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Folding Ourselves a Piece of Happiness

When I was in 8th grade, I acquired an origami kit. It was essentially a how-to manual for a bunch of patterns, and paper was included. From that kit, I made dozens of flowers, cranes, and other animals outlined in the book. But I soon ran out of paper. This was a dire dilemma.

School somehow offered me a solution. I went through my folders, determined papers I didn't need anymore, and started turning them into squares. From these squares came more flowers and a few vases. These creations I'd leave at the desk for the next class to have.

As a quiet 8th grader, I excelled at most of my subjects and my teachers usually had no problem with me folding a bird or a crab during class. A few even made requests. But one teacher, my choral teacher, would have none of it.

It was common knowledge throughout the 8th grade that I'd become an origami guru quite quickly. Some kids even wanted to learn. But this skill had made enemies with my choral teacher, who decided she would call me out in front of the choir.

"You're not allowed to fold origami in here," she asserted one day. "Your other teachers may 'allow' it, but I will not." She plucked my in-progress bird and tossed it in the trash.

My hands fell silent and paper creations no longer sprung forth. I continued my origami streak, which, as of this day, has still not broken. But it took me years to understand why I started folding paper as a tween. It acted like therapy for many things which I hadn't been diagnosed with yet, but knew I struggled with.

The creation of a little creature from paper, a 2D object, was thrilling to me. I could turn a flat piece of paper into a small friend. I could let my anxieties go silent while my hands created a pajarita. The depression I sunk into most days could lift into a calm, meditative-like state.

Whenever I fold a robin or design a new rose pattern, I feel as if I created something. I felt that as a kid too. It made me smile, and it made other people smile. The reaction from a paper bird flapping its wings made me feel happy. Someone asking, "Whoa, how did you do that?" made me feel smarter and as if my fingers were magic. This feeling of creation an of making something has therapeutic benefits, as I've outlined in earlier posts.

Happiness is something we humans often seek. We look for the true meaning of life, as if we could understand it if we found it. We make friends and crave the feelings of laughter and joy. But it's not always easy to find happiness. Sometimes we have to make some for ourselves.

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