What you see above is a screenshot of my Google image search for "at the end of the day." I never noticed this expression much until the last year or so. Now, I've heard it so often I decided to stop to think about it. When I dug down into what it stands for, I decided that I don't like it much.
People use "at the end of the day" to mean "when everything's over" or "in the final analysis" or "after all of this" (whatever this is in the moment). Those all sound final, as if the end of the day is the End of Days, when we're all dead or dying and wondering where the time went and why we spent so much of it worrying about our blemishes.
Really, the end of one day is always the eve of another. If we think about the end of each day as an opportunity lost forever, we might give up on our goals. On the other hand, if we train ourselves to think of each day as part of a lifelong journey, just an arbitrary segment in a lengthy timeline, we can make bigger plans, hope for greater success, and give ourselves time to work towards better ends.
I keep wanting to ask the people who use this expression, "At the end of which day?" We have so many to choose from, and even if they sometimes feel identical to each other, they're not. We learn from everything our senses gather, from what we read, from our mistakes. We make new friends and set new goals and try new foods. We see others living their lives, and we can emulate or diverge. Every day offers so many chances and opportunities that we shouldn't think about the ones we've missed but about the ones ahead of us. When we focus on what matters "at the end of the day," we lose the importance of right now.
What do you think matters now? Do you use the term? Have I managed to change your mind? And at the end of the day, don't you want to go to sleep? Please share your thoughts in the comments.