On the merits of warm radiators

Contending with the crushing realization that life is mostly mundane

Will Nelson, Senior Columnist

Every night I sit on the radiator in my kitchen and eat a bowl of cereal. It’s not a conscious decision, I just always end up there– sitting in silence next to the air fryer with my back against the windowsill. One night, I began to feel differently about it.

The day before, I had returned from a study abroad trip to Belize. I will not dwell on the details of the trip– as much as people say they do, nobody really wants to hear about a vacation you have been on. In short, it was a tremendously exciting fifteen day adventure, and suddenly there I was again with my corn flakes, watching my next door neighbor take out the garbage at 10 p.m. The transition didn’t thrill me. 

It occurred to me that I would probably be sitting on that radiator every night for the next many months, and I was filled with an overwhelming sense of disappointment.

Life is almost entirely comprised of the mundane. We wake up in the morning and decide what outfit to wear. We prepare meals. We go to work and come home from work. We fill our cars with gasoline. We make small talk. We feed our pets and water our gardens. We respond to emails and catch up with friends. 

Extraordinary things happen, but if you were to break down a lifetime into a pie chart you’d probably find that much more of your time is spent sitting on the toilet than battling venomous snakes.

When I think about how I can get the most out of my brief time here on earth, I tend to focus on those extraordinary things– grand adventures, falling in love, big accomplishments, explosive emotions… But when I think about that pie chart, I start to worry. Can I really justify putting all meaning into a few important moments? Am I really comfortable with the majority of my lifetime being devoid of any real significance? 

The answer I fall on is no. I want every moment of my life to be significant, even the ones where I’m washing dishes in the sink or scraping ice off my windshield in the morning. 

So how can we appreciate the mundane? 

I think a good place to start is by seeing it. For example, I rarely think about walking to class– I think about the readings that I did not do, or the pretty girl with the septum piercing that sits across from me. The act of walking to class may be a mundane one, but it can also be a beautiful moment if I take the effort to see it as one. 

It’s so appallingly easy to slog your way through a week thinking that on the weekend you will really get to living. Then Saturday night rolls around and you find yourself in bed with your textbook and an empty bottle of rosé and life seems more banal than ever. It is not a sustainable way to live.

But if you can find beauty or meaning in the cup of tea you pour yourself before online lecture, or the icicles forming on the gutter outside, things do not seem quite so bleak. Your world is full of things to love and wonder at. 

To put it in a less optimistic light; don’t wait for the ‘big’ moments to start appreciating life, because nobody can guarantee that they will come at all. 

The radiator in my kitchen might not be as exciting as researching whales in the Arctic or meeting my soulmate at a Parisian art gala, but it is something, and as strange as it sounds, I am tremendously grateful for it. Now, every night it reminds me not to see the mundane parts of my life as a means to something larger, but as a collection of beautiful and valuable moments unto themselves.