Jing Xu - Authorjing.firstname.lastname@example.org
Eva Tanya Banerjee - Authoreva.email@example.com
Maria Zelenika - Illustratormaria.firstname.lastname@example.org
In this exploration of the profound themes of impact and influence, we invite you to delve into the intricate web of events, people, places, and situations that shape our lives. Through a series of captivating interviews, we aim to illuminate the boundless potential hidden within the tiniest moments of existence.
Life's journey is an unpredictable tapestry, woven with threads of love, loss, and learning. Each story we share reflects the undeniable truth that even the smallest instances can leave an indelible mark on our hearts and minds.
As we uncover the profound impact of these subtle influences, we hope to inspire you with the realization that life's most transformative experiences often arise from the most unexpected sources. Just as these stories have left a lasting impression on us, we aspire to remind you that even the smallest things can make the biggest difference."Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart." - Winnie the Pooh
Story 1 ‘Breakfast Club’
"Growing up, I remember that rushing through breakfast was one of the most stressful parts of my day. My parents are doctors, so I pretty much had to be there, or I'd have to hear about how the most nourishing part of my day was going to waste.
Here's the thing though : breakfast in my household always included an egg, some sort of bread, and fruit, sometimes replaced with oatmeal porridge with nuts when the kitchen was in a time crunch. I think the fact that I rarely saw my parents for the rest of the day or night forced us to communicate in this tiny 35-minute slot every morning as best as we could.
When I turned 16, I said one morning that I wanted to go vegan. I had already done my research, started cutting out meat and dairy at school lunch cafeterias, and my parents were hesitant at first. They said we'd have to discuss it at dinner, but they happened to be on call all that night.
So they did their own research, and the next morning, after a few questions, it was decided : I would phase out meat and dairy gradually.
Eight months later, still during breakfast, I chose to finally come out to them, and that was an interesting conversation too! I asked if I could bring my girlfriend over. It was a 35-minute ordeal, the one time everyone was home, and it felt like a "we've got things to get to" moment, so not too much attention would be paid to this. Not to my surprise, the conversation about bringing my girlfriend over was not as chill as the going vegan conversation had been. Not to dissuade me in any way, my family used this time to process between our breakfasts. Those 35 minutes were not taken lightly; they were seen as a whole half-hour.
Breakfast meant business. We didn't mess around. We brought our announcements to the table to mull over, absorb, and sometimes it meant breakfast was left half-eaten because a conversation was too hard.
Now, at 25, I am out of the closet. I'm living with my partner and have become a full-time kindergarten teacher. I always begin my class by asking my kids "Did you have breakfast today?". It's the first meal of the day, but it took me a whole lifetime to realize that time spent isn't just about clocking in or clocking out of a task.
My parents and I still have weekly breakfasts. They come over now. Breakfast over the years has become the time I take to present myself anew or rediscover older versions of myself that I like for the people I love. Nourishing food and nourishing conversations galore, all within those precious 35 minutes, or else it'd have to be called brunch, and Lord knows I'd never make rent in London if I didn't work weekends!" *laughs *
Story 2 ‘What a Podcast brought’
“My brother was a teenager who got stuck in loneliness and confusion about his life. He had a passion for biology but always struggled to have the motivation to study. He was tired of the structured and dogmatic approach schools took. Everyone around him thought that he was on the wrong path and kept on giving the alleged advice to him. As someone who ponders deep questions a lot, he didn’t feel understood and thus never listened to them.
One time, I was listening to a podcast about Arthur Schopenhauer’s life. Schopenhauer’s conceptions of people and life were quite similar to my brother’s views. The host was talking about how Schopenhauer might feel more understood and valued if someone had genuinely listened and loved him in a unique way.
So I got impressed and had an idea: to ask my brother to teach me the basic principles of biology. He actually had already tried to do it but I never gave him enough attention. This simple action helped him a lot to focus on one thing and to gain confidence (in his words: ‘that's the first time I finally succeeded in being productive and actually doing something’).
