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How to Love Monotony?

How far would you go to escape monotony?

Depending on who you ask, the world is either a boring place criss-crossed with red tape and warning signs, or a wild escapade with danger awaiting around every corner. We tell ourselves to live on the edge, to take risks for the right rewards, and to be afraid of nothing. We want to chase our dreams and imagine the satisfaction of sacrificing ease for adventure. When we are young, we feel unstoppable. Travel while you are still able, the older generation tells us. Make mistakes and learn to overcome failure while you can, they say.

I have been told many times how admirable it is that I have gone after what I really want, being unafraid to face the unknown. I smile and I nod. I say, thank you, it’s been a challenge and I’m glad I took this road. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything else.

Because I know what it feels like to be locked to a desk and chained to a job where you feel useless. I know how it feels to cry every day in the bathroom during lunch hour instead of eating with your co-workers. There’s a sort of shame to daily, unspectacular failure that is harder to face than a mighty defeat. I remember asking myself, must I live like this? Am I going to be unhappy everyday? Wiping tears from my eyes as I tried to compose myself before leaving the bathroom stall, I would ask myself if this is really what I wanted.

It’s a terrible feeling.

But worse yet, is the moment when you start saying to yourself, maybe this is really all that it’s going to be. Maybe I don’t deserve to be happy. This is a despair that arrives without any fanfare. Just every day taking one step at a time into shallow water, unaware that it gets deeper as you go until one day you recognize that you’re drowning.

I stayed like this for two years. I think the worst part was I didn’t want anyone to know. I had worked so hard and given up so much to get to where I was. From the outside, it was so glamorous. I knew so many people who will give up their teeth to get to where I was, sitting in my swivel chair on the fifth floor of one of the biggest entertainment agencies in Korea. I could share more about what I endured there, but I’ll write about that in another post if you are interested – let me know and I’ll respond accordingly. For now, the point is I escaped that place and live this uncertain, fast-paced life now.

A few weeks ago, I wrapped up a film job and was suddenly aware that I had no prospective work. Nothing waiting in my schedule, nobody calling me up for a shoot or commercial. In the moment, I was pleased; all this time just for me! Such a valuable commodity and only myself to spend it on. Now, the days have passed, and with the exception of a few voice recordings, I still remain jobless. Not that this is a new experience for me, but I have been considering my position for some time now and my current free time offers me plenty of space to think more about it.

Is it better to be stable but in routine, or live with risk but the way you like? Had I been asked this question a year or two ago, my answer would have been definite; live the way you like. Find what you’re passionate about and chase it like crazy. I had seen the farthest point on the other end of the spectrum and knew that was no way of living; it wasn’t living at all. I couldn’t wish that on anyone. Take a chance, fight for what you believe in, do what you love! This was my answer and I was convinced in it.

But as I sit here in my hundredth cafe, drinking my thousandth latte, listening to my millionth song, and wondering where I’m going next, I feel a creeping sensation of doubt. Maybe we are not meant to chase thrills and momentary excitement. It’s wonderful and fun, and we can learn so much from those experiences. Yet, I have to acknowledge that there is something far more meaningful in a steady commitment to something; a person you love, a job you want to succeed in, a language you want to learn, a task you want to accomplish. I feel that this is something I’m missing; this commitment.

I find myself saying frequently, “I want to shake things up.” I say it laughingly, teasing friends who hold stable jobs and envy my lifestyle. I’m ready to move to a new country and start again, make new friends, find new things to do, explore new places. This is something I’m good at. But for what purpose? To what end am I chasing the unknown?

Life goes up and down; high times and low times exist for us all. Maybe I must learn to appreciate those moments in between. In the high times, we revel in our success and enjoy the flight. In the low times, we might despair but then we kick ourselves into action, glorying in the fight of the uphill battle. It’s in those moments in between where I itch for a change; the moments of quiet where nothing in particular is going on. Am I wrong to try to “shake things up,” then? Or maybe I should simply learn to sit tight, commit to where I am right now, and wait.

So how far would you go to escape monotony? Is there any value in this monotony? How can I learn to appreciate it? I’m still trying to find out; or rather, learning to wait and learning to be. Maybe if I stop trying to escape it, I’ll find monotony not so bad after all.

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