June 6, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 61°F


Figure of Soul: Searching for joy

It is often seen that hardships and happiness contradict each other as one relates to challenges, and the other is associated with peaceful and calm moments. However, as we expand our comfort zone through challenges and setbacks, we find more things to be grateful and joyful about. But as much as this paradox is a powerful mindset to build, it leaves me wondering how we can find joy in those hardships. I think that is when we truly find the joy that touches our souls. So, I asked some people who were the kindest and warmest to me during the ups and downs in my first year of college to share what brings joy to their souls. As this academic year is coming to an end, this column is dedicated to honoring those souls and showing how much power we hold to bring immense yet simple joy to each other. 

I was inspired to ask this question by Dr. Nia Nunn, a professor in the Department of Education, and her own answer is “helping people discover their values.” As she listened to each and every one of her students attentively, as if we were the most important people in the world, I could feel her soul sparkling with such warm energy. Then, I thought, this is how joy looks like. Dear Katie Marks, a professor in the Department of Writing, said that feeling connected to other people and finding herself unexpectedly in sync with another person when she walks or breathes at the same rate or when she thinks about someone and they show up or call makes her happy. Then, I thought, we are breathing together in sync! We exchange our emotions and energy with every breath we take. How amazing is that! That is how joy looks like. 

Joy can also be found in actions like swimming in deep water and being in nature, as Emil Westfall, the library’s digital resources and reserves coordinator, told me about the things that bring joy to their soul. Bernard Hogben, access services manager at the library, said that playing the violin makes him joyful. Dr. Cyndy Scheibe, a professor in the Department of Psychology, mentioned she feels joy when hanging out with her grandchildren and when students or family members think of her and send her examples related to media literacy. These are all joys!

One of my dear professors also told me that the genuine smile of their son is the most beautiful sight, and the infectious laughter of their daughter is the most beautiful sound in the world. It reminds me of a saying that if you are not amazed most of the time, it means you are not living in the present and, thus, not living life since life is available only in the present moment. It is so astonishing that we get to experience these simple joys every day from each other and nature. 

Last but not least, I would like to end this column with our interlibrary loan borrowing coordinator Sarah Shank’s beautiful poem on what brings joy to her. Thank you so much to everyone for thinking, sharing what brings joy to your soul, and spreading kindness. I hope you can feel the good energy from this column as we write each word with joy. 

Birdsong piercing blanketed quiet,

Pricks of color on bare branches,

Rain drops on pink, purple, and yellow petals,

Swollen, juicy sun-ripened berries among thorns,

Shimmers of heat beyond the crest of a hill,

Misty confetti from nearby waterfalls,

Crunch of harvest beans and kale,

Flutter of bright and crisp leaves,

Sharp promising scent of snow,

Branches heavy with new-fallen snow,

Past seasons suspended in motes of ice

Warm soup and cozy blankets,

The subtle observation (and memory)

of small seasonal moments,

spark joy in my soul.

FIGURE OF SOUL is a column written by first-year psychology major Ninjin Tumurbat (she/her) that analyzes metaphors. Contact her at ntumurbat@ithaca.edu.