10 THING TO SMILE AT

As I write this, I am 40 minutes away from being 23. It is the first time I feel old, but also the first time I feel wiser.

A lot has happened from 22 to 23. My childhood home was sold. My dog moved in with me. Then my mom moved in, too. I graduated, I got a job and I hated the job for a bit. At some point, I started to get gloomy about the state of the world — and my life.

Hugh Grant suggested that I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. Instead, I thought about the arrivals gate at LaGuardia Airport, and it just made me even sadder.

So about halfway through the summer, I was sick of being sad so I decided to go do something. After work on a rainy Friday afternoon, I walked to Riverbank Park hoping to find some kids to play basketball with. But the park was empty. I was alone.

The park sits on the west edge of Manhattan, so there are telescopes along the perimeter that let you gaze at New Jersey. I never felt the urge to pay 25 cents to get a closer look at the Jersey, but that day I was alone and bored so I dropped in a quarter and stared at houses and trees a mile away. Whoop. Dee. Do.

When my time ran out on the telescope, I stepped back from it and turned around. And waiting for me was a park police officer in his car. He asked me, “Sir, what are you doing?”

I calmly told him I was looking at New Jersey. I think he was expecting a more suspicious answer, because he just looked at me with the puzzled look that said, What the hell is an long-haired Asian boy doing in Harlem on a rainy day, staring at New Jersey and making me come out and check on you?

The cop drove away.

Now, almost being arrested while taking a walk on a rainy day isn’t something that normally makes me laugh. But that day, I laughed — and I laughed and I laughed. But then I tried to stop, because I thought the cop would come back and think I was on drugs. But then I just kept laughing, because, hell, it’s be an awesome story to tell — and the most exciting thing I did all summer.

And I began to discover the importance of smiling. That is the nut of wisdom I gained from age 22 to age 23. Smile.

Here are 10 other things I’ve laughed or smiled at in the last year:

10. XFactor
See how this video, of the British show XFactor, has more than 10 million views? I account for at least 50,000 of them. Here’s Danyl Johnson singing “With a Little Help From My Friends.” The part that always makes me smile is at the 1:23 mark.

9. Power Ranger toys
When I was in first grade, I would’ve given up my 3-year-old brother for this full set. They were rare, and never in stores. When they were, only the Pink Ranger or Yellow Ranger would be available. Anyway, these days, I would still maybe give him up for the set. (Danny, you understand, right?)

8. My food cart man
Every morning when I get my bagel or my donut from him, he asks, “How are you doing?” Then he stops what he’s doing — no matter how long the line — and he listens to me. Then when I leave, he says, “Have a nice day.”

7. Dry ice bombs
There exists a video of me blowing up a dry ice bomb in my hand. It is somewhere on YouTube. Oh, how I have grown up — I would wear gloves if I did it again. (Bonus points for whoever finds it.)

6. Life Lessons From ‘The Office’
I realized one day that I had to pay taxes, since I’m an independent contractor. Seems obvious, right? Well, I had no clue where to start. So, one day, if I have to declare bankruptcy, this won’t seem so ridiculous.

5. My dog’s sleeping habits
Rainbow likes to sleep under the covers. But at around 2 a.m., she sticks her nose out and goes, “Uhhhh-ahhhhhhhhhh.” It usually scares the crap out of me and wakes me up. Then I realize she’s just come up for air.

4. Gingerbread houses
Kristen and I tried to make a gingerbread house. The instructions said, “Wait three hours before moving onto the next step.” We did not wait. Frosting was everywhere. I am still digging it out of my crevices.

3. First e-mail of age 23
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Available Now!” –Time Warner

2. Spongebob Squarepants
I still watch it. That is how I was able to write a 10-minute Spongebob play on the spot last year. I also have a Spongebob sticker. I didn’t realize this was a problem until someone asked me if I knew more Spongebob characters or hockey players, and I had to think about it.

1. People
You didn’t think I’d end this on a non-corny item, did you? I did a search of my instant messages within the last two months, versus the six months before that. It turns out I used “haha” or “hahaha” or “hahahahaha” about five times more in the last two months than the six preceding months. I know getting out of a life slump has a lot to do with yourself — I know I had to climb the ladder and pull myself out. But, thing is, you can’t do it without the rungs. You get the metaphor.

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