Ritual of the Habit

Habit : a manner of conducting oneself; a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior; a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance; an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary.

3 R Habit

Huh.  Doesn’t seem to account for bad habits – where’s the positive reward?

Over the course of the last few months, the notion of habitual behavior has been on my mind in various ways, shapes and forms.  Specifically, my own patterns – how they came to be and changes to those patterns.  And true to their nature, i followed a habitual routine prior to sitting down at my desk today by brewing a pot of my signature overly-strong coffee, having a smoke, and sloughing off the procrastination that i wear like a mantle of self-consciousness as regards writing.  Several habits laid bare right there.  A documented, decades-long love affair with coffee, the much-villified smoking habit, and an OCD-like need to create the “perfect conditions” in my surroundings before feeling confident enough to focus on tap-tap-tapping away at the keyboard.

(To those who know me IRL – the vaping experiment had a half-life of about 15 days.  It was kind of neat, and some of the flavored nicotine liquid is enjoyable.  But it doesn’t really break the nicotine addiction and there’s just something about those smokes you can’t get away from.  A bad habit to be sure, but everyone has their vices)

Coffee_and_cigarettes_by_Kukuruki

Doesn’t that make you think of writing?  Perhaps a bottle of hooch would be more appropriate.  Maybe it’s a bad association for my mind to make.  But what the hell, it was enough to inspire Jim Jarmusch, so i’m not sweating it.

One of the habits i’d cultivated in the last 10 months is this little slice of web you’re visiting right now.  While i’m by no means prolific, it is nice to see that i’ve managed to squeak out 54 posts prior to this one right here in that time.  That averages out to one just about every five days.  i’m actually a little surprised by that, because in my mind it seems like too much time passes between new material.

i guess that’s the kind of habit i’ve formed – spurts of activity followed by periods of…what?  Laziness maybe?  i can’t say for sure.

Still, it’s fun to look back and see how things have gone since that tentative 495-word foray.  i got to speak with several really cool people, interact with a niche fanbase, explore themes and ideas that piqued my interest and expand on the work i did this summer for the Cleveland Stater.  By the way, our third and final issue of the summer hit the newsstands a few weeks ago.

That issue was produced in a protracted amount of time, and instead of writing three stories i opted to write two that were more in-depth.  i landed a front-pager about a tuition rebate program – a great experience in campus reporting.  It was difficult to present two sides to the story because frankly, you say “tuition increase” and no one is likely to say “that’s a great idea!”

My other story was about a space lawyer.  No joke!  There’s a CSU law professor specializing in space law, and when the story came up in an editorial meeting you can be sure my hand shot right up to volunteer.  After working on this story and some other ones i’d done this summer, in addition to reading about astounding breakthroughs in science and technology just about every day, i’m pretty firmly convinced that i’d like my career in journalism to focus on reporting that sort of thing.

While the actual science and engineering of things has never been my strong suit, i find that stuff utterly fascinating and speaking with experts in their fields is very exciting.  Maybe i just read too many Kirby comics growing up, but seeing the super science fiction of the past coming to life every day is truly staggering.

A career investigating that stuff and writing about it would really be a dream come true.

kirby-astonish

Who am i trying to kid?  i still read Kirby comics.

In a more mundane sense, this year has brought about big disruptions to my daily grind working habits as well.  Since 2006, my workaday life has remained pretty much mind-numbingly and soul-smotheringly 9 to 5 – or as close to that convention as the modern life of a cubicle monkey approximates.  But in a weird way, i owe my current upward-moving prospects to a failed comic book venture of a few years ago.  At the time, i was the international export coordinator for a woven-wire mesh company.  With too much time on my hands and too little to do, i spent a fair to middling amount of time corresponding with a friend about a comic we were working on.  Until one fateful day when i was summoned to HR and terminated for too many emails.  As they put it, i was “running a business out of my office,” to which i replied “i wish i could say that were true!”

It should be noted here that my actual work was not in question – i did all that they expected and much more.

