Routine and Freedom [en]

[fr] La liberté, et la routine. Trop de liberté ne rend pas forcément plus heureux. Et si la liberté c'était de pouvoir choisir ses contraintes? Retour sur mon histoire avec la liberté et les habitudes.

Kites @ KepongPhoto credit: Phalinn Ooi

I think about routine a lot. I spent a lot of time when I was at university trying to be free. I was quite free, actually. Habits and routine are something we can get stuck in and that might shield us from seeing things we need to see — but I naturally gravitate to the other end of the spectrum, the introspective one, the one who thinks too much, wonders too much, asks herself too many questions. It was clear to me, already back then, that routine/habits had their use: they allowed us to lighten the load of thinking and deciding when it comes to our lives.

I spent ten years at university. Ten. Being a student. Three years studying chemistry (and finally failing), and seven years in what we call “Lettres”, studying History of Religions, Philosophy, and French. One of those years was spent in India. I then spent a lot of time not writing my dissertation. All in all, I spent many years with very long holidays and a very do-it-yourself schedule. It was a good time of my life. It was difficult to see it end.

Is freedom so important to me because of this slice of life, or did I hang out in that context so long because of how important it is to me?

Over the years, I’ve realised that “too much freedom” in the way I live my days does not make me happy. By that I mean complete lack of routine. Was it the first or second summer I was living alone in my first flat? A friend had used the kite metaphor: when you’re free, you let the string out and the kite can fly far, far up high. And I had let my kites go out a bit too far. University resumed, I drew my kites in.

In 2009, it felt like I had got my shit together. My life felt “under control”, in a good way. I wasn’t scrambling after things. If I remember correctly I was even doing my accounting regularly (that’s saying something). And I remember that during that year, I had a pretty solid morning routine. I actually would set my alarm clock. I would wake up at 7:30, and at 9:00 I would be at eclau to work, having pedalled on my stationary bicycle for a good half-hour.

Then 2010 happened. During my catless year, in 2011, I travelled way too much. I made up for all the previous years of no holidays. 2012 was chaotic. All that to say I never got back to where I was in 2009. Briefly, yes. But not consistently. And I know very well how important it is for me to have routines and good habits, so it’s something that’s often top of my mind. But I find myself coming short.

Things might be changing right now. This morning I wrote my first Morning Pages. (Loïc’s fault for mentioning them.) Last week, I got confirmation that Quintus is pretty much completely blind, and so I’ve been actively thinking about how to stabilise his environment — space and time. Quintus is a very routine-oriented cat. All cats are, to some degree, of course.

Blind Quintus Taking a Stroll

So between Morning Pages, cat-related routine, no money to travel (keeps me at home!) and wanting to get back on track when it comes to physical exercise (judo injury in March and slightly expanding waistline that doesn’t fit into favorite winter trousers anymore), the time seems ripe.

I’ve also been wondering recently if I’m not sleeping too much. One of my precious freedoms is not setting an alarm clock in the morning: I sleep as much as I want/need. But I still feel tired. So I think I’ll go with the 7:30 alarm for a bit and see if it changes anything. I’ll report back.

On another note, I sometimes feel like I spent a huge amount of my time in the kitchen dealing with food. I like cooking, and I like eating. But maybe I should limit the number of times I actually cook during the day. I eat a “normal meal” at breakfast, so I sometimes end up cooking three proper meals a day. I should probably reheat or throw something quickly together for morning and lunch, and just cook in the evening.

The biggest freedom might be the freedom to determine your own constraints.

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