If I was paid a dollar for every time I heard, read, or even interpreted the phrase “enjoy the little things in life,” I would be a billionaire. I would be retired to a quaint beach house along the coast of California, sipping coffee on my back patio and overlooking the sunset as the deep gold rays of sun slid off the sprawling cliffs to the wayside and twinkled over the waters of the Pacific. That’s quite a lifestyle. It’s also the result of the money I would earn hearing the mundane, exhausted repetition of that phrase.
It wasn’t until last year that I realized the phrase was truly a gem to abide by. Not that it hadn’t always rung true—deep down, I’d sympathized with it as a nugget of truth that was a fundamental aspect of our genetic makeup. We have always known it. That’s why when someone playfully hits our shoulder and chirps, “Enjoy the little things in life,” it’s usually accompanied by a feeling of annoyance on our behalf.
2017 was a stressful year for me, and my first year of what some would refer to as “adulting.” I moved out of my parents’ home and into my very own apartment in town, which I shared with a roommate. The location was ideal, the complex was tidy, and when viewed from our third-floor balcony, resembled a tropical resort (palm trees included). And, like clockwork, our nearly $1200 rent bill impatiently awaited payment on the last day of the month.
Summer ended and fall ensued. College classes began again, and I took on a full-time position at my retail job. Working 40 hours a week was a breeze—I was working as the supervisor of the cosmetics department, which was fitting since I’d long pined after the beauty of makeup artistry and loved making other women feel good about themselves.
But then I’d clock out at 6pm and head straight home where a lengthy reading assignment and analytical essay were waiting to be completed. I had to devote all my best efforts towards my assignments, as they were for my senior level classes and would determine if I’d graduate. I would usually work up until 1 or 2 in the morning, then go to bed and wake up at 7 for another day of work.
As you can imagine, coffee became my best friend in no time. Holidays were quickly approaching, and in the retail realm, that means tons of freight delivered by trucks (i.e. potential Christmas presents), Black Friday-long lines every day, and a slew of short-tempered customers. Holidays also meant that final exams and research papers were due. As if I wasn’t already running around like the Energizer Bunny, I was also trying to earn volunteer hours for school and spend time with those I loved.
I was getting by on little sleep and a whole lot of stress. I worried about how much homework I had waiting for me at home while I was rushing around the store helping customers. At night, it was hard to concentrate on the essay blinking on my computer screen, because I was exhausted and thinking about how many projects I needed to finish at work the next morning.
This is where enjoying the little things came into play. On the rare occasion that I would have a Saturday or Sunday off from work, I woke up early, brewed a cup of coffee with some sugar and creamer, and retreated to my desk where the day’s homework would take place. But in those quiet hours of the morning, while everyone was still at home sleeping in or making breakfast with their family, I dwelled in the quiet time with myself. It seems so simple, and maybe a bit silly, but being able to take the time to sip my coffee was a small blessing. It was a delicious treat to start the day.
As my taste buds brimmed with the nutty vanilla flavor, I reflected on my life. I debated all the work I had ahead of me, but I also thought of all the good things I had to be thankful for. I had a comfortable place to live. I had my family, my boyfriend, and best friend who all lived nearby and loved and cared for me. My job in the cosmetics department, under the layers of stress that came with the holiday season and extreme customer demand, was still a position that I truly took delight in and left me fulfilled.
And, aside from the constant due dates and assignments for school, I was nearing the end of college and would be achieving a degree in the field in which I was passionate. My morning coffee on the weekends was maybe only a half hour, but it was ample time to refresh my mind and my heart on what was important.
2018 welcomed me with open arms and opportunity. I began working as an elementary school library assistant, and precious moments were ever more frequent. Every morning, a handful of kindergartners, wide-eyed with a baby-toothed grin, would notice me and race over for a hug. Those simple five seconds being squeezed around the waist were like adding sugar to my morning—immediately, my day was elevated to extraordinary (and sweet) potential.
The momentous occasions in life, like graduations and weddings, are few and far between for most people. If we only celebrated those special events, we would spend far too much time dwelling on our hectic schedules and daydreaming of the vacation scheduled for six months from now. By taking a moment to appreciate the laughter of someone we love dearly or admiring the flower that persisted through a clump of weeds, we learn to navigate life with a consistently grateful heart.
Don’t miss this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: The Benefits of Optimism in the Grit and Grace Life – 025!