But, as Kurtis Blow says, those are the breaks.

Anyway, from there i wound up back at a company to which i swore i’d never return, and therein lay the seed of my future endeavors.  For in fact, after my first day back on the job i applied to return to college so i could secure that coveted piece of paper and the accompanying high hopes for a better life doing something i enjoy.  Thankfully, i will acknowledge that the job (which i still hold) has extremely flexible scheduling without which going to school would prove a challenging endeavor to say the least.

And so it is that any habits i’d developed over the last few years like waking up at the same time Monday through Friday, anxiously awaiting the 5 o’clock whistle blows and eating last night’s leftovers for lunch every day came to an end.  These days, my schedule changes every few months with each new semester and i’m working all manner of oddball shifts.  Four 10-hour days, a night shift here, a Sunday there, never more than three days in a row…

There ain’t no habit-forming cycle happening for this dude.

daily-grind

If only this were true – aside from danger and slaying of things, adventurers got a pretty good gig.

But probably the biggest – and hardest – habitual changes for me this year are the personal ones.  In March, after eight years of living in a domestic relationship with my girlfriend, we had grown i guess complacent.  There wasn’t and never has been any nastiness between us or intentionally hurtful stuff, but nevertheless we discovered we were not immune to the sad symptom of growing apart over time.  To alleviate and hopefully repair whatever was lost along the way, i moved out of our posh condo overlooking downtown Cleveland.  The idea is that we both needed to find our individual core selves again if we hoped to find what we’d lost.

Let me tell you right now, it has been a strange experience so far.

At first, i thought things would be back to normal – or better – in fairly short order.  So rather than jump right into a lease or anything, i employed the tried-and-true method of Moving Back In With Parents or, in my case, my mom.  Now don’t get me wrong, i love my mom, but it was pretty quickly evident to me that this was not going to work out very well.  It’s really awesome that parents are often the ultimate safety net when their children fall.  At the same time it sucks to be a 36-year-old man who’s been on his own for pretty much half his life, moving back in with his mother.  You want to talk about disruptions of habits?  Where to begin…

These days i’m sharing a three bedroom apartment with two friends, and all of us are at weird places in our respective relationships.  One of my roomies is married with four kids and a mortgage, going through some stuff with his wife as they are wont to do every few years.  The other is recently a new dad with his on-again/off-again girl.  Apologies to all you parents out there for saying this but…lucky me!  No little Dougs out there suits me just fine, thank you very much.

This is going to sound strange, but the weirdest thing about this whole situation is that after shedding all the habits i’d formed during my shared domestic life, it’s actually kind of difficult to figure out what life is like as an individual.

What do i want to eat for dinner?

What will i watch for entertainment?

How’s my cleanliness and tidiness hold up on my own?

How will i spend my free time, left to my own devices?

These are the sorts of challenges that leave you wondering just “who am i really?”  Scratching the surface with the above examples, i’ve found that i don’t really like to cook or prepare food all that much.  Sure, i’ve got time, but there’s important things to do like obsessively watch all five seasons of Breaking Bad.  In response to that, i’ve discovered the prepared meals section of the local grocer.  Did you know you can get all manner of marinated chicken breasts and vegetable mixes that are simply perfect for tossing in a pan and heating up in like three minutes?  Terrific!

Turns out i am a fastidiously neat and organized person as well.  Probably close to clinical.  As one roomy put it: “I thought I was a clean freak until I moved in with you.”  Now you know why i campaigned really hard for the master bedroom with it’s own full bathroom, friend.

Overall, i have to say that even though it was heart-breaking for our paths to diverge, i have to believe that it is ultimately worth it no matter what happens.  Re-discovering oneself as an individual is an important thing for anyone.  It is good to get a sense of who and what you are because if you don’t know that, life is going to be pretty rough.

Even just little things like going to the movies with friends, observing how i spend my time, grocery shopping for one, and getting to the point where i can fall asleep at night with a clear head have been really helpful for me.

