He may bring you happiness.

January 10, 2022 / Megan Shen

Before you open the box, consider this.

It’s strange what people think of when they’re going about their day.

My mom, for example, swims at the local recreation center. Every day after her swim, she uses the second shower stall to the left, even though it’s a little leaky. The other day, it was occupied, so she had no choice but to settle for the shower next to it. Turns out, the new one had the perfect water pressure, and when she came home to tell us about it, my mother somehow related the experience to the old adage, “When one door closes, another door opens.”

It’s a bit silly, but maybe there’s merit in processing life through these mundane little metaphors. We spend sleepless nights thinking about our purpose in life and worrying over the uncertainty of the future, but perhaps relating these existential questions to something more tangible, like public shower stalls, would help.

So, of course, I developed my own object-related metaphor for life: blind box collectibles.

If you’re unfamiliar with blind boxes, they’re mini-figures that people like to collect. My personal favorites are the Sonny Angel dolls, these funny babies with mischievous expressions. I was first drawn to Sonny Angels after seeing an unboxing video on YouTube. Intrigued by the cult following the dolls seemed to have, I began investigating Dreams, Inc., the company behind Sonny Angels, online. I discovered that the company periodically releases sets of newly themed dolls, and these new series are announced with fanfare. The company dedicates an entire webpage to each series, introducing the twelve babies with their own glamor shots and clothing descriptions. The company treats the dolls like live companions, claiming that they will “gently look after you” with “warm smiles.” The strangeness of the Sonny Angel entity is solidified by their somewhat ominous slogan: “He may bring you happiness.”

Sonny Angel dolls are blind box collectibles, which means you have no way of knowing which one you actually get until you’ve completed your purchase and opened the box. You could buy the assortment box, which comes with a pack of twelve dolls, but even then, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll get twelve unique figures. With a slogan that says “may” and not “will,” it seems like Sonny Angel knows this. It almost feels mocking, the way they acknowledge the contingency of happiness.

For the longest time, I refrained from buying Sonny Angels. The thought of buying something without even knowing what I would get was already unsettling, and the company’s cheeky slogan made it worse.

I was won over when my sister surprised me with one three years ago. It was from the 2018 Flower series, and I was hoping for Cherry Blossom, a Sonny Angel with an assortment of cherry blossoms cradling its head. I ended up getting Rose, the baby I thought was one of the uglier ones in the series. 

You would think that this setback just confirmed my apprehension about the Sonny Angel dolls — that because of this disappointing experience, I would swear off Sonny Angels and all blind box collectibles for life. But I continued to collect them. And I think I’ve cracked the code when it comes to finding genuine happiness with your blind box collectible, and, subsequently, life.

The key is to calm down.

At the beginning of my collector’s journey, I would set my eyes on a specific doll and make it my mission to get it. I wanted to stick it to the man (in this case, Dreams, Inc.), keeping my standards high and not settling for anything less. But really, when I look back, I was just setting myself up for disappointment. I clung to my nitpicky expectations, afraid that if I let up, I’d relinquish all control. In retrospect, had I opened my heart to the 11 other dolls in the collection, I think I would’ve saved myself from that frustration.

The same goes for life. Banking on one specific outcome is the easiest way to disappoint yourself. I’m reminded of my 18-year-old self applying to colleges, how I was so set on getting into my dream school that attending any other college would feel like a failure. And when I didn’t get into that school, I did feel like a failure — a huge one. I wish I could tell my younger self to approach life like I approached Sonny Angels: Be more open minded and less picky. Because, at the risk of sounding preachy, I think if we took life a little less seriously, challenging the mindset that there is only one way for us to be happy, then it would be easier to achieve fulfillment.

Of course, the ideal situation is that you are fine with all of the potential outcomes, so that whatever happens, you’re happy. For that reason, I always look for collections where I find all twelve babies adorable. But things don’t usually work out that way. Sometimes, you just get an ugly doll, and no matter how hard you try to convince yourself it’s cute, you can’t get over the strange bumps on its head. That’s OK. After opening the box, the best you can do is be happy with what you’ve got. 
That’s sort of where the metaphor reaches its limits. Because at the end of the day, if you aren’t happy with your Sonny Angel, it’s just a plastic doll. Life is not as frivolous.

You could say that, in life, you should also just “be happy with what you’ve got.” But I don’t know if that’s necessarily true. Unlike Sonny Angel dolls, our lives aren’t limited to what’s preordained. When I was younger, whenever I would fail, a small part of me feared that I just wasn’t destined for greatness — that being rejected from my dream college meant I was supposed to live a life of mediocrity. But now I don’t think fate has anything to do with it. If we wake up one day in our mid-thirties with the existential dread that we have wasted our lives up until now, we’re not stuck with what we’ve got; we can try to do something new, we can make an effort to change.

I don’t believe that fate has us locked into a certain path in life. We all have the power to change ourselves, improve ourselves, to make things different than they are now. But before you get too bogged down in the specifics, in the terrifying unknown that is the future, maybe think about things like they’re a blind box collectible.

A mystery Sonny Angel that, no matter what outfit he’s wearing, will always have that cheeky, little face. Because life shouldn’t be stressful and scary. It should be fun and playful and a little weird.

And, hopefully, it may bring you happiness. ■

by: Megan Shen

Adriana Torres

photographer: Audrey Le

stylist: Chimini Chae & Noelle Campos

hmua: Shania Wagner

model: Jillian Ly

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