11/25/2008
Thirteen weeks

They say it takes thirteen weeks for a person to acquire a habit. Keep up with the repetitions, however tedious it may be at the beginning, and soon enough it will be hard wired into you. In other words, it'll just come naturally.

I've been at work for twenty-one weeks now, and I'm sure I've already acquired quite a few of those habits. I always wake up at 05.00 flat, unless it's a Friday, in which case I wake up thirty minutes later (or, if I feel like rushing, fifteen minutes later). I always play my iPod in the bathroom, while doing my business in the toilet, which has come around every morning, and nowhere else in the day. Whenever I get to my computer at work, I always unplug the network cable until just after I officially log in, so as to prevent having to wait for everything to load for a very, very long time.

Today, though, I realized that I don't actually have to unplug the network cable during every start-up. It was a nifty tip taught to me by our IT guy when I was still new to the company and was very frustrated with not getting things to work, but after they've overhauled the servers, the lag time is all but noticeable. But the routine's etched in my brain now, that I don't think I'll remember not to unplug that cable when I sit here tomorrow. Well, maybe until I publish this entry.

Twenty-one weeks is obviously more than enough time for me to be able to get used to something. If it only takes thirteen weeks, then I'm obviously covered - from walking out of the office at almost exactly midday to typing the same thing on my daily email to not bothering turning around to say goodbye. Of course you've got to do things differently soon, or else you really sink into a terribly boring routine, but sometimes, as much as you want to break from the change, your body's newfound settings won't let you.

In short, I still leave my desk at midday to have lunch, and I still leave at fifteen minutes after my shift ends just to make sure I'm the last person out of the office. Just imagine my thoughts for the past two weeks, when things have decidedly gone upside down. Within that time frame, I've bought food with Kris four times, all of them way before noon (and only because, at one point, she didn't eat breakfast because there was none at her dining table). As much as I enjoy actual conversation while walking to the nearby McDonald's branch, it's weird having to actually spend walking time with someone, when you're so used to having nobody beside you as you grab something to eat. Plus, all the walks back to the office have been peppered with, for me at least, awkward silence.

So, when your life goes upside down, where do everything that you've unnecessarily repeated for thirteen weeks go?

This may sound weird, but I've always tried to break it. Now's that weird point in time when you're unusually empowered to do things differently. People stick to habits because they've worked so well for them; in my case, I've never bothered dragging people to lunch because I'd be turned down anyway. Why risk getting hurt when you can enjoy your own company and be productive at the same time? And then you realize how good things are when done differently, but only because the grass is always greener on the other side, and you'd try to do just that.

So maybe, when we've had enough, we'll forget about thinking of the perfect conversation piece and just start discussing surprise assignments, silly reality shows and the lack of an umbrella. And perhaps, sooner, it will feel so much better that we don't have to stay clammed up for fear of being totally disregarded, right? But habits are hard to break, especially when you don't want to break them, even if you actually do. There's a reason why it's Kris I'm only saying goodbye to in the past few days. Indeed, some things take more than thirteen weeks to change. Or they never do at all.

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