Written by: Khristy Choo | Edited by: Nicole Friets and Abi Koh | Photo by: Arnold Lee
There’s almost a negative connotation that sits at the heels of the word “routine.” After all, as a person in her early twenties, isn’t this THE time for me to adorn my walls with variations of framed “Carpe diem!” inspired artwork?
Somewhere along the line, though, I settled into familiar patterns without fully realizing it. That’s perfectly fine, as it does give life some sort of balance or stability. What I hadn’t realized, however, was just how attached I was becoming to my routines — the comfortable and safe cycle of work and daily life, with a dash of friends and a sprinkle of family.
The thing about routines is that when you start to embrace it as an old friend, the idea of venturing out starts to become a crippling fear. The thought of trying something new begins to terrify you. The idea of stepping out of your comfort zone starts to keep you up at night. Too many variables, I remember thinking. There were too many chances for things to go wrong, especially when you combine them with a perpetually awkward self.
In the middle of 2013, I woke up to a message from my best friend who lives overseas, saying she was having “the big white do” (her words, not mine). It was followed with, “Will you be my maid-of-honor?”
Saying yes and booking my plane tickets from Malaysia to Wisconsin (the land of cheese), USA was the easy part. The time leading up to the wedding was full of excited Skype sessions and waking up to dozens of messages in the wedding party chat group (yes, there was one, and I shook my fist at the different time zones separating us). However, as excited as I was to celebrate my friend’s big day with her, this trip was something that kept me up at night.
It made me anxious to think about being on my own in an unfamiliar location, surrounded by unfamiliar people, and not knowing what to expect. I inhabited the land of “What If” for a while, and each possible scenario my brain conjured up had an even more dramatic ending than the previous.
While riding on the plane, I hadn’t even made it to Wisconsin yet when things took a turn. The plane was literally forced to turn back after two hours in the air due to technical malfunctions. Five hours later, as I sat at the same gate I departed from, I was forced to come to the realization that even with all the preparations one can make, sometimes simply going with the flow is necessary. Sometimes things can’t be controlled . . . and yes, sometimes the same sequence of actions just doesn’t work.
Now, the actual wedding experience was certainly one to remember — a Pinterest-affair come to life, with family, fun, dancing, and a certain maid-of-honor who wasn’t aware that a speech was included in the program. Amidst the wedding festivities, perhaps what stood out to me the most during my time there was the people. I had the privilege of meeting some genuinely kind individuals, some of whom I call friends today.
I hadn’t realized how much I needed the time away from home — to just wander around without necessarily having a specific purpose or agenda. To allow myself to be pulled out of my routine, and understand that there’s no shame in being scared and nervous, because how many things was I missing out on because of my hesitance to poke a foot out of my comfort zone? Being away from my familiar setting gave me the chance to discover and appreciate everything new I encountered, and be swept away in awe and wonder.
By the end of the trip, I was left with a full heart (and stomach!) — a result of the combination of friendly people, lots of hugs, the amazing sights to see, more cheese available for consumption than necessary, and food portions entirely too much for one person.
From that experience, I discovered the importance of exploring and being open to adventures — to be in the moment and not left wondering “what if.” For some, this may mean traveling if the opportunity presents itself; for others, it could mean making a conscious effort to break the routine every now and then to discover things outside of familiarity.
You open the doors to an entire world of possibility by permitting yourself to explore and be inquisitive. You could find yourself striking up unexpected and meaningful new friendships, experiencing the kind of wedding you’d only seen in movies, and learning how to fend for yourself when you’re alone and unsure of what to do in questionable circumstances. Plus, the good memories you make may put a smile on your face as you recount them years later.
I still don’t have “Carpe diem!” on any of my walls — but I do own a sign which says “Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy ice cream and that's kind of the same thing.” I think that’ll do for now.
For what it’s worth, Wisconsin cheese is pretty amazing.