Since moving into our new home, I’ve been pretty much riding the same trails damn near daily for the past year or so. My “problem” is that even though there are dozens of great trails within a half an hour’s drive, I really don’t see the point in getting in my car to ride my bike, so I tend to stick to the ones close to home. But after 300 trips down the same path, things were starting to get a little boring.
So the other morning I decided to mix things up a bit and ride my route backwards. Wait, before you get the wrong idea, let me clarify: I wasn’t facing backwards on my bike, which would be sort of cool, I just went in reverse order, so that my usual starting point was my new ending point.
And not to get all Zenny on you and stuff, but that simple change of perspective turned my well-worn routine into an unexpected and exciting journey. Everything was the same, yet completely different. Gear grinding “ups” transformed into freewheeling downs. Rocks became ramps. Boulders become rollers. It was a brand new experience. So much so that I even managed to get lost…twice, which was strange considering I was in completely familiar territory.
I returned home invigorated and looking forward to my next ride. All from a simple change in my routine. Which got me thinking about all my other habits and tendencies. Could they also be switched up in order to get a similar charge?
Turns out doing my ironing in the morning, instead of at night, didn’t make for a more exciting start to the day. It just made me late for work. And my plan for entering the house through the seldom used front door, instead of the usual kitchen door, just made me realize I hadn’t gotten around to fixing the wobbly front step.
But before I go burying my real point in my typical foolishness, let me break from that routine as well and get right to it….
The reason life seems to pass so much faster after thirty has nothing to do with getting older. It’s just that so much of our lives have become routine by that point, we don’t take the time to experience it.
Think about it. Our first 20 years had milestones every ten feet. EVERYTHING was a new experience. First words, first steps, first grade, first kiss, first beer, first car, first time… Every day seemed to bring something new and unfamiliar, forcing us to pay attention and notice every moment. But once you hit thirty, not much new happens. Our routines and roles are established and familiar. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, since there’s comfort in predictability and reliability. But too much comfort breeds complacency, so every once in a while, we need to step out of our comfort zones and try something new.
Much in the same way we wind up on autopilot when driving the same way, every day, to work, life is passing us by without our being aware of it. One day blends into the next, and before you know it, a year has passed. Then three. Then five. Now, I’m not advocating simply stopping to smell the roses. In fact, I’m against it. For one thing, we have to deal with enough pricks as it is. And another, it’s really not about stopping at all. It’s about starting something.
So find a way to add more "Firsts" to your day. And I don’t mean finding your first gray hair or feeling the first signs of menopause. I’m talking about taking those first steps towards doing something new. Or even revisiting something old. As my reverse bike ride proved, it doesn’t require a huge undertaking to put off the inevitable visit from the undertaker. It just takes a willingness to break from the old routines and try something different.
They say time flies when you’re having fun, but what they don’t tell you is that it flies even more when you’re having none. We may not be able to turn back our clocks like we did this past Sunday, but we can still turn back. I know life is supposed to be about moving forward, but that doesn’t mean it’s a race to the end. So skip the shortcuts, move into the slow lane, and enjoy the ride. From both directions!