It’s a shame how often the “mundane” is so disregarded from how extraordinary it really is. I keep finding myself lost in thought, sitting at the umpteenth coffee shop tucked away in the millionth alley of Ho Chi Minh City. After having lived here for seven months, it’s all too easy to forget exactly where I stand and what it is that I’m doing. Day to day life gives way to a routine pattern which becomes evermore comfortable while positioning itself through a mundane filter. Familiarity often obstructs clarity. In these moments overrun with naïve thoughts about the simplicity of the situations I find myself in, I’ve been working to catch myself. Remind myself that, though a moment may feel like a thousand moments lived before, this moment, right here and right now, is glorious.
Recognize the Experience
As we settle into complacency and forget to challenge our own perspectives, we repeatedly fail to recognize our experiences for what they are. I think it’s fair to say that most of us expats are trying to develop a life and discover different aspects of ourselves through our time living abroad. Pearls in need of polishing, we refine and redefine ourselves in this process of creating our own patterns, our own lives wherever our endeavors lead us. After a while it becomes so easy to fall into the trenches, to forget the magnificence of our experiences. To travel is to be privileged.
All the experiences, mundane and otherwise, that we encounter eventually become our new norm, and whenever something becomes normal to us, it often becomes dulled in our eyes. How many people can say that they’ve backpacked through Europe with their sister on three separate occasions? How many people can say that they’ve picked up their whole life to move to Ho Chi Minh City to learn and start a new life for themselves? I feel called out when I catch a glimpse of wonder in another person’s eyes as I regale them with the story of my life. I forget to recognize the experiences that I’ve lived in all their wonder. It is so crucial to find moments where we can sit with ourselves and our experiences and remember just how great they are, how lucky we are. By conditioning ourselves to recognize the beauty of our experiences, we can then better practice gratefulness and realign our perspectives with where we are in life, as well as, where we want to be.
Find the Magic in the Mundane
Stepping through the threshold of a new coffee shop is such a trivial thing. But what happens if we step slowly, take in the aromas? What do you smell intermingling with the roasting coffee beans? A woman’s perfume and a man’s pheromones, fresh from the gym, wafting through the air, can you smell them? Listen to the rambling chatter, is the couple in the corner speaking Vietnamese or Korean? What about the artwork on the walls? Does that painting of the Eiffel Tower resonate with you, transport you to the edge of the observation deck where a soft breeze glides across your face? Each one of these intricate pieces of our coffee shop puzzle experiences builds upon themselves and adds layers and textures to our everyday life happenings. While it is all too easy to glance over the moment, it’s even more important to allow these experiences to seep into our minds. Do not cast out these pearl memories into the sea of drowning banality. Instead, we should raise them up upon the pedestal of our minds. Display them. Celebrate them. Truthfully, every moment is imbued with its own trademarked magic with infinite opportunities to be scooped up. Awareness is key, and practice is the mold that crafts it.
We owe it to ourselves to challenge our viewpoints. Yes, life can be simple. There’s nothing wrong with that. But even simple is not without its own depth. Seeking to recognize the impact of each individual moment can allow us to enjoy them all the more. A coffee shop isn’t just a coffee shop. An alleyway isn’t just an alleyway. Our habits create a sense of security, peace. Giving in to the habits and patterns we make for ourselves, without practicing awareness, keeps us blind to the magnificence of what we are doing. In keeping our eyes open and continuously searching for the beauty of each moment, we are allowing ourselves more opportunities to be in awe. Looking past the mundane filter allows us to recognize glory as we are living it. It would truly be a shame to find ourselves in these self-development experiences, yet deny ourselves recognition for how these moments enrich us and are then, in turn, enriched by us.