Let me preface this post by saying that this has little to do with physical treadmills and metal coins, but rather, it’s about the seemingly never-ending cycles that we encounter in our lives and what we do to break out of them. This summer I have taken 4 classes for school while working 25-30 hours a week, so needless to say, I have felt like a gerbil running on a wheel. This SpongeBob clip perfectly sums up how my summer has gone.
To give you a better picture of how I feel and why it relates to what I’ve gone through, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane. When I first got out of high school, I had no intention of doing anything productive and spent most of my days playing video games and staying up until 4 in the morning playing Minecraft with my friends. This was fun, but after a few months of constant pressure from my parents to seek gainful employment, I finally caved and I started working at the Starrett tool factory in Athol. Being my first job, this experience molded my idea of what a workplace was like and what working adult life was for that matter. The days were long and the work was stressful, but I completed what I had to do and was relatively content with life. After a month and a half of working there, I was laid off from my job. I still remember that day when my supervisor drove me home halfway during my shift, tears streaming down my face in the passenger seat of his truck. Having been forcefully taken off of my seemingly secure routine was a shock to my system.
Looking back at this experience, this was the best possible thing that could have ever happened to me. There was nothing necessarily wrong with the job, but if I had stayed longer, leaving would become that much more improbable. Learning about the instability of the job market and just how easily people lose their jobs made me decide to go to college. Having gone to college has forced me to push myself beyond the limits of what I thought I could do, and has been a time of immense personal growth. It has also made my comfort zone increase greatly, but this would have never happened if I didn’t push myself to do this. There are so many people who I know who have worked at the same place straight out of high school, living in the same town, having the same routines for 40 years of their lives (There is nothing wrong with that if it makes you happy, but it’s not for me). This could have been my life, and honestly that scares the living hell out of me. There is a woman who comes to the store (I work at a deli in a grocery store for those of you who don’t know), and orders the same thing every week. Every time she will peer over all the different meats and cheeses of the deli, each with different flavors and textures. She soon gets overwhelmed, sighs, and then orders domestic ham, the same thing she has ordered every week since I’ve been working there (and likely long before that). If variety is truly the spice of life, why would one decide to abstain? My heart breaks when I see her face void of joy. The fact that she is making the decision to stay on her own personal treadmill frightens me, and I view it as a cautionary tale.
(SpongeBob quotes are largely how I communicate with people, so expect more of them)
Now let’s break down the metaphor of treadmills down a little bit. As someone who runs often, I have a treadmill in my house (pictured above) and use it often. However, when I run outside, I notice that I go longer, faster and am forced to complete the entire distance I originally planned upon. With a treadmill, you can get off at any time you want, so what is the point of even staying on? What are you really learning on a treadmill, other than how to get exhausted, but simultaneously go nowhere at all? You certainly don’t learn to pace yourself on a treadmill. You also don’t learn how to navigate around obstacles, and you definitely don’t learn to appreciate the beauty of the journey, since there really isn’t one. Life, to me, is better lived when not lived on a treadmill. Treadmills are comfortable routines that we put ourselves into to find comfort. However, through these mechanisms, we sacrifice personal growth. One of the best ways to foster personal growth is to force yourself out of your comfort zone and to get out of your usual routine. Its through these changes that we grow as individuals, but why do so many people decide against this?
Change is terrifying. Change isn’t familiar. Change is uncertain. Anything good or bad that could happen with a new routine or a new environment is a real possibility. For many people, the blanket of familiarity is so comfortable that they never come out from under it and see that the whole world has been waiting for them. The possibilities are endless, but if you don’t take the plunge, you’ll never experience what could have been, because you won’t experience anything. Breaking the mundane doesn’t have to be earth-shattering, although it can be if you want it to. It can be as simple as making a new dish for dinner a couple times a week that you’ve never tried before, getting gas at a different station, or setting a different alarm to wake up to. It could also entail moving to a different state, learning a different language, or pursuing a completely different career. Whether minuscule or grandiose, decisions like these help you step off of the treadmill of regularity and monotony.
Something which I’ve recently enacted to get off of my own personal treadmill has been the practice of setting goals of things I want to accomplish and writing them down. If you don’t have goals, it becomes easy to default to hop onto the proverbial treadmill of complacency and depression. If you’re lost in the wilderness and don’t have a map, you’ll likely exhaust yourself by walking in circles. A goal is something you work towards; something that has a clear and concrete end point, and is generally rewarding. Treadmills don’t enable goals, they enable routines. They enable complacency and stagnation. Any time I’ve been on a treadmill, I haven’t felt accomplished (or even happy for that matter). Some of my personal goals include, but are not limited to:
-run a sub-2 hour half marathon
-spend an extended period of time in a foreign country
-make at least 3 new good friends (not to detract from my current friends, I love you guys. This just forces me out of my comfort zone and enables personal growth)
-read one leisure book per month
-learn to dance (I haven’t quite yet decided what type of dance yet)
What is something you’ve really wanted to do, but haven’t? Do you feel as if you’ve been on a constant treadmill in your life? If so, try writing down what you don’t like (but want to change) about your current situation in life, or things which you wish to do. Then you can think of how to take steps to enable these changes and turn them into your reality. These things can be as simple or as complex as you want them to be, but ultimately help you achieve a more fulfilled life.
Those are my thoughts, What are yours?