Just saying the word “routine” gives me a trapped, suffocating feeling. I’ve resisted it, opting for a job that requires equal parts travel and desk time, which I can do anywhere I can plug in a laptop and grab a cup of coffee.
My son starting kindergarten triggered a whole lot of anxiety, mostly because the schedule required a morning drop off and an afternoon pick-up, massive barriers in a schedule I prided myself for being a wilderness of possibility. I liked the thought of being able to go kayaking or mountain biking any day of the week, for being up for adventure at any time, although rarely did that thought match the realty of my day-to-day life. My workload had kept me so busy that I worked more hours than at an office job.
Despite my resistance to routine, the school year rolled around anyway. There was a rigid timeline imposed on our mornings – lunch made, breakfast eaten, dressed, water bottles filled, and son loaded into truck.
After the first week of school, I realized that the school day created a rhythm to my day, and even I admitted the power of habits. One of my friends extensively remodeled her house and explained that maintaining a schedule was like framing out the walls in a house. She feared the house would look smaller with walls, but actually knowing where one space ends and another begins provided the boundaries necessary to arrange furniture and consider how to best use space.
The same goes for my life. With school in session, I had the hours of eight to three to figure out how to eat well, work out, and accomplish my work.
Turns out I’d confused not having a plan with freedom. Actually scheduling my days and weeks allowed me to pursue big dreams like a regular work out schedule and eating foods that fueled me.
Doing the same thing at the same time over and over transformed the way I thought. I stopped putting brainpower into motivating myself to go for a run or to prepare healthy food. Indecision became a thing of the past and I just laced up my shoes and dusted off the slow cooker. I felt more centered, gained focus and clarity about how I’d spend the day.
Even as I recognized that organizing my life and planning into the available time resulted in fewer meltdowns for my son and fewer last-minute crisis for me, the daily grind felt monotonous. The days merged together, one becoming indistinguishable from the last.
I longed to be free exploring the mountains, the rivers, and rainforests, sleeping under a star-filled sky. I wanted to feel unconstructed by time, getting so immersed in flow that time bends, speeds, or stalls.
Being fully alive required leaping outside my comfort zone, and so I set about seeking adventures within my daily grind.
I relooked at my routine and set aside time with the intention to find the adventure within everyday life. Sometimes it was spending a couple hours in the forest with my son. Sometimes it involved going to a new trailhead to run.
Stepping outside of routine, if only a few steps, offered new perspectives. I remind myself to stop worrying about whether the adventure was big enough or exciting enough. Being open to the opportunities and curious about exploring, within the confines of routine has expanded my sense that I’m right where I’m supposed to be, nurturing my adventurous spirit while getting my son to kindergarten.
I remind myself of George Elliot’s words. “Adventure is not outside man, it is within.”