OPINION: How to find joy in mundanity

A drawing in a pink color palette of three polaroid pictures: mountains, a piece of pie, and a foot stepping on a leaf. The polaroids are surrounded by sparkles.
(Lucia Marquez-Uppman • The Student Life)

It was a Friday morning. I woke up and the first thing I felt was irritation. I’d have to make the ten minute hike over to Frary, as Frank was closed.


As I stepped out of my dorm, though, I was met with the comforting calm of a sleepy campus. I’d walked this route past Marston Quad so many times, but would almost always be rushing through or be so caught up in a conversation that I rarely slowed down or looked around. That day, as I gazed up at Mount Baldy and watched two squirrels chase each other around a tree, I found myself enjoying this walk I’d always complained about.


Mundanity is underrated. It’s a statement that seems simple enough but isn’t always fully recognized. In fact, it’s often equated with a feeling of boredom or even apathy. Through our practiced routines, in 8 a.m. classes and passing periods, during rushed lunches and long library study sessions, it can feel like everything has become formulaic. It might even feel like we’re losing the fun part of ourselves as we slip into predictability … but it doesn’t have to be like this. We can better understand ourselves and connect with one another through our daily actions.


Time and time again, I’ve heard someone ask, “What are you doing this weekend?” and the response is “Just boring stuff,” or “Work, nothing interesting.” Though I can certainly relate to this feeling of disappointment as I realize all that I have to get done, it usually makes me feel more dread if I anticipate my next couple days as full of “boring work.” Because of this, it has become a challenge to reframe how I might respond. Instead, maybe I’ll say, “I’m going to sit on Marston Quad and finish my readings” or “I’ll grab brunch at Malott with my friends.” By verbalizing specific intentions, I can actively look forward to something instead of getting lost in the “boring.”


Of course, there’s nothing bad about spontaneity, about dropping everything and ditching your carefully planned day, about choosing to embrace the utterly unpredictable. We tend to talk and dream about these moments a lot, though, often making it feel like an all or nothing scenario. There’s the idea that you need to do something monumental in order for it to be memorable. However, there’s something so significant about everything that falls in the in-between — all the gaps between the “looking-forward-to”s and “can’t-wait”s. These smaller moments deserve appreciation, too.

I’ve come up with a few little actions that I’ve begun to weave into my routines.


First, I always make sure to save at least 20 minutes each morning to eat breakfast. I’m usually by myself and I appreciate the time alone. This intentional start to my day is grounding and allows me to just sit and think. Sometimes, I’ll bring a book along, choosing to unplug from checking my email or opening social media. I’ve come to deeply enjoy this routine of just being present.


I also try to do something new every day. I focus on the tiny things, whether that be taking a different route to class through campus, sitting somewhere new in the library, or reaching out to an old friend. By intentionally seeking out a goal to stick to, I’m more mindful of my actions. I don’t follow my routine: I actively shape it.


If you want to start romanticizing your routine, here are some simple action items.


Make a list of everything that makes your day better, even if it’s incrementally so. Pull up your Notes app or bring along a journal as you walk around campus and go about your daily activities. Look around and observe your own habits. Being intentional about your actions helps reframe how you think about things. Rather than getting tired of the same old, you could notice how this same predictability brings a comforting structure to your days.


There might be things that are so ingrained in your routine that you might not usually stop and think about them. Your appreciation for them might only be realized when some unfortunate stroke of luck takes it away. Have you ever misplaced your AirPods and felt frustratingly inconvenienced as you walked to class in silence? Or maybe you’ve spent the day cooped up inside, only to step outside and realize that you love doing work under the warm Southern California sun? Whether it be good music or the feeling of the sun on your face, these are the little things that consistently bring joy to our daily routines and deserve appreciation.


The possibilities for romanticization are endless and adaptable. We can all learn from each other and share tactics for romanticizing our daily routines. It’s important to recognize that we don’t have to do something crazy or travel somewhere amazing to create moments of equally significant joy.


Now that we’re well into the semester, spinning headfirst towards what sometimes feels like an endless amount of work as we approach fall break, it’s easy to feel like there’s no time to do anything fun, or find ourselves slipping into tedium. However, we also have the power to build pockets of joy within our days. It starts with the tiniest things.


Michelle Zhang PO ’27 is from the Bay Area. She’s a proud lefty and has a Duolingo streak of six years.

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