Routines are a strange, powerful force. We do something over and over again and it becomes habit. Many people take solace in a binding sense of commitment to a routine. Other people treat them like they’re the scourge of all that’s creative, spontaneous and good.
I am a routine person. I’ve always done well when there was something at stake. In order to make things work for me, I need to see life as a sequence of events; a chain reaction. If I don’t act a certain way or do something I said I would, bad things will happen. To me and to the people around me. I need this, you see. I’m a person who needs consequences or I tend to let myself spiral out of control. Accountability is what drives me and if I lose that … well, everything goes to shit. Lately, I’ve been wondering what that says about me. Am I constantly acting under duress? Do I only respond to threatening situations of my own making? Is this why I’ve had such a hard time letting go of the day-to-day stress that governs most of my interactions and reactions? Probably.
I kind of remember when I became like this. It wasn’t a voluntary decision; it was the result of a sequence of events that catalyzed a shift in the way I believe the world to work. I used to think that what you got out of things was relatively equal to what you put in…that I was entitled to go a little crazy from time to time…and that you had to look after yourself first because no one else would. Now, I’m not sure that’s true.
Everything I’ve experienced in the last two years has taught me that you need to give way more than you get, forever.
You need to make allowances, compromises and show that you genuinely care – altruistically and unconditionally – about whatever it is that you’re doing before other people will see that in you.
My point is, there are things I (hate to admit it but) am afraid to do because I haven’t allowed my innermost self to go there yet. Not really. I was at the peak of my creativity when I was seven years old. I painted constantly; I hung out in the woods behind my house and devised inventions, captured animals and studied them. I was equally interested in science and literature, visual art and natural phenomena. As I got older, my interests narrowed. I decided I hated math – I’d never have to use it. I perfected the art of doing only what I was comfortable with and doing that very, very well. I stopped looking outside myself and I stopped extending.
You know how they say that every time you learn something new, your brain enfolds, creating a new rift in the sequence of furrows that govern all we know to be true, consciously and subconsciously?
I feel like my brain hasn’t newly furrowed since grade 3.
As I grew older, I shrank from new types of knowledge, building on what I had already acquired. Now, at 25, the thought of doing something that genuinely scares me, of uncertain outcome, possibly dangerous and potentially changing the entire course of my life seems impossible. I’ve learned to wield behaviour and intellectual output that yields good results in my life – I smile when I come into work even if I feel numb and dull, I write things that please other people and sell ideas, products and services perfectly adequately. I apply myself in measures that can only be described as exactly enough to get me where I feel I should be at this particular juncture. There are day-to-day routines and there are routines that create our self-perception, values and doctrine. My routines are the latter.
I don’t know if I’ll break out of this…I don’t know if I want to and finally, endlessly importantly, if I should. I know the past 15 years have taught me to ensconce myself in routines that will guarantee I’m successful in the traditional sense. The thing is, through the development of that routine I’ve grown accustomed to planning for a future I’m not even certain will exist. The decision remains: will I spend the next fifteen years smiling and being conventionally successful, or will I allow myself to spiral out of control?