Like most people, I need a routine. I need things I can depend on from day to day. I need structure and goals to stay focused.
It took me a surprisingly long time to discover this about myself. It took me exactly 28 years 342 days and 14 hours to realize that without structure, I naturally forget to do important things like…put on pants. Or brush my teeth. Or have fun.
What I had confused for so long were the words “routine” and “monotony.” For me, a successful routine can include a 9-5 day job (read: short stretches of monotony) if it also includes weekend trips or vacations or mental breaks every few weeks. But the key element (for me) is leaving time, money, resources and ideas for spontaneity. (File this one under “First World Problems.”)
When I was in high school, I had an emergency escape plan. If homework got too hard or if my parents “just didn’t understand” at the right time, I had an envelope hidden in my closet stuffed with:
an extra car key
a map highlighted with a route to California
and a wad of money.
That wad of money would have gotten me from Kansas City to about… Kansas. But to me, that envelope was an insurance policy. An escape pod. I never used it, but it was there: a safety net prepared to catch me if adolescence just got to be too much.
Ten years later, I live in California, I have to work harder for my money and my insurance rates stay low if I put fewer miles on my car. I’ve become an adult despite my best efforts. I work for The Man, and even if my husband “just doesn’t understand” at an inopportune time, I have no good reason to to run away. In fact, I have every reason to stay.
The past five weeks, I’ve been off work for medical leave. At first, I thought this would be the ultimate staycation (a word I hate, but an idea I love). But what did I do? Instead of knocking off a few projects around the house, or reading those books I never seem to have time for, or teaching the puppy new tricks, I found myself sitting inside on gorgeous days,
staring at facebook,
forgetting to put on pants,
stuck in the rut of routine,
no, not routine. Stuck in the rut of monotony.
With this face looking at me:
Last Wednesday, it all got to be too much, and I needed to get out.
I *wanted* to drive to Joshua Tree.
Or just out of Los Angeles for an afternoon. It didn’t matter. But when I saw that face and I realized I didn’t have enough ‘fun’ money to fill my tank and take an impromptu day trip out of the city… then naturally, that’s all I wanted to do.
Still, I needed to do something. I pulled out an old bag and stuffed it with:
a bottle of water
and some snacks.
It took me an hour and 15 minutes to get everything together, find my shoes, charge my camera battery and put on pants.
When I left the house, I didn’t even know where I was going. Consequentially, I didn’t get far.
I ended up going to a familiar place, with people I know: A coffee shop I’ve been to a million times. And to be honest, I felt defeated.
So I am resolved: this won’t happen again. I’m hoarding away some extra cash, some day trip ideas, a blanket. I’m keeping my camera battery charged, and my shoes by the door. I’m going to keep an escape pod in the trunk of my car as a part of my routine: a plan to be spontaneous.
So tell me, what would you consider essential? What would you keep in your adventure kit?