Why The Mundane Matters
I used to say this in my early 20s when I swore I would live a fast-paced life filled with adventure and spontaneity. Naive, perhaps, but it was a fear that many of my friends and I shared; we couldn’t imagine our days beginning and ending in the same way for seemingly “forever,” marked only by repetition and routine and the occasional mid-year vacation.
Yet, here I am in my 30s, and my weeks look scarily similar: I work alone in my apartment, sitting at my desk for upwards of eight hours a day. In the evening, I go to the gym, make dinner, clean up, then watch whatever show is trending on Netflix.
“I sometimes fear that I am losing myself to the redundancy.”
I do my best to force myself out of the house on weekends—taking my dog for walks, driving to local thrift stores, meeting with friends, and stocking up on groceries. My husband is in a year-long fire training academy, so it’s just me navigating weekend anxiety. You know the kind: when you feel pressure to get enough rest or sunshine or fun under your belt before Monday morning rolls around.
I don’t feel lonely in this season as much as I feel bored. It all sounds nice in theory, and believe me, I’m not complaining—I know my friends with children would do just about anything for a few extra minutes alone. But being by myself so often and in the throes of a fairly monotonous routine, I sometimes fear that I am losing myself to redundancy. My actions, my conversations, and even my thoughts have begun to blur together. There is a constant hum in my head as I keep chugging along.
I’ve recently been pondering the idea of cyclical living and also what it would look like to stop resisting a life that feels and looks entirely ordinary, mundane even. What does it mean to choose a quiet and unassuming life? Are there benefits to every day looking the same? Do we cultivate patience? A stronger sense of self?
The truth is, life is 99% mundane; a person’s life is a collection of all the moments that happen in the middle.
The truth is life is 99% mundane; a person’s life is a collection of all the moments that happen in the middle. There are adventures and excitement along the way, but it’s the unassuming parts that fill in the blank pages of our stories and shape us into who we are.
Think about your favorite adventure books from childhood, the ones where the main character embarks on a brave quest. Sure, they slayed a dragon, but that was never the full story. In the chapters we didn’t get to read, these characters returned home to their very ordinary lives—working, eating, playing, and caring for their families. Perhaps then it’s not just the “dragon slaying” that shapes us, but also the moments before and after.
Consider the seasons—they come and go as expected. Every morning, the sun rises, then sets. The facts of this are boring. But look at the colors in the sky and you’ll see a very different story.
Or there are the tides. They rush in and out twice a day, with two high and two low tides every 24 hours. It’s always been the same. But have you ever walked on the soft sands of a shoreline freshly swept by salt water?
The birds and butterflies follow patterns, too, surrendering to the familiar flow of migration. And then there is us; humanity. Even we live by the rule of cycles, from inhales and exhales, from life until death.
The rhythm of life, that constant hum, the waking up to another day of work, play, and loving your people—it’s breathtaking if you listen to it. But first, we must choose to shift our perspectives, to experience these mundane, everyday occurrences and instead look for the magic.
“The rhythm of life, that constant hum, the waking up to another day of work, play, and loving your people—it’s breathtaking if you listen to it.”
For me, it’s the simple things, like when my husband comes home and our dog zooms in circles around the apartment. Or how my favorite leftovers smell when heated in cast iron. It’s the crumbs on the counter from a rushed breakfast because a farewell forehead kiss was more important, a preamble to a later and longer embrace. These are the moments that feel more like home than four walls or any adventure ever will.
It’s also how the air smells after it rains in Los Angeles, all fresh and dewy. Or how the sun is a surprise to my skin on the first day of spring, despite having lived 31 springs now. Oh, and it’s the birds! They sing their familiar song each morning even when I forget to listen, even as I zone out and brush my teeth for the millionth time, my bare feet on the cold tile floor.
It’s the rare weeknight dinners with friends (because, oof, LA traffic), the warm feeling I get when reaching the middle of a book, and the watching reruns of my favorite show with a cheap glass of tried-and-true Trader Joe’s wine. It’s a tunneling candle.
These moments may seem insignificant, but they are the tiny events that make up my life, in between the long lulls that I once feared. I’m not scared anymore because I’m learning to pay attention, to hold these mundane moments close and see them for the gifts they are. Slaying dragons can be fun, sure. But have you ever tried to embrace an unassuming life lived on purpose?
Kayti Christian is the Managing Editor at The Good Trade. She has a Master’s in Nonfiction Writing from the University of London and is the creator of Feelings Not Aside, a newsletter for sensitive people.