Art: Daily Nexus / Kailey Flora

When I was 15 and at a dark place in life, someone told me, “It’s not about having good days, but about finding the good in the days.” I told them it had been a long time since I’d had a good day, and their response was that sentence. Confused, I ignored it and continued not having good days. Eventually, I grew out of it and the angst high school brings faded. I moved from Georgia to California, started college, changed my hair, stopped drinking milk and did everything I could to disassociate myself from the miserable person I was, yet I was not having good days. The days in California, like in Georgia, had become monotonous. I went to school, I went to work, I watched TV and I went out with friends. The days slowly began melting into each other, disappearing before my very eyes, and with them interest went.

I realized if I wanted change I just had to go for it.

When my interest disappeared with the overlapping of my days, fear appeared; fear that I had just moved 2,000 miles for a change and I was feeling just like I did before moving. After some days, the fear subsided, but in place of fear came guilt. I started blaming myself for moving, for attending school, for being selfish enough to want change in the first place. The guilt quickly turned to anger: anger at myself for believing I could change, anger at society for making me believe I needed to always experience positive feelings and anger at the bad days, since they were the ones making me unhappy. Along with this anger came a realization I could not stay the same person if I wanted change. I realized if I wanted change I just had to go for it. I had to somehow become someone who was happy, someone who wanted to wake up in the morning, someone who enjoys the day. I had to start having good days, but I did not know how to do that. So, I did what I always did when I was unsure of things. I went to the beach.

The beach, surprisingly, is a good listener. When I was young I got into the habit of talking to the ocean about my problems, problems I thought I couldn’t talk to anyone else about. I cried with the ocean, laughed with ocean, got high with the ocean. It somehow knows me better than I know myself, since in those moments I am with it, I can truly be honest about everything and anything. That night I told the ocean my fears, my concerns and my pain. I told it things I kept inside for years. I told it about all the bad days and about the few good ones, too. I told it about moving and missing home. I told it about my resolution to change and my hope for a happier future. I told it everything and anything that came to mind, and after hours of talking I stopped.

As I sat there, listening to the rumble of the waves, the memory of that day I was told to “look for the good in the days” came to me. At the time it was said to me I ignored it because it seemed ridiculous; good days have good things in them, and bad days do not. Therefore, if I’m having bad days, the things in the days are bad. It wasn’t until I was sitting alone at the beach that I realized how wrong I had been. I was trying to group all things I go through in a day under one category, under a single experience of “day.” I was seeing my moments in the day as small parts that form a day, instead of seeing them as what they were: individual complete moments that did not have to belong to this idea of a greater thing.

As humans, we get caught up in the big picture. The small details of our days go ignored by us because there is somewhere else we might rather be. We are always dreaming of the future or dwelling on the past. The bike ride to school is just us thinking about getting to class; in class all we think about is being out of it. When we have breakfast, we think about lunch; when we eat lunch, dinner becomes priority. Every situation we are in becomes the antecedent to something else. They are not individual experiences we try to appreciate; they are small parts of our days as a whole. Now, I am not saying it is wrong to look forward to future events or to anticipate what will come next in your day. Some lectures are boring, some bike rides are long and maybe thinking about dinner is the only thing that gets us through the day. Those things are all valid, but when things become a monotonous, boring, repetitive cycle of the same thing over and over, I recommend looking at the good things in the day individually instead of the days as simply a compilation of events and situations.

At first it seems ridiculous to try and force yourself to find the good, even in days that feel as though no good can come out of them. When I first began to try to find the good things in my day, I quit (multiple times, actually). I expected the good things to show up with a big sign and point themselves out to me. I expected them to be as apparent as the sun or the ocean, but they were never like that. Good things didn’t show themselves to me. On the contrary, the majority of the days I felt like nothing eventful happened, that each day just ended up being an ordinary day in my ordinary life. It was not until quitting for the third time and trying again that I realized good things don’t announce themselves when they appear in your life; there is no “Good thing!” alert that appears on my phone. I had to look for them. I also had to learn that uneventful doesn’t mean the day wasn’t good, it just means I wasn’t looking hard enough. After learning to separate uneventfulness from badness, I started to look for unordinary things in my ordinary days. I looked for moments I would have taken for granted if I hadn’t noticed them. I started noticing the multiple green lights on my way to work or the smile the cashier gave me after grocery shopping. I started noticing the flavor in my favorite foods and the colors I saw through the day. I noticed if I made someone laugh or if someone made me laugh.

I also had to learn that uneventful doesn’t mean the day wasn’t good, it just means I wasn’t looking hard enough.

I can assure you, as horrible as you might think your day is going, whether you got dumped or failed your midterm or made a fool of yourself in front of your crush, there is always something good you can find; all you have to do is look for it. Maybe the sun shined a little brighter, or maybe you heard a song that reminds you of a good memory. Maybe you talked to a friend you hadn’t seen in a long time or watched a new episode of your favorite show, or maybe your crush laughed at your joke. The good things can be as big as walking in your graduation ceremony or as small as hearing a bird’s song first thing in the morning. Some will come during days when everything seems to be going fine. Those days, the good days, will make you forget about remembering the small good things. After all, when the whole is good, there is no need to dissect the pieces. Sometimes, though, the day may not seem to be going your way. That’s when looking at the good parts works. These things won’t necessarily make your day good, but they will give something good to your day.

I cannot say how long it was until it became automatic, until the good things in my day grounded me to the moment, until I stopped looking on purpose and it became a part of my everyday. All I remember is that one day someone asked me how my day was going, and for the first time in awhile I said, “It’s not good, but it’s not bad.” Looking at the good things didn’t make my whole day good. It didn’t magically create this world of meaning and understanding in my life; it didn’t even stop my days from melting into each other. However, what I can say is that it did ground me in the present moment and help me learn to appreciate it. Whether I just failed a test or got my heart broken or fell from my bike, by finding the good in my days, I was able to pause my thinking about the bad, even if just for a few moments, and appreciate the good things that may make a bad day a not-so-terrible day.

Daniella Rodriguez wants you to notice the little things.