Routine

I start my day like most people, with various rituals to obliterate the evidence that I spent any time sleeping. Shaving, showering and brushing my teeth… Every morning it’s the same routine. None of it takes very long. And once I put on my clothes, no one would guess that I had been unconscious for the past six hours.

That was the routine. But today was going to be different. Today I was going to break away from the mundane and do something meaningful, exciting.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know what it was that I was going to do.

“Are you getting up?”

Ugh. My roommate. He was always responsible. Never missed class. Never missed work. And sometimes tried to play my mother.

“Yes!” I shouted back. And I did. I got up, shaved, and showered.

My roommate was waiting for me when I came out into the living room. “Ready to go?”

I didn’t answer. Instead, I asked, “You want to skip work? Go find some sort of adventure? Break up the monotony a little?”

“What? We can’t skip work.”

“Why not?”

“Because we have people expecting us. We have bills to pay. Even if you don’t like it, we can’t just skip.”

“One day. We call in sick. No one will miss us for one day.”

“That would be dishonest.”

I just stared at him. I wanted to shout at him, make him understand, but I held my tongue.

Finally, he shrugged. “Well, I’m leaving. You do what you want.” And he walked out the door.

I had achieved my minor rebellion. I wasn’t going to work. That was something. The routine was broken. Now I was left with the question of what to do. One of the problems of living in a rut is that, once you’re out of it, you don’t really know what to do next.

I sat around the apartment for almost an hour, but that wasn’t really anything new. So I went for a walk. The streets were busy, as usual, and I fantasized about their stories, wondering how I might get caught up in them. Perhaps one of them was a spy on a mission, or a criminal about to rob a bank. They were all preoccupied with their lives, however, and I couldn’t find a doorway into them.

I headed down to the park in my neighborhood. It wasn’t huge, but there was a small duck pond. It was peaceful. There was even a bench for me to rest and watch the ducks.

After only a couple of minutes, an old man walked up and sat beside me. As soon as he pulled out a small brown paper sack, a couple of ducks wandered over. He produced some crumbs from the sack and and threw them to the birds.

“You must feed them pretty regularly. They seem to recognize you.” Another person stuck in a routine, just like me.

The old man smiled at me. “Every day.”

“Don’t you ever get bored with it? Want to do something new?”

His smile didn’t fade, but it changed somehow, became more wistful. “No.”

“Why not?”

He thought for a minute, then replied, “There is something worthwhile in slowing down, noticing what’s around you. Taking care of other creatures. It may be small, and the ducks probably don’t need the food, but I need to feed ’em.”

“But what about adventure?”

“My wife and I used to walk down here after dinner. Nearly every day for over 20 years. We’d tell each other about our days. We did the same thing every day after dinner, but each conversation was different.”

Oh great. His wife is dead. I felt like I had been inconsiderate, even though I had no way of knowing. He didn’t seem to focus on that, though. He merely continued.

“Go. Have adventures. Don’t get caught in doing the same thing all the time. But remember that sometimes, there’s new things inside the old. Things we may not have seen before. Sometimes the adventure is walking down a path with someone you’ve walked with for years.”

There was something in what he said… If I tried too hard to catch it, it slipped away. So I just sat quietly.

“I am meeting my son and his daughter for lunch. It was nice talking with you. I hope you find what you’re looking for.” He stood and placed the sack next to me, then headed off to meet up with his family.

There were still several ducks standing around, so I picked up the sack and threw them some more crumbs. I still didn’t know what I was looking for. But maybe I had found it anyway.

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