I’m about to step into the period of my life known as my “late twenties.”
Arriving at this point prompted me to reflect on how the rest of my twenties went, and think about what I learned. The most surprising — and by far, most impactful — is that sustainable happiness isn’t found in the nights out at clubs or exotic trips.
I understand the appeal; those experiences are thrilling and out of the ordinary. But I spent my early twenties being continually disappointed by trying to ride their peaks. I was deeply unhappy, and I thought I could resolve that pain by leaving everything behind in favor of adventure.
In my early twenties, during my freshman year in college, I struggled with anorexia and a live-in, emotionally abusive boyfriend. Both tore me down, and I was a mere shell of the person I once was by the time I started studying for finals.
But then I saw an out in the form of graduation. Free of the constraints of attending classes, I sold almost everything I owned and moved to Chengdu, China. My worries were gone and responsibilities minimal; I partied with people from all over the world and reinvented my new normal.
But a familiar cycle began creeping up again. When things started to become ordinary, and my depression crept back up, I dropped everything and fled to another country. Flight by flight, soul-sucking job after soul-sucking job, I found myself back in the same state: depressed and dissatisfied.
I lived for the highs. I couldn’t handle the lows or even the middles.
After years of this vicious cycle and experiencing my worst bout of depression, I realized things needed to change; my current way of living clearly wasn’t working.
I decided I’d stop. I took the time to slow down and really enjoy what I had. And to my surprise, I found happiness in the places I least expected it.
It was in that first sip of coffee each morning. Walking in my neighborhood, for some fresh air. Taking the time to play fetch with my roommate’s dog. Doing work that made me feel proud and ending the day binging Schitt’s Creek, again.
All of it. Day after day. The mundane, but the surprisingly enlivening.
I found joy in the ordinary, the rather unspectacular parts of the day that I always overlooked. These were the moments I most often experienced, yet I never enjoyed because I was always focused on the future.
Life will always become inevitably mundane. No one is living vacation to vacation, party to party. We all wake up in the morning and brush our teeth. We eventually come home, decide whether or not to fold that pile of laundry finally, and spend an hour or so doing whatever it is we most likely do every evening.
This can either be a personal hell or your very own paradise.
Your mindset is the differentiating factor
We’re so often caught up in what we don’t have.
We don’t have the latest iPhone, expensive clothes, or lives worthy of an influencer’s Instagram feed.
Yet if you’re reading this article, that’s an indicator you have a lot more than you probably think you do. And if you don’t stop to really appreciate what you already have, you’ll live a life where you feel like you never have enough.
Your present can seem like a struggle, but it can also be bountiful. You can change your perspective to viewing what you have right now as enough. Because what you have right now is all you have. You never know when it will be the end of you having anything.
But to experience this paradise, you need to be present for it.
How are you going to witness the extraordinary happening in the ordinary if you’re not present for it? Worrying about the future or over-thinking your past robs you of your present.
I created a false illusion for myself that I had control over my future if I just worried enough. Most of the time, I caught myself anguish over imagined scenarios that never came to be.
I look back on what should’ve been the best years of my life — living abroad — and feel disheartened that I didn’t appreciate that time more. That I didn’t go to more rugby games with my friends. That I didn’t say yes to more trips, I was offered to tag along on.
Had I lived in the present, I could’ve enjoyed the moments of dancing with my friends in our favorite bar blasting underground German House music. Or maybe savoring a bit more tea in the afternoons when I didn’t work. The smile of the women that sold fruits outside of my apartment. Those little things I’ll never experience again.
Embracing the mundane means that life never really becomes ordinary.
You see the colors of the trees around you as little brighter. Chores that you usually put off become a bit more bearable. Flavors become richer. The smallest of moments fill you with so much happiness, you fear you might burst.
We all eventually fall into a routine, but that doesn’t mean life has become boring. We’re all gifted with many reasons to be happy. But our minds, worries, anxieties, and fears keep us from really enjoying them in the present.
Like anything, seeing the ordinary as extraordinary takes a bit of time. Sometimes you’ll fall back to living in the past or future. But life isn’t about being perfect; it’s about moving forward. In any way, you know possible.
Life is an indefinite journey. If you don’t stop to enjoy the wind on your cheeks or smell of fresh dew in the morning, you’ll miss out on life’s greatest moments.