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Appreciating the extraordinary in the ordinary
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Appreciating the extraordinary in the ordinary
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Appreciating the extraordinary in the ordinary
Pass it on
Pass it on
Articles
20 October 2017

Appreciating the extraordinary in the ordinary

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”—Will Durant

Written by Joanita Wibowo

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.

Image via Unsplash/Alex Holyoake

In a world where attention increasingly runs the economy, it becomes more natural for us to look out exclusively for the spectacular. We’re not just looking for a nice holiday, but a life-changing trip. A fulfilling meal is not enough—it must also be the trendiest, most Instagram-worthy dish in the city. Novelty and brilliance seem to be more ubiquitous than ever—so wouldn’t it be a waste not to try and take part?

This aspiration towards the sensational leaves out a significant part of life: the quotidian. Because when awesome is par for the course, who would want to settle for the average day? There is nothing stylish or impressive to say about going to work/school, taking a bus, doing chores, picking up groceries or staying in anyway. Gushing about them is seen at best as an ice-breaker, at worst humdrum trivialities.

These seemingly mundane things are often taken for granted precisely because we can afford to. Since these activities are frequent and repetitive, it may feel okay to just go through the motion, even skip them when possible.

But this recurring quality is precisely why the everyday should be cherished—because they make up a major part of our life, and thus are most influential in shaping your decisions, ways, and values. As Will Durant said,

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

While most of us dream of dramatic moments and clear triumphs, it is often the quotidian that paves the way to such junctures. Daily activities might indeed feel uneventful or even pointless, but they actually help make small, less visible changes to our lives, building up to the spectacular slowly and incrementally rather than in one overnight event. Your run today might be slow and lame, but they prepare your body for a longer time and distance, possibly a marathon someday. When we understand that the changes brought by the quotidian are small yet not insignificant, we learn to be patient, to hold on to our efforts and beliefs, for we know they would lead somewhere if only we put in the work.

But treasuring the everyday is not just about anticipating things to happen—in fact, that’s not the main point. Acknowledging the struggles in daily life is the first step of appreciating them. Even if they don’t turn out into anything or bring the “right” results, we will still learn to revel in the process for its own sake, to enjoy the journey however dull it might look at the moment. External rewards are great, but often they pale in comparison to the way you see and experience things. Achieving the finish line does not feel as good when you don’t savour the race, when you don’t find pleasure in running alongside fellow racers, absorbing in the scenery as you go, or giving in to the physical sensations of legwork and increased heart-rate.

The everyday is more fleeting than it seems. Life is more fast-paced now—jobs and businesses are less stable, friends and trends less permanent. What feels unexceptional to you today will probably become strange in two or three years. Then, you might look back and see how romantic the once-familiars are: the shabby fast food joint in your old neighbourhood where you were a regular, the jacaranda tree on your school’s yard, the retail shop where you worked in with your mates. They defined a time in your life, and each errand, each sight, led you to where you are now.

The quotidian does not reveal its wonders readily and that’s exactly why we should hold them dear.  So, take in as best as you can, with all your senses, your day-to-day. From dawn ‘til dusk and back.

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