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My Friend, Routine

The washing machine rocks and shutters on its final cycle, filling the unusually quiet laundromat with a stuttering squeak. With each rotation, I brace, prepared for the door to explode open and spew my more-than-one-load of clothes sopping wet onto the floor.

Outside, the town of Oak Hill, W.Va., is just barely waking up. A few cars idle down Main Street, but it’s Sunday. With the exception of the McDonald’s up the road and the 24-hour laundromat, most of the storefronts are dark.

Just a year and a half ago, I was in this same laundromat, bumming the same internet, using the same washing machine as a desk (and also as a washing machine), reflecting on the first few months of road life. Back then, this laundromat was just another stop, one of many laundromats (or friends’ laundry rooms) I’d utilize in the months to follow. Back then, I could fit all of my clothes into one load, with room to spare.

Now, this laundromat is part of my life. My home, a permanent structure (though a single wide does have a hitch, sooo…), is just a few minutes away. There’s a community here, potlucks, jam sessions. I have more clothes than two washing machines could hold. And if all of that wasn’t backwards enough from the 15 months I spent living minimally out of the Jeep and SylvanSport, bopping along from town to town, the weirdest part of all is I’ve made a new friend with an unlikely candidate—routine.

You see, when I first moved out of my apartment, I thought routine was stale, scary. I embraced the saying, “The human spirit lives on creativity and dies in conformity and routine.” That was my mantra, my manifesto for rejecting the traditional ideas of home and community. I thought, “I’ll make my home wherever I am. I’ll find community no matter where I go.”

In a general sense, I’d say I succeeded at that. I grew accustomed to making myself at home in strangers’ yards, guest bedrooms, couches, and floors. I became a competent kitchen squatter (thanks to all who lent an oven in my hours of baking need!), made friends where I had none, and found comfort in the uncomfortable presence of me, myself, and I.

On the job, circa October 2015. Photo cred: Adam Ritter
On the job, circa October 2015. Photo cred: Adam Ritter

But all the meanwhile, I was running from routine, thinking the more experiences I crammed into a day, a week, a month, the more my creative juices would flow. My reasoning seemed bonafide. Inspiration, I was sure of it, was around every bend. Yet, after a year or so, that logic was starting to crack.

As the Blue Ridge Outdoors 2015 festival circuit winded down, I started to feel like I was running on empty. By the time I moved here to the New River Gorge, it was all I could do to get inspired to unpack, let alone gear up the Hala Straight Up for a float down the New.

I wrote about needing time and space to breathe in my last post, but now I’ve had a chance for routine to sink in, which has unveiled a deep-rooted appreciation for that very thing that used to scare me. Though I guided the past year-plus with experiences, I denied myself the other half of that, reflection.

Running through rhodo. Photo cred: Adam Ritter
Running through rhodo. Photo cred: Adam Ritter

It is now during quiet moments of my regular-ish yoga practice, lunchtime runs, weekend hikes with friends, or heck, even here folding clothes in this musky laundromat, that a moment from the road floats in from the dusty recesses of my memory. Perhaps it’s an encounter, a story idea, a destination to add to the ever-growing list. Whatever it is, it was forgotten and routine helped bring it back to life.

As I browse back now through my resolutions for 2015, I daresay I damn near knocked it out of the park (with the exception of a few rivers I still need to check off my list of PFDs). But as always, there’s room for improvement. With 2016 travel plans already in the works, this year is shaping up to be the best yet. Yet I know as soon as festival season kicks off in May, prioritizing routine will become harder and harder to do.

So instead of listing out all of my resolutions (including, but not limited to, drinking the recommended amount of water, getting more active in environmental issues, and learning to make bread on the road) I’ll give you the most important one: stay friends with routine. No matter how trivial or simple it may seem, I’m going to make a routine, value it, tell it about  my day, entrust it with my secrets. Routine is going to be my best friend, even when our relationship seems dull, or low-priority, or cumbersome. Who knows what nuggets of inspiration and creativity will surface under routine’s influence?

photo cred: Adam Ritter
photo cred: Adam Ritter

Have a resolution you want to share? Have some thoughts on routine? Leave a comment below!

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