A new day, a fresh start. I want to say that I rose from bed gracefully and floated with joy to my desk, relishing the possibilities of a blank page. But more honestly, I woke up to the chaos of my alarm vibrating and ringing from across the room an hour earlier than I would normally like. I felt some nervous anticipation about what I would write as I walked in a zombie-like trance to silence the offensive phone. I shuffled over to the kitchen in my worn slippers and put a pot of water to boil, dumped a couple of carelessly measured tablespoons of coffee grounds into a french press. Poured the brew into a mug and plopped down at my desk, hoping for the best.
A few people have commented on the goal of writing a post every day. Why with such frequency? What is the point? No one expects this amount of output.
I don’t anticipate that readers will necessarily read every post as it comes. Nor do I anticipate that each post I write will be of the same quality, length, and depth. But I am doing this everyday for a month because I want to get into the habit of writing more regularly.
They say that three to four weeks of commitment are required to make a habit automatic. It is not necessarily that I want to make a habit of writing a publishable blog post everyday for the rest of the year. But I do want to write everyday of the year, even if just 300-500 words.
Some of it can go on the blog. Some of it can remain in my notebook. But what’s important is that I show up for writing consistently this year. I see this month of blogging in January as a warm-up that holds me accountable to developing a habit of something that has previously been a sporadic hobby.
I’ve had many habits come and go, as the waves of life pull me in different directions. I have found that many of my habits are context-dependent, and they change as the settings I am in require different things of me and offer me different possibilities.
For example, I woke up everyday at 6 am during my first year of college and savored a cup of battery-acid coffee from the Starbucks on 55th and Greenwood. I went there because it was walking distance from my dorm, the dining halls weren’t open at that hour, I needed to study to keep up with these brilliant students that I somehow found myself among, and I was still accustomed to waking up very early from years of Plymouth High School ringing the bell for first hour before the sun even came up. I obviously do not keep this habit anymore, but it worked for me for a while.
I wasn’t aware of this malleability of habit until recently. A while back, I used to think that carefully curated habits that were consistently maintained over the course of a life is what makes us, us.
I remember having somewhat of an existential crisis my second year of college, when my environment changed and I found one of my habits impossible to pursue. I moved to Morocco for a summer to study Arabic, and I was living with a host family in the middle of Ramadan. It was too hot. Runners on the streets were uncommon. I was afraid of doing something the neighbors might consider indecent during the holy month. And I had no energy to speak of during the day because I was fasting with my host family. For the first time in four years I could not find a way to run.
I had made a habit of running after I quit volleyball in high school to stay in shape and satisfy my need to move between all the sitting of school. It became a form of therapeutic release for me, too. Running carried me through my first break-up, the passing of my grandmother, my emergent understanding of social injustices that littered the streets of Chicago, and the stresses of learning to write academically and read several books a week for class.
After four years of this habit, I began to consider it an essential part of my identity. Andrea runs, therefore Andrea is a runner, and when Andrea does not run, she is not Andrea. This was my carefully constructed logic as I attempted to live a life of what I thought integrity looked like. “What are we other than the things we do?” I thought to myself.
I had a couple weeks of anxiety about this while in Morocco. And then, as life so often forces us to do, I learned a lesson. I showed up for class everyday, I ate dinner with my host family every night, I did not run, and at the end of it all, I was still somehow me. I accepted this befuddling truth.
I still think there is value in having habits that are maintained over a life. But I don’t expect myself to hold onto all my habits anymore, and I recognize that most of them are situational or will be dramatically adapted in different contexts. There are very few habits I can think of that have remained consistent throughout my life. The only one that comes to mind is reading, everyday, wherever I could get my hands on a book and find a space to sit.
I am hoping that this month marks the start of another lifelong habit. But instead of letting the words of another pass before my eyes, I will be the one bringing them to the page.
Thanks for joining me on day two! I am curious to hear from you all. What are some habits that you hope to start? What are some habits you once had but have adapted or gotten rid of as your context changed? What is a habit you’ve managed to keep throughout your life so far?