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Wake Up And Smell The Coffee

How appreciating the ordinary of the everyday will ground you

Supposedly, little things please little minds. Therefore, what follows could be summarised by making your mind very little indeed.


In this apparent shrinking, we discover the infinite pleasures in the smells of wet grass; crisp, clean bed sheets; a perfectly ripe banana; freshly made coffee. Not only are these everyday objects beautiful, but so are the banalities of our daily routines. Waking up, brushing your hair, making the bed, walking to class (basically everything you listed in your French GCSE) — these rituals hold great joy and great possibilities (as well as reflexive verbs).


This may appear to neglect ambition. A year ago, a friend of mine gave me a book about quitting; when and how to quit in order to achieve greatness. Despite my general reluctance to read a self-help-style book, it did teach me something: that I actually don’t want to be the best in the world. I’m content living the life I currently live, enjoying the ordinary idiosyncrasies which take me from one day to the next and will continue to do so, great achievements or not.


Our obsession with squeezing the best out of everything — of needing constant productivity and visible results servicing an end goal — has led to a sort of long-sightedness that neglects the simple beauties we experience daily. Instead, I would like to promote myopia. We must strive for meaning in the mundane habitual — in the essence of life itself.


‘Mundane’ routines have the ability to ground us. They can provide structure and security to lives that may otherwise feel uncertain. We take control of our lives through repetitious daily practices. Though these may appear small and insignificant, they are the strong foundations which we can build upon. By enjoying the inherent beauty of these acts individually, as well as collective practices, we expand the benefits even further.


For students, the contradictory demands of the work hard, play hard mantra make routine sometimes feel impossible. However, it is exactly in this lack of given structure where a sense of appreciation for the everyday is needed.


The slightly ominous chime of enjoy your youth can at times feel pressuring — you must experience all of life’s pleasures now! Failing to embrace the opportunities provided by youth (and one’s relative privileges) would be a waste. As such, a greedy attitude is fostered, under which FOMO is inevitable, our expectations are rarely met, and we are never truly satisfied. We must attempt to strip this all away; to shift our intent and find value in new places.


When I was recently introduced to the saying “Everybody wants a revolution but nobody wants to do the dishes”, I felt somewhat personally attacked. Not only am I known in my family for supposedly ignoring the washing-up, but I also (along with most of us) have the tendency to aim for the big, the loud and the impressive in my life, without stopping to think about the quotidian normalities that have helped to get me there.


Are these things boring or is it us that have become too easily bored? I would answer the latter — we have lost the ability to see the wonder of our everyday lives. Technology (here we go again) is in part to blame. The fast-paced nature of all too readily available information and entertainment means that anything which doesn’t give us the same immediate reward is deemed boring and undeserving of admiration. Through means of commonplace traits, such as constantly listening to music, we are blocking ourselves out from the tangible world in which our lives are formed, and cease to feel a connection with it.  


Turning to religion and spirituality, life’s small things take on further meaning. As God — or a higher power — has created all that surrounds us, these objects and small acts have an innate beauty. In appreciating these we can build a deep-rooted sense of gratitude for all we have been given, strong enough to override any feelings of entitlement or craving for more. What I write comes from a place of privilege, something that is largely out of my control. But what I can control is how I acknowledge and use it. Feeling grateful is important, no matter who or what you believe in. 


I may venture to suggest that this appreciation can be seen as a gesture of self-love, too. Self-value comes from understanding that despite our failures, misjudgements, and sins, we are enough — that we are worthy of experiencing the gifts we have been given. But first, we must notice and find value in these gifts. These are big words (if not in length then in meaning) and likely easier to write than to instil in oneself. But to start, and in fact to continue with, the repetition of these small exploits is certainly manageable, and can reap great benefits for our mental wellbeing. I invite you, then, to find and cherish your own small repetitive acts, and daily moments of joy. Whether that’s getting 15 minutes of fresh air each day, having a cup of tea before bed, or making porridge for breakfast.


But allow me to stray from the personal benefits for you, personally, and instead towards thinking about what it might mean for those around you. In becoming more in tune with our surroundings, we also develop a keener awareness of the needs of others. In appreciating the luxuries of the ‘small’ things we have, we realise that for so many others these are not so accessible, and not so small. What’s more, a smile in the street, a passing compliment, or a quick helping hand — though they may seem insignificant to us — can go a very long way for the person on the receiving end.


The environment is a beneficiary of this mentality too. As we increase our wonder at nature, so does our desire to conserve, nourish, and protect it. By this, I don’t mean gawping at the Great Barrier Reef, Victoria Falls, or the Grand Canyon (though, of course, if these happen to be on your doorstep and part of your day-to-day life, then admire away). Rather, it’s the daring yellow of a daffodil, the ready chirp of a robin, the rhythmic coming and going of the tide. And all your own equivalents.


In more deeply appreciating the small beauties of the everyday, our minds are also taken away from the seductiveness of trends and fast fashion, which are exhausting for both us and the planet. Buying more locally, shopping second-hand, and preventing food waste feel less like moral imperatives and more like love letters — a sort of giving back to our surroundings.


As such, leading a simple life is better for everyone. It is in the small that we can do great good. It is in the small that we can find true beauty. The world may be your oyster, but I encourage you to savour your bread and cheese.

Illustration by: Aimee Robbins

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