Interrupt the Cubicles of Monotony

“When things don't change, their sameness becomes an accretion. That is why all society puts on flesh, succumbs to the cubicles and begins to fill them.”

Tennessee Williams

Not long ago, one of my former students surprised me with an existential question. After lamenting that the monotony of life was "getting him down," he asked me what the secret was: "How do people survive the monotony of high school?" He cited the dullness of each day repeating just as the last: getting up, going to school, studying and doing homework, going home, eating and sleeping, only to hope for the same thing again the next day. He feared an uneventful, depressing life, one where he would go through the motions simply because it was expected of him, without any other reason.

If we all had this particular perspective, life would surely seem pointless, dull, and depressing. Unfortunately, many people go through the motions without any thought to each day's investment towards a future. In order to survive the monotony, we have to make a conscious choice to improve ourselves each day. Take new routes to school or work. Explore different options within our fields, our studies. Instead of eating lunch at our desks or in the cafeteria, eat somewhere new. Cultivate relationships with colleagues and classmates that excite and surprise us.

We should leave work at work, and return home to embrace the freedom that our personal lives bring. We shouldn't succumb to the couch and the allure of Netflix. Instead, we should invest time in that new hobby we've been putting off. Fix that leaky faucet. Plan a trip to a new city, or take the time to experience the nuances of own cities. Reach out to friends - old and new - and make an effort to cultivate those relationships. Spend quality technology-free time with family. Focus on each other. Appreciate the subtleties of life.

There is freedom in monotony. We just have to have just enough spontaneity to discover and appreciate the freedom. According to the "Prince of Paradox," Gilbert Chesterton, monotony "has nothing to do with a place; [it] is simply the quality of a person. There are no dreary sights; there are only dreary sight seers" (Alarms and Discursions). If we feel the confines of tedium closing in, we need to change our points of view. Emerging from the cubicles of monotony can help us reinvigorate our experience so we can thrive throughout our lives.