Creatures of Habit

BY ZAKIYA KASSAM

I’m a sucker for life’s most clichéd experiences. I love sweet sixteens, frosh weeks, and of course, New Year’s Eve because these cultural events rightly signify that we should recognize and celebrate our milestones.

I think the fact that we celebrate these milestones as vigorously as we do speaks to a larger theme, which is that humans are creatures of habit. There are a lot of things that we do primarily because we always have. This can be a positive thing, like celebrating New Year’s with people we care about, for instance, or saying thank you to the streetcar driver even though he is just doing his job. Good habits stick, but bad habits are oftentimes stickier.

5ccacd00-1ae8-4a14-b670-6abcb8e9b2ecI drink too much coffee, I chew on the inside of my mouth when I’m anxious, I only floss my front teeth and I spend way too much time scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed. We all have those bad habits that are so heavily ingrained that we do them without being fully cognizant as to why we do them. This goes for the less concerning bad habits that I mentioned above, and also for the big ticket ones, the ones that are more thematic and tend to persist longer, like lying in uncomfortable situations and quitting things at the first sign of resistance.

Impatience is another one those bad habits. Right up there with texting at the dinner table and extreme narcissism, it is a bad habit that defines my entire generation. We’re so accustomed to instant gratification (something to do with being able to access pretty much anything from literally the palm of your hand) that we’ve almost forgotten how to wait. At least, I have. Impatience is a habit that I am actively trying to break.

Like many before and after me, I have always been frightfully impatient when it comes to life in general. It stems from a fear of stillness, I think. I need to be constantly moving forward, progressing, maturing, actively becoming the person I was meant to be; and if I’m not doing exactly that, and in a timely manner no less, then I feel like I’m failing.

I have a cousin who expressed something similar to me recently. He had a bit of a late start with university, and many of his peers were nearing the end of their degrees while he was still picking his first semester of courses. He had started to feel like the things he would ordinarily be proud of, like passing his classes, gradating, or securing his first job, would somehow be worth less, because he had achieved them later in his life. I told him that he was looking at it the wrong way and that his age, or the amount of time it took for him to realize his goals, didn’t lessen the achievement. I told him to be patient, with himself and with his life, because good things often take time. Then I realized I should probably stop running my mouth if I was going to continue to reprimand myself for not having my life completely together at 24.

If you’re like me, the onset of the new year means taking a step back and shutterstock_62795851evaluating where you are in life and whether or not you are happy with that. Chances are you’re probably not exactly where you had hoped you’d be this time last year, but it’s important to recognize that nearly everybody is in the same boat. The fact remains that good things come with time, and I urge everyone to keep this in mind in the new year. It’s like when you’re trying to secure a really good family doctor, or get into your top choice university: if you don’t hear back right away, it doesn’t mean that good things aren’t coming, it just means they aren’t here yet.

Be patient with yourself and try to make a habit of patience in the months that follow.

As a generation, we spend a lot of time thinking about ourselves in the context of other people when really we should be taking more time to reflect inwardly and work on ourselves as individuals. 2016 for me is going to be about just that: recognizing the role my habits play in my life, working on breaking the bad ones and perhaps coercing a few good ones to stick.


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Zakiya has her degree in journalism from Ryerson University and currently works as a freelance content writer based in Toronto. Zak is a dedicated journal-er and enjoys writing and reading fiction, particularly science fiction, in her free time. Mental illness is something that has touched her life and the lives of her loved ones, so she is supportive of anything that brings attention to and provides new perspectives about mental health.

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