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Friday, April 12, 2024

The beauty in the mundane

“Romanticize the life-ife-ife”

 

By MOLLY THOMPSON – mmtthompson@ucdavis.edu 

 

When I go grab a chai latte on a Sunday morning, it’s not just a chai latte — it’s a whole event. It’s a cute outfit complete with my favorite lip gloss. It’s a bike ride downtown on my blue cruiser, early enough that it’s tranquil and quiet (unheard of on a college campus). It’s the little, local coffee shop with immaculate vibes and chatty Gen-Z baristas. It’s the matching cup and saucer my drink comes in, the leaves I can see falling outside the window, the good book I pull out of my bag, the shot I line up to post on my Instagram story and the way my hands fit around the mug as I take the first warm, comforting sip — It’s serenity. But it could be just a chai latte.

Romantic, by definition, means “characterized by or suggestive of an idealized view of reality.” In the 17th century, “romances” were stories written in romance languages (French, Spanish, Italian, etc.), which often consisted of passion, adventure and fancy. Over time, the word “romance” has come to convey grandeur, whimsy and idyllic concepts. To romanticize something, then, would be to make it the most beautiful version of itself. 

The notion of romanticizing ordinary aspects of everyday life gained traction in the early months of the pandemic in 2020. When there was so little to look forward to, the idea of embracing small joys within normal goings-on was welcome. In essence, the intention is to maximize the pleasure that you can get from seemingly mundane activities. You’re going to get up and make yourself breakfast no matter what, so you might as well open the curtains to let the sunshine into the kitchen, put it in your favorite bowl, add an extra drizzle of honey on top and put on a good podcast while you eat it. Suddenly, you have something to look forward to. 

There’s a special kind of beauty in little luxuries — maybe you buy yourself flowers to put on your dining room table because they make you smile and only cost $3.99 at Trader Joe’s. Maybe you put on a little extra cologne or perfume on a Tuesday because why shouldn’t Tuesday be a special occasion? Maybe you pour your can of Diet Coke into a glass with ice and drink it with a straw because it feels more classy that way. Now, all of a sudden, what used to be nothing more than a moment in your day that you never thought twice about is a special ritual that you can get excited for.    

It’s scientifically proven that aesthetically pleasing things make us feel safe. Back in the hunter-gatherer days when our fight-or-flight responses were more frequently warranted, we could only appreciate the physical beauty in something if we weren’t in any immediate danger. In other words, recognizing pretty things meant that we were out of harm’s way. In a state of panic, the brain simply can’t process the value in aesthetics. So if we surround ourselves with pretty things, and every time we look at those things we appreciate their beauty; we can continuously give ourselves little subconscious reminders that everything’s okay. If we can see beauty around us, we must not be in any real danger. Long story short, romanticizing your space can even help to alleviate anxiety. 

Gen-Z has popularized a myriad of different trends, lexical additions, styles, etc. Our obsession with different aesthetics in particular has been central in our society for multiple years now. I’m not on board with everything that comes through the trend cycle, but I am a supporter of the “romanticize your life” phenomenon. Why would you not want to try to get as much joy out of your day as you possibly can? Especially if the things about your life that you can change to optimize your happiness are simple and inconsequential, I see no reason why you shouldn’t. Any “cringe” factor associated with this idea is moot, if you ask me, because anything that brings you serotonin or dopamine (without hurting other people) is a stupid thing to be embarrassed about. 

If you’re going to go study in the library and you stop for a coffee on the way — that’s not just a coffee, it’s an accessory. (And honestly, it should be included in your tuition because it’s necessary.) It’s a tiny, simple article that takes your study session from I’m-a-tired-burnt-out-college-student-running-on-fumes-and-pancakes-and-an-empty-planner to I’m-a-mature-and-sexy-academic-with-insurance-and-a-really-cool-jacket-and-my-life-together. Not only will you be more productive during the latter, you’ll enjoy it a hell of a lot more too. A rainy day goes from glum and gloom to cute and cozy if you’ve got a book and a blanket. Put a bow in your hair for a regular work day because it’ll make you feel so cute and special (you’ll look it too). There’s joy in the mundane if you want there to be — find the brightness in the tedium and the romance in the quotidian. 

So that’s how I ride back home from the coffee shop — calm and warmed from the inside out. The sun is peeking through the clouds and people are starting to pepper the streets of downtown on their way to Sunday brunch. Taylor Swift is playing in my headphones — “Taking your time in the tangerine neon light, this is luxury.” I still have the whole day ahead of me. It’s serendipitous and intentional and peaceful and content. It’s romantic because I made it that way.

 

Written by: Molly Thompson — mmtthompson@ucdavis.edu 

 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.

 

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