Beat of my Own Hum-Drum


We have an insane ability to tolerate the absurd and normalize it. People can adjust to anything. Fun fact: the word “normal” comes from the Latin Norma, which means “carpenter’s square” (or rule,) meaning it meets a set standard. The irony being a square might have right angles and mathematically be proven as a rule, but the humans holding the square make their own standards. We gawk and gasp at third world countries where kids play with dung, or Thai children box to make their parents money, but to those kids, it’s normal. I’m not advocating relativism, I’m just saying, in those kids’ minds, that’s the carpenter’s rule. Status Quo, “the way things are.” No judgement, just how they are and as such, they adapt. It’s natural.

In fact, most words we use to describe irregular events come from the yang of the usual’s yin. Like “UNusual.” Duh, also the word “IRregular.”

We need the regular to function, really. If there isn’t a pattern, we can’t learn and navigate it. If the cavemen didn’t notice patterns and adapt, we wouldn’t have lasted long. I’m rambling. Don’t listen to me, I’m just trying to convince myself that normal is okay.

Life without a clear, measurable Norma is scary at first. School builds to something: to a year end, to a new school, to a diploma which builds to…

Post-college, I missed something to measure myself by so bad I wrote myself a syllabus. After a few years, you find a rhythm and well, it ends up a little humdrum. Again, routines are important, but one’s mind quickly finds that a routine doesn’t entertain or excite or build. And as they say, those who aren’t living are dying.

And so I’m going into year 2 of my job, closing in on year 3 out of college (I’ve just decided I’m not going to remember writing that), and I am beginning to face the idea of a routine as a good thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I could leave my job, break my lease, say goodbye to all friends and go join Green Peace, slash oil exec’s tires in Dubai and help a whale with IBS or something. Great stories, I’m sure. But there’s that hesitation that comes from knowing you’re a couple rungs up a ladder, and look at other ladders around you and say “well I sure as shit want nothing to do with the bottom rungs of those, cool as the top rungs look.”  Or you look at your friends trying to act, to be freelance, or worse, “find themselves.” They’re not even climbing. The grass is always greener, but a lot of the time grass is also cactus, you guys.

And being impulsive doesn’t always lead to happiness. And apparently neither do routines. And happiness itself also seems to be something to adjust to. When the weather is constantly good, we adapt here in Los Angeles, and begin to pick out the minute changes in weather as big deals. GOOD LORD THERE’S WATER COMING FROM THE SKY, ITS BELOW 60 DEGREES, etc.

So, without sounding trite, is there an answer? If I got one, would I just adjust to it?

We inject things to break up the routine: movies, books, dinners, dates, concerts. We avoid ourselves a bit, keeping the brain alive outside wake-drive-work-drive-sleep. Or perhaps my fixation on a routine is the problem.

There was a theater game I used to play in High School, where a circle of 10 or so of us would throw a ball to each other, same pattern, never changing. Rob to Quin to Rachel to Jackie to Ms. Allen to Sky to Rob to Quin, etc. The idea was just to concentrate on the person you got the ball from and who you threw it to. I get the ball from Sky, I throw it to Quin. And the teacher would slowly add more and more balls to the game, until about 8 or 9 of them would be flying around the room, this incredible sight of perfectly choreographed passing. But again, the rule was not to look at the machine. If you do, you lose your concentration, you don’t catch your ball or throw it, and it all falls apart.

I remember I loved to do both, secretly. Do my part, but enjoy the machine. Now which one was I supposed to be doing?