Searching for what makes a good day (for me) is my ongoing journey. The fact that I am asking this question means that I clearly feel unfilled and furthermore do not believe I am living the best life I can or should. As I try to unearth answers, I instead come to the conclusion that no solution on its own seems to be good enough. One event can make a good day indeed, but I’m sure that is not what I’m looking for in an answer. I’m constantly wanting more from the small discoveries I find. When I internalize a new habit or event that contributes to making a day fulfilling, I wonder, at that moment, what else can build upon the joy it brings before or after. Shouldn’t a good day be more than one moment and instead many that build up to or upon one another? How do you plan for and experience a good day consistently? Many times a good day simply occurs serendipitously, and I appreciate that greatly. However, as I want to keep that randomness (as it is surprising and fun), I do want to have more control over designing a day that I define as good. I run the risk in this control as overplanning can become mundane and expected over time. The “good” becomes normal, and that could desensitize me to its goodness. That is not good. 

What I’ve learned

I have discovered a few bits of philosophical treasure on this journey that I take into each new day to repeat. First, I require peace. I need it woven into my day. It’s important to have periods of quiet reflection in the morning as the day starts and night, as it draws to an end. For example, I enjoy starting the morning looking outside with a cup of coffee. I enjoy this time as it gives me time and space to think. I like to balance this quiet reflection with some adventure. I usually turn to a book or a podcast for this. If there were no pandemic, I’d prefer some actual physical adventure, instead of one that occurs only mentally.

In opposition to peace, any drama is not desired in any of my days. However, it rears its head quite often. Living in a home in quarantine with two other people and four pets is definitely a catalyst for drama. Before the pandemic, drama occurred quite often at work. Being the head of a department did not help with avoiding drama.

Beyond experiencing peace and time for reflection, this is a list of what makes a good day so far (for me). 

  • Feelings of
    • Security and comfort
    • Being loved
    • Self-worth
    • Hope
    • Intense focus without a connection to time
  • Time for creating (where that intense focus comes in)
  • Reading, learning, and adventure
  • Helping or teaching
  • Physical fitness
  • Laughter and surprise
  • Healthy eating
  • Human contact

It’s quite clear that not all of these experiences can and will occur in a single day all the time. I have had them all happen, however, leaving me thirsty for more the next day. But, as a realist, I need to be happy with what is possible due to work-related and family responsibilities. I am blessed with a job that does challenge me creatively and a healthy family that I love in a home that provides for me. Being alive in that reality contributes to the joy of a good day. 

With that being said, I am unpacking the list above, to better understand why I chose each. Is any event or emotion more important than the other? Must all happen? What am I missing? Hey, I do enjoy a beer or glass of wine and some chocolate now and then. Does that negate “healthy eating” or should I consider “healthy eating” only in quotation marks leaving room for some drinking and desserts?

This list is also general in its scope. For instance, with human contact, I see my daughter and wife every day in quarantine. This doesn’t always equal a good day. I need human contact outside of my family and days where we take a break from one another for a few hours to regroup and do something singularly that we want to do. I also would like to meet new interesting people and see new and old friends. Human contact goes beyond only my family. 

Continuing on

This blog post has been a challenge to write. I struggle to put into words the feelings and thoughts I have about defining a good day. I even question if it is worth my time. Should I just leave it all to coincidence and “ride by the seat of my pants” as I did in my twenties? That decade was definitely a good time. Of course, there were low points, but I seemed to take advantage of every moment in each day. I was not working all the time (like I am now), had fewer family responsibilities, and didn’t worry so much. I didn’t try to predict the future and overthink decisions. I went along for the ride. I threw caution to the wind and said “why not”? 

I don’t take those risks as much now. I worry about putting myself in the hospital or the grave and not being there for my daughter. I realize how lucky I was in my naivety then to have escaped getting into trouble or serious injury. But, in that understanding, I have pulled back so much that I’m not letting myself enjoy the day. I do focus a lot on achieving new accolades. It’s part of my job. An exhibition here and a journal article there, repeated enough times can get me a raise and promotion. They can and have led me to new journeys to different parts of the world meeting and collaborating with people I never guessed I’d see.

The awards and achievements do give me feelings of self-worth, and that is good. Some folks look up to me for this. But I suppose, based on the fact I’m still writing this, that “winning” doesn’t mean I had a good day. It’s great, but fulfilling it is not. 

I have a lot to work with so far, as you’ve read, to continue my existential journey forward. I’m not satisfied with my life. It’s possible and likely that whenever I do get to that point, however, that I’ll get bored and move on to new ideas and challenges. I’ve done this in the past. When I found myself, at age 24, working a design and illustration job that I started two years prior, in Ann Arbor where I went to college; I felt trapped. I didn’t want to live and work there my whole life. I didn’t see any new challenges in the job, only trying to set a paragraph of type differently with a new photo. Looking back at that feeling and decision to quit the job and move to Boston, I know it was the right decision. At the same time, I want to go back to Ann Arbor, where I lived ages 18-24, to, I guess relive through the campus and community some of the best years of my life. It’s foolhardy to think I will. I’m better off visiting to reminisce and see friends that are living there still. 

As I’m writing this solely for me, I hope that it makes you think about your life and what you’re doing and hoping to do. I always ask myself, “what would eight-year-old Eric” think about where I am. Would he approve? I relate a lot of my life now to the magical childhood I had. I didn’t have everything I wanted, but I did have almost everything I needed. I turned out well with a few flaws and bruises here and there. I’m still sculpting and learning about myself. This blog is the place where I will share the bigger epiphanies I have. Until next time.