How To Make Ordinary Life Extraordinary

Spring has sprung in Beijing.

The trees are turning green.
The flowers are beginning to bloom.
And the elderly are back on the roads.

Unfortunately, the color and life that is trying so hard to fill the world is being muted by a heavy smog that has settled on the city. It becomes incredibly depressing to wake up day after day to a brown sky and lungs that ache. This morning I woke up to a dull, lifeless world that really was less than inspiring.

This thick pollution has become part of ordinary life for all of us here in Beijing. Just ordinary. And, on that note, life in general sometimes feels just plain ordinary. You might find that surprising because I live in China, but it’s true. No matter where you are, all over the world, life can feel ordinary.

In my melancholy state, I mused over the idea of “extraordinary”. What makes an extraordinary life? Can I live an extraordinary life despite the gloom and doom around me?

I can sure try. Here are my tips on how to make ordinary life extraordinary.

1. Appreciate the beauty around you.

(Pictured here is a beautiful new succulent arranged in a mug I bought for only 5 rmb! (Roughly 80 cents.)

2. Take time to identify what makes your life unique.

(This mug was a Christmas present from one of my close friends here in China. I use it so much that I forgot how cool it might be to someone else. Here it is filled with the sweet nectar that is nescafe instant coffee.)

3. Embrace your inner child.

(Embracing your inner child just means embracing the carefree creative part of you. An afternoon of blowing bubbles, coloring, or playing games is a great escape from what may seem mundane. This recipe for bubble solution calls for dish soap, water, a little sugar, and food coloring if you’re feeling extra fancy. I then burned a hole in the bottom of a plastic cup and I was set! It was a little messy, but that’s just the inner child coming out.)

4. Admire the little things that are all a part of your everyday life.

This is my purse and all its contents emptied onto our coffee table. Arranged neatly, my life seems kind of strange and extraordinarily colorful.

One: A cheap oversea’s cell phone that is decorated with nail polish on the back. It was purchased in Jordan, but works here in China too. My students think it is ugly. I love it.

Two: A handbook for Chinese is my necessity for survival.

Three: A red pen for grading emergencies! An ESL teacher’s job is never done.

Four: A broken iPhone that still has a functioning camera and stopwatch.

Five: A deck of playing cards for when my husband and I are waiting too long at a restaurant.

Six: A little RMB to get me through the day.

Seven: A Chinese hair tie that is absolutely amazing. Buying them all up before we head back to the States.

Eight: A teabag for those restaurants that only give you hot water. (It’s a Chinese thing.)

Nine: EOS chapstick for those particularly dry Beijing days.

Ten: Nescafe instant coffee for when tea just won’t do the trick.

Eleven: The keys for, to, and of my life. Please note the dog and whistle key chains. Presents from my students – they know how badly I want a puppy.

5. Be a goof and eat good food.

(These two things just go hand in hand. Ordinary life is so much more extraordinary when you are silly and eating delicious food. The first picture is my husband, Leif, trying on some antique glasses we found in an old store. The second photograph is of nachos from the amazing restaurant, Sandy Pebble, towards the center of Beijing.)


The other week I read a quote that has been stuck in my head ever since. It goes,

“Time stands still best in moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life.”

Ordinary life is a wonderful, beautiful thing – pollution or no pollution. It is our opportunity to make it as extraordinary as it can be. Our opportunity to appreciate even the littlest things and see how blessed our lives truly are. How wonderful is that?

Is your life ordinary in an extraordinary way? Leave a comment below.


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