Now, here’s the incredible part. I’ve always been puzzled by various aspects of life: the intricacies of relationships, the vastness of the world, and the interconnectedness of it all. Even if I had delved into psychology and philosophy, there were still gaps in my understanding. However, the interactions I had with my brother shed light on how relationships form at the cellular level. This gave me a fresh lens to explore the world inside our bodies, and I could draw connections between the systems inside and outside of my body.
It was a small step to help my brother, but it turned out to be something beautiful and meaningful that has changed the way I think about life and people. Reflecting on this process, listening to a podcast and asking for a class from my brother are both small decisions, compared to how profound the impact was brought to two people. It was truly astonishing. Oh, And I am even closer with my brother now.”
Story 3 ‘Not Enough’
“When I saw this question of how small things can bring big impacts, the first thing that came to my mind was how easy it was for someone to affect your feelings, attitudes, thoughts by some words they said. The word power is real.
Growing up, I have always been surrounded by many lovely family members, relatives and friends. It seems like I have nothing to worry about in life, and everything seems to work perfectly well. However, I always find myself in the situation where I am constantly pushing myself to accomplish things with perfection. It is not the case that I actually produce the best work all the time, but I judge myself very often. This behavior has gone beyond myself, and is affecting how I see other people too. I find this problematic, because even if I have accomplished something good, I will get disappointed in myself if I have made one mistake. Same for my attitude towards other people. It’s hard for me to see them in their full picture, and it’s a problem. when I want to build up deep, meaningful and long-term relationships. I care about if they behave the way I anticipated, I know it does sound bad, but I can’t help myself.
It all started with simple words my mom said to me.
When I was in 5th grade, I was told to behave well in class and to get good grades. I studied really hard because I wanted people around me to be proud of me. I spent hours studying for the exams at the end of the school year, and in the end, I was the third in my class. I still remember that it was a rainy day, but with overloaded happiness and excitement, I went back home with my grade report. My mom just finished a business call and looked bothered. I was too excited to catch all of that. So I went straight to her and showed my grade report, hoping for compliments. The first thing she said to me was ‘Why are you not the first in your class?’.
She was not in a good mood, and was facing troubles in her work. I cried in front of her and she apologized for what she said. However, I still remember these words. It’s impossible to be ‘good enough’. I am not sure how big of an impact it will have in the future, but for the past 15 years, I have been in a fight with my alleged perfectionism.”
Story 4 ‘Tick-Tock’
“I used to set an alarm for 11 PM every Friday night. This was back when life was like a maze, filled with the challenges of my first job fresh out of college and the lingering heartache of a recent breakup. Those were the days when darkness seemed to envelop me.
I set this alarm since it was a reminder for me to send in the weekly deliverable to my boss. But looking back I would have never known how it would go beyond being a simple reminder and a signal that the weekend was here. It became a lifeline, a ray of happiness that cut through the chaos.
That alarm marked my escape, a portal to 48 hours of freedom. On Friday evenings, I'd forget about work and join my fellow office warriors for a night out, get together with childhood friends in the neighborhood or hop on a discord video game session with my college mates. The sound of that alarm was the prelude to laughter, camaraderie, and an intoxicating sense of liberation.
My journey isn’t about running away from problems; I’d like to see it as self-discovery. Those unassuming Friday night gatherings breathed new life into my weary soul, teaching me that the most profound impact often emerges from the smallest, most ordinary moments. Over time, I found the courage to break free from a toxic work culture and pave my own path to success.
As I speak to you, with the alarm going off at the beginning of our conversation it fills me with gratitude. I plan to keep this alarm and let it go off every Friday at 11 pm. But it's no longer an escape, it's a reminder of my transformation, from a soul burdened by stress and heartache to someone who has come so far from rock-bottom. It showed me all that I am capable of.
In addition to life's relentless whirlwind, it's the unassuming, everyday moments that leave the deepest marks on our hearts. Those Friday nights, an assuming alarm makes me feel like I can accomplish anything I would like to.”
Breakfast and alarms, podcasts and conversations, they are all small experiences that we get to have everyday or quite often. Let’s not forget how much influence they can potentially bring to us, whether it’s bitter, sweet or sour, they are all part of life.
We hope to inspire you with the realization that we might gain the most out of life from the unexpected small moments, and that we may also lead the same impacts to the people who we have small interactions with. Be present, and let’s see what life brings us.