In the end, it’s all about the littlest things anyway, right?

snakeyear

It’s my year!

Before getting started today, i felt compelled to find out what year it is according to the Chinese zodiac.  i thought maybe i’d find a little insight or inspiration as regards the overall “feel” for this year.  Not one to put much stock in astrology and the life, i was happy to learn that 2013 is the Year of the Snake – same as my birth year, 1977.  It seemed pretty auspicious.  More specifically it’s the year of the Water Snake, but i’m not too sure how the element factors in to the whole scenario.  Felt like it was worth mentioning though, in case anyone is hip to that sort of thing.

i bet it will not surprise you that Snake people are born charming and popular.  Snakes are spotlight magnets, and they will not be ignored.  Peer group attention and public recognition are the least of what he expects.  Yet Snakes are never noisy or deliberately outspoken, and they have excellent manners.  According to Chinese astrology, the Year of the Snake person is a smart person.

That was copied directly from a Chinese culture site, so who am i to argue?

This year does present a danger to us Snakes though – complacency.  That caught my attention, particularly since i’d been feeling lax in my duties as a writer lately.  This is supposed to be the year to build a solid portfolio of work, rediscover myself, rekindle lost love and head into 2014 better in all regards!

Despite being clever, calculating and planning to achieve goals,  Snakes can become complacent because it is our year. We might just drift along thinking it will happen – from business ventures to relationships.  But if we make an extra effort to be on top of things and not expect it all to happen without effort –  if we avoid complacency – then 2013 should be a good year for the person born in the Year of the Snake.

Now here i am, already slithered through more than half the year, molting all the while.

On the professional front, i’m making a real effort to form better writing habits.  With two more writing-intensive classes looming ahead in the fall semester, i should keep plenty busy.  i’m definitely going to do whatever it takes to get the science/research/technology beat for the Stater in the fall.  In addition, i’ve noticed a trend that i like to pile on, so i’ll doubtless devote more time to The Long Shot as well.  i’m still looking to find that special niche so many other bloggers have, like one of my favorites: Longbox Graveyard.  In the meantime i’ll keep up with my usual randomness.  That being said, Gen Con is a mere 16 days away and, with the press pass i was granted for the Best Four Days in Gaming i hope to have several exciting reports to make from the event.  It’s something i’ve wanted to attend since i got into D&D way back in like 1985 so i’m pretty geeked out about it.

Workaday-wise, it looks like i’ll finish out the year with another wonky schedule of Wednesday and Friday night shifts and Saturday and Sunday day shifts of 10 hours each.  If i’m honest, the mundane world of office dronery is not something i ever wish to form into a habit so i’m happy to change it up every couple of months.

In the spring, i’ll be graduating with my bachelor’s in journalism and promotional communication, ready to begin a whole new phase of regular job-type jobs but with a twist – it will be something i actually like doing!  To that end, i’m firmly convinced that NYC is the place i need to be.  i’ve always loved the Big Apple and savored every moment i’ve spent there.  It’s the most exciting place in the world and my heart/mind/soul tell me it’s where i need to be.  i would never have thought that getting fired from a job for talking about comics via email would lead to a potential journalism career in New York, but there you have it.

As for that last part i’m happy to report that while we’re still living apart, i still have hope in my heart and i think she does too.  At the end of the day, it’s awesome to know we’re still best friends at the very least.  There’s no regrets because we’re both moving forward in life so who knows what will happen next?

love not practical

This about sums it up perfectly.

Finally, i’d like to give you a two-fer today.  You already got one musical video above – Lily Allen’s Littlest Things featured in the wonderful film Celeste and Jesse Forever.  And i snuck in some old school hip hop too, for those who like to follow links and see where they lead.  Here’s another tune for you that came to mind while looking into the Chinese zodiac.  We’re a few years off from this animal’s year, and it’s worth mentioning that the song was released in 2004 – the Year of the Monkey.  Nevertheless, it’s a good song with a worthwhile message and a well done video.  Enjoy, and thanks for visiting!

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