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The challenges and rewards of practicing spontaneity

I am a creature of habit. The intricate details of my school year routine have not changed since I first came to Northern Michigan University in 2020.

While the shift in class times from semester to semester surely switches things up, every other aspect of my life has stayed the same since I was a freshman. Wake up, work out, study, go to class, do homework, sleep and repeat the next day.

While that is just a general outline, many of the smaller aspects have remained the same as well. I have yogurt, granola and a banana alongside my coffee every morning. I clean my entire apartment every Friday around noon. I prepare my dinners for the week on Sunday nights, with four separate containers holding the same balance of protein, vegetables and carbs.

And even though these patterns are hardwired into my brain, I still feel the need to outline all of them in my personal planner — as if I would ever forget to do one of them. I even make a note to fill out my planner in my planner.

Perhaps it’s my Type A personality or the fact that if I do not perfectly utilize every minute of the day, I will feel like it has been a waste, but I have always found it challenging to change things up.

It was not until this time last year that I made the conscious decision to try and break out of my habitual way of life. This meant allocating more time for friends — shaving into the precious minutes I had stored away for studying — trying new foods and seