22 Nov Why all routines are good routines
In August, I moved to Paris. I finished my last day of work on a Friday afternoon and boarded a red-eye flight to the French capital the next evening. Suddenly, from the moment my plane landed on the runway at Charles de Gaulle, I was starting my life again. I moved into a new neighbourhood, started class at a new school, and spent time with new friends —I had no routines to depend on for security and direction and no framework for providing myself with comfort, cheering myself up, or treating myself after a tough day. I was building a life in France from the beginning.
A few weeks later, I entered the train, instinctively weaving through the collection of bodies gathered in the aisle —those who’ve taken the RER B during rush hour will understand the careful navigation required to find an empty space between the inconceivable arrangement of bodies —to lean against the backrest located by the opposite doors.
I crossed the train in a few steps. I didn’t pause to look for a seat or stake my claim on a rare bit of standing-space in the central part of the carriage. I went to the part of the train that I always seek out, preferring the view from that place because I can see what’s happening in the carriage and the facades of traditional Haussmann-style buildings that pass by on either side of the tracks.
That day, standing on the train like I often did on the way to class, it occurred to me that I’d established a routine in Paris —perhaps it wasn’t the first routine I’d established, but it was the first one I’d noticed.
Since then, I’ve noticed other routines. I always carry a euro with me during a morning run, so I can buy a baguette from the bakery beside the park. I go to the market on Wednesday mornings after class, and take the route home that winds through the Montparnasse Cemetery. I have a preferred seat in the campus coffee shop
In light of this realization, my sense of belonging flourished. Now, when I’m having a bad day, I know which neighbourhoods to walk through and who I should call. While it took some time to sort them out, my routines slowly revealed themselves because they are natural products of living.
To me, routines come from knowing what I think is good and seeking it out on a regular basis. Moving to France showed me that my routines change when I do, as a reflection of how I’ve included the things that make me happy within the mundane parts of my everyday life.
I might see the Eiffel Tower every few days, but the bulk of my experiences in Paris are centred on my daily routines. Sure, that one night in Montmartre was a great time, but I have more precise memories of waiting in the station at Saint-Sulpice for the Métro Line 4.
Whether you’ve found yourself in the routine of going for runs when you’re drunk, stalking the people you like on Snap Map, or eating spring rolls for every meal three-weeks straight, your routines are an intimate summary of who you are because they represent how you spend your time and what you’re interested in.
Evaluating your routines isn’t about judging them from an external place that shames you into changing your ways, but more about deciding if you like how things play out every day. While some routines can’t be avoided —8:30am lectures, grocery shopping, recycling day —, you don’t have to accept the boring circumstances that often come with them.
If there’s any takeaway from analyzing the nuances of your routines, it’s understanding how precious they are —your routines make up the bulk of your life, so it’s your responsibility to yourself to make them good ones.