A Routine Reflection on Routines

You know what they call drinking on Fridays, right? They call it “unwinding.” The connotation is something like, Monday to Friday, you stress yourself out, working on your job, a trapped robot among hundreds of trapped robots along a kilometer of conveyor belt. But then on Friday night, you get a screwdriver and unscrew all your nuts and bolts, get out of your metal shell, and sit on a table in a bar a complete breathing human being for once. And then you look at the inviting golden bubbles of your cold bottle of beer and drink it. All the problems sorta melt, dripping at the back of your head, vaporizing into nothing at least for that night, and you’re free. That’s “unwinding” for you. For us.

But that’s the thing with routines. Even the part where you unwind after a routine is part of the routine–you tend to realize that after a few drinking sessions. You realize that somebody’s fooling you and having a good laugh at you. Even that blissful moment of drunken freedom is actually part of your role as a clunking robot. You can say it’s even the last stop at the conveyor belt before it enters the machine, goes around, and begins the cycle once more.

Routines are our lives. Well, at least for some of us, like me, for example. If you’ve got a creative job then good for you. Or it may also be the case that your job’s really not creative at all, but since you’ve got very low standards and expectations when it comes to creativity, you’re satisfied with your job as it is. If you’re that kinda guy, you’re lucky and I envy you.

For guys like me though, everything just seems repetitive, cyclical. And the thing that’s really hateful in all of it is that you can’t get rid of the thought that every second you do it, you’re moving a step closer to old age. Every look in the mirror reveals just the tiniest hint of time catching up. Your hair seems thinner than before; your hairline shows the most minute signs of retreating from an invisible enemy; your skin grows more and more rigid and just listless; your eyes leave no doubt as to their tiredness. It’s all there. The onset of age bleeding through the image on the mirror as you finish another cycle for the day.

It’s ironic that most of us plan to get out of these routines by getting really good at living them. What I mean is that our plan to be really free and creative people in the future usually consists of being the ideal slaves for now. So in order for me to have the ability to have long, fabulous vacations in the beach someday, or be able to paint, for example, or read books as much as I want, I would have to work really hard today, so I can save enough for the future. So I put in more work, target the incentives, render overtimes, stop spending–basically stick to the routine as much as possible, so I can buy my way out when the time comes.

And all that would be worth it if only we’re assured of success in the end. But as many of us know and as what’s apparent in this society we’re living in, it would be tough to hit that goal. So we get sad, sad that maybe we really won’t be able to get out of this routine. We’ll work on the conveyor belt of life until rust makes our metal joints squeak and squeal. Then our limbs will just fall off on the floor. Some of us will lose their screws as well ’cause of the pain. Then it’s over. We’re getting shipped out of the mechanical warehouse ’cause we’re not good workers anymore. End of the story. Poor robot. Goodbye.

Gloomy, really. You hope that things will be different tomorrow. Maybe the girlfriend will lighten you up or your friends will say something good about you. Maybe you’ll read something witty or hear something catchy and that will give you a better perspective. But then that moment of unnecessary critical thinking strikes, and you have to admit to yourself it’s all part of the routine, too. Inspiration is part of the imposition.

You write a blog about the routine. It’s all part of the routine, too. The routine is an invisible invincible giant amoeba that doesn’t get hurt by anything you throw at it. It just swallows it whole and makes it a part of its massive body that’s growing larger by the minute.

What’s even more frustrating is that when you really sit down to think about the alternatives to this routine, you find out you can’t think of anything. A DVD marathon, perhaps? Playing the guitar on your bed, running through your Beatles songbook? How about a walk in the park or in a mall? Going to a really far and different place like Baguio? They’re all options. But when you really muse about it, it becomes clear that these alternative activities are only fun in so far as they serve a stark contrast to the repetitive things you do each day. When you imagine doing them for the rest of your life, they start to lose their special quality and become just another activity in a sea of activities you can do. Nothing special. Just different for a while or a weekend. When you start to lose interest in them, you’d move on to something new. But then that would become another routine, another cycle that would cage you like a hamster and make you run in that stupid wheel. When you’re rich, leisure is your work.

How to get out of it? I don’t know. What I do know is that others have tried to think of ways to get out of it before, and they still are today. You’re actually free to devise your own strategy on how to bail out. Make as many strategies as you like. Question all you want. But just always remember that the routine has planned all this before you. And questioning him is part of the grand plan.

2 thoughts on “A Routine Reflection on Routines

  1. maybe routine is like destiny. Routine is like the rising of the tides, the stars, twilight and dusk. Someone’s watching us, our plans. Big brother, the Panopticon, the police – all i can think of now is sabotage.

    1. Hehe, that’s what gets me. Even thoughts of sabotage is part of the routine. Terrorism? Part of the routine! It reinforces the routine by violently and publicly condemning the parts that threaten it. Punishment reinforces. You’re right. Maybe routine is destiny.

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