạt dưa. I just can’t do it for some reason =.=.

44. When a deep-fried chicken drumstick is particularly crunchy.

45. When I insert the flash drive / thumb drive / USB stick at the correct orientation on first try. This rarely happens despite the 50% probability.

46. When I get comfortable into my bed, turn off the light, lower my phone screen’s brightness and start reading all of the articles I have saved down the entire day.

47. When I could interpret the symbolism or metaphors of a theater play (kịch).

48. When I can finally put on a pair of shorts and t-shirt after a gruesome winter. I’m not gonna get this one again in Texas though.

49. When a friend confides in me a secret.

And you, what makes you smile?


And that's what I think. Your turn.

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