Routine was something I took for granted in the US. Think about it, our cliches reflect how thoroughly our lives have patterns. “Stuck in a rut.” “A weekend away to break out of your routine.” “Get into a fitness/training/artistic/hobby-of-your-choice routine.”
Here, the only things that get stuck in ruts are the trucks. Every day brings different challenges, different opportunities and different perspectives. I’m not talking about a great new project at the same job you go to every day. I’m talking about deciding to walk 7 hours to visit a friend with no advance planning or the great new project being to start a youth group, from scratch.
In many ways, this lifestyle suits me fantastically. I don’t settle well, I like to wander, I rarely focus on a project for more than a few weeks or months. I like to change things up and do a lot of different things. On other other hand, I’m finding it to be very challenging in the Minnesotan way. Without all the external routines, I can’t form any internal routines.
I am learning the value in having an external force saying, “Be here at this time for this long.” It gives structure to the day and sets me daily deadlines for doing work. If I have to be at class at 6 pm, I can’t tell myself that I’ll just do this one more game of freecell before I get around to writing. I don’t have time for that one more game. Really, it comes back to motivation. It is hard work to motivate myself all the time, even for things I want to do.
Part of the struggle in forming my own routines here is the lack of cultural routines. In the US, we have decades of history around work bells, ships hours, five-day work weeks, forty-hour work weeks, three-day-a-week classes. Here, the routines are yearly. Go dig yams in April, plant them in May. Watermelons are ready before Christmas and mangos and pineapples are ready at the same time. There is no sense of “Monday” and “Tuesday” or the sense of them is limited to “not Sunday.” With no work schedule to follow, the day of the week doesn’t matter.
So, I am learning the value of external routine. Not that every moment has to be scheduled like my life was before. More that things like a class schedule in college and work hours form a skeleton of routines on which to hang all the other tasks I want to do.