Take administration, for example. Not very long ago I described myself (perhaps with an excess of transparency) to a prospective employer as ‘an administrative black hole’. It’s not my strong suit, and my colleagues know this as a pain-filled reality.
And yet, in the five weeks since my fiancée and I have been engaged (bearing in mind neither she nor I would call ourselves organizational titans), we have managed to book a wedding venue, hold an engagement party, buy an engagement ring, buy a wedding dress, lock in someone to marry us, book a photographer, purchase honeymoon flights, pin down (90% of) a guest list (including overseas visitors) and sign a one-year lease on a property we’ll move into- and more besides. All this while finishing a university degree and looking after a five-year-old (she) and managing a busy job including crises in Pakistan, Somalia and Niger (I).
So apparently I do in fact have an administrative bone in my body. Somewhere.
(Actually both she and I attribute our spurt of productivity to the Informant HD app on the iPad, which we both use and swear by as a personal organizer; we’re such a twenty-first century couple…)
Something else I’m discovering about myself- with mixed feelings- is that I am more susceptible to habits than I previously realized.
I’ve always considered myself pretty comfortable with change. In fact, that would be an understatement of gross disproportion. Change is a modus operandi of near pathological frequency. I find change in many regards easier than stability. This is largely courtesy of my TCK upbringing, and spending most of my schooling in the high-flux fishbowl of the UN system in Geneva. Change is a crutch and a coping mechanism. I thrive off it, and when everything else falls apart, I run to it rather than face my demons.
(I’d like to point out, for those noting the incongruity between this paragraph and former commentary regarding upcoming marriage that this change dependency is something I’ve been working on for a while now, starting with the commitment I made to a fridge last year…)
But within the tumult of a lifestyle that’s seen me spend time in more than thirty-five different countries in the last seven years, in more different houses, apartments, hotel-rooms and misc than I could possibly count, and on more than a hundred different emergency projects of various kinds around the world, there are little pockets of habit that protrude like rocks out of a sea of turbulence.
I’m writing this post from Bangkok’s Suvarnibhumi International Airport, a terminus I’ve passed through no less than fifteen times in the last three years. Each time I come here I have my own little routine. As long as I have more than an hour’s layover, I start by grabbing a bite to eat at Burger King (usually chicken tenders, fries and a sprite). Then, I will walk from one end of the concourse to the other (a distance of a good mile or so)- possibly repeating this step several times if it’s a long layover (good to get some exercise between legs, and reduce the risk of blod clots). After that, I go to the Cream and Fudge factory, and buy myself some concoction of ice-cream mixed with white chocolate chips on the cold slab, before boarding my flight. So ingrained is this little ceremony that I feel cheated on my visit if this doesn’t occur.
Other rituals are equally mundane. Coffee is a recent addition to my life (filed, with several others, under ‘fiancee’), but has quickly been elevated to an almost sacred status where my first port of call after installing my laptop on my desk on a weekday morning is to go straight downstairs to the cafe and order a latte. Little productive happens before this event.
I have developed a particular predilection towards french toast with bacon and maple syrup, which I am almost certain to pick off a brunch menu in any cafe I step into where such artery-clogging goodness is available. My work day (once latte has been procured) begins with checking four personal websites (Facebook, Twitter, Hotmail and this blog) and three professional ones (BBC news, Reuters Alertnet and HEWS). I struggle to step into any day if I haven’t had a shower right after getting out of bed. I always know exactly where my keys, wallet and office security pass are when i leave the house because I always put them in exactly the same place, without needing to think about them.
In fact, in some regards, I’m nearly sedentary.
When I stop and look at my lifestyle, and the journey I’ve been on this past couple of decades, I guess indulging in a little routine here and there is a pretty understandable foible for a self-confessed change junkie. It makes some sense. With this much ebb and flow, having a couple of notes of stability amidst a cacophony of flux provides some hooks to hang a different sort of meaning off. A little reliability and a little safety. Though I’m careful not to let it go to my head. I’d hate to become predictable.
And now I’m sitting on board a flight bound (eventually) for Niamey, a[nother] place I’ve called home. We used to have routines there, too. Church on Sunday nights at the Sahel Academy. Four-cheese pizza at l’Exotique. Biere Niger and brochettes at the Grande Hotel at sunset on a Friday night. I’m looking forward to trying them out again. Because there’s some comfort in the familiarity amidst all the instability.
And besides, if they’ve all changed, that’s okay too. Because I love it really.
– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad