habit |ˈhabit|Although I hate to be cliché, sometimes there’s validity to certain clichés (Read: New Year’s Resolutions) if you’re really serious about something. I’ve been thinking a lot in the last week about my goals for this year, and the active steps I want and need to take to reach those goals. Doing so, in actuality, is something that’s been building up for several months, as I’ve been trying—and yes, it requires actively trying—to work on being a better me, if I may continue to sound like a total cliché.
1 a settled or regular tendency or practice, esp. one that is hard to give up: this can develop into a bad habit | we stayed together out of habit.
Mostly, what I mean by that is actively working hard to achieve what I want out of my life. Taking work seriously. Thinking about where I want my career to lead. Writing. My health.
And so on. And so on. Insert the other standard clichés about how people hope to better themselves. Is it still a cliché when it is your reality?
There’s something about all this thinking and pondering and planning out this person you want to become. It’s inspiring, yes, and helps me stay motivated. But somewhere along the line, I tend to forget about the person I already am, and like. Or maybe more accurately, certain things in life I really enjoy. Little things, you know, little habits and behaviors. Like the way when I order an orange San Pellegrino at my favorite coffee shop, Café Mustache, I never take a glass of ice so I can pour it from the can, but instead, I grab a straw. Once I’m seated at my table, I peel the top foil off slowly, click on the top of the can with my nails, then pop it open and put the straw in, afterward taking only slow sips. At no other time in my life or in any situation does it occur to me to drink out of a can in this way, or to really enjoy a drink like this at all. I like how it looks, sitting next to my laptop as I write for work, and how it tastes perfectly clear and delicious as it comes up the straw and then down my throat, smooth and refreshing.
It’s silly, in a way—I don’t even order that every time I go to the coffee shop. Most of the time, I’m just drinking glass after glass of ice water and nursing the same large El Jalisco (seriously, go try it sometime) for the entire afternoon I sit there, writing. But for many months, dragging my laptop the few blocks to Café Mustache on Wednesdays was my habit, my thing, because I work from home on Wednesdays. Many weeks my girlfriends and I would all meet over there so we could work together, or just sit and talk. Or like the day after the big blizzard last year, Rachel and I trudged over there, knee deep in snow and basically walking down the middle of California Avenue because there was no other way to get through the heaps of snow. There have been plenty of solitude afternoons spent at the coffee shop, but there have also been the heart to hearts with Lauren, swapping music with Natalie, the Tarot readings at the big table, or just a group of us laughing and talking, maybe a little too loudly. It was a comfortable habit, one I looked forward to each week, and more so if I knew one or more of the girls were meeting me when I was finishing up with work for the day.
So today — in the midst of all this thinking about creating new habits and breaking old, bad ones —I decided instead to revisit this special one of mine. It had been months since I’d worked at the coffee shop on Wednesday, and months since all of us had met up there together, and both are for plenty of reasons, like changes in schedules, one or all of us being too busy, or for me, just needing a change of pace. I had somehow gotten sick of my routine, and as with other places in the neighborhood, I had started to avoid the coffee shop like it was haunted. But when I walked in today, right when there were plenty of open tables and Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” record was playing, I felt the same sort of happiness I feel every time I pull my car into my dad’s driveway. Like I was coming home.
I had my San Pellegrino, with the straw, of course, and a bowl of the veggie chili. It was everything I’d wanted it to be. That morning, I’d been struggling to write and focus, but once I was seated at the familiar big table, I just kept writing. After awhile, I took a little break and texted Lauren, and right then they started playing Radiohead’s “In Rainbows,” which for a lot of reasons makes me think of Lauren. (The year we had our joint birthday party, we’d sat at the bar together, feeling anxious before everyone showed up, and the only thing that seemed to calm us was the song “Videotape” for whatever reason.) It was an odd, but wonderful, moment of timing.
By 5:15, I was finishing up with my work and still feeling good, but a little uneasy. About what, I’m not sure exactly. I packed up to leave, and as I walked out the door and down the sidewalk, my left hand caught in my tangled ear buds in my pocket and my right hand hoisting up my bag, I almost turned my ankle by sort of tripping over my own boot, right after I passed someone I thought I knew, but maybe I didn't. Because I wasn't sure, and mostly because I'd almost tripped over nothing, I didn't turn around to double check.
Some things never change. Although I’d like to hope that one day I’ll stop tripping over my own feet, that’s probably something to add to that list. But just like new habits can make you feel accomplished, sometimes there really is nothing better than indulging in the comfort of an old, safe one.
My iPod was on shuffle as I headed home, feeling like I'd just seen a ghost. This wasn't necessarily a good or bad thing, just a feeling. And this is the song that came on:
If it had been "Thinking About You," I probably would have died, or at the very least, completely tripped. But even so:
I got something, I got something I don’t know…