The Beauty in the Mundane

One of my favorite quotes is

Mediocre People do exceptional things all the time

What to Do by OK Go

I love it so much, I’ve had it on my wall for years. It might seem like a little bit of a sad song lyric. And maybe it is, but I love it, because I truly believe it.

I wouldn’t describe myself as extraordinary. But that doesn’t mean I can do extraordinary things. I think as a culture we often put too much importance of being special. We want to be different than everyone else, we want to be smarter than everyone else, we want to be more popular, more successful, happier, more exciting, more artistic, whatever it is. But I really believe that when we focus on this, we’re setting ourselves up for failure.

Everyone, no matter how seemingly ordinary they are, has so much to offer. It’s just a matter of looking for it.

Last year, I read Oh The Glory of it All by Sean Wilsey, a memoir telling Wilsey’s adventures growing up in a wealthy and prominent San Francisco family. The book was really interesting, not only becase Wilsey’s life was so different than mine, but also because of how shockingly ordinary it was in some ways. He grew up with very wealthy parents, but he still went through many of the phases that an average child or teenager does. I was particularly struck by the title, which I originally heard in the song Light Years by The National:

Oh the Glory of it All

What a beautiful way to look at the world. The glory of it All. Not just the glamorous parts, but all of it. I’m not saying that every little part of life should be happy and joyous, or even that we should try to enjoy it. But I think that there is really a special kind of beauty in the mundane, ordinary parts of life.

Another book that brings this joy of the ordinary to mind is Anne Tyler’s Earthly Possessions and the other novels that I’ve read by her. Tyler writes about people with ordinary lives, and yet her novels are so beautiful and captivating. I have read two of her novels now and I’m partway through a third. Every time I start one of her books, I am not sure if I’ll like it. The characters seem to normal, there doesn’t seem like there’s much of a plot, but I get drawn in, and then I see the beauty of it. Anne Tyler writes about people just like me and you. At first glance, they seem uninteresting, but if you stick around for a while, and really try, you’ll see that everyone, and I mean everyone is unique.

This doesn’t mean we have to find everyone equally interesting, but I think often we dismiss certain people as being “basic” or “boring”, but I think that many times, if we give them a chance, we might find something we like about them, or at least come to understand a little bit more about them.

It’s so important to notice the beauty in the mundane. We get so used to looking for only the most beautiful things, but even the ugliest buildings and the most boring people have more to them than meets the eye.

If I spend my whole life waiting for something extraordinary to happen to me, I will just watch my life pass me by.

Life isn’t a movie where everything happens exactly how we want it to. Life is real and raw and often boring. But there is beauty even in those boring moments. Many of my favorite memories are of everyday, mundane things. But those memories are now treasures to me.

So I want to live my life with that in mind. I want to intentionally live every moment. I don’t even want to skip the boring parts. Not even the repetitive things, like work, or class, or saying hi to my roommates, or seeing a friend. Because at some point in the not-too-distant future, those moments will all be gone, and I’ll find myself wishing for them again.

So I’m going to listen to people, I’m going to find their stories. I’m going to love the ugly buildings. I’m going to cherish every moment I can, as much as I can. I don’t want to let the beauty in my every day life pass me by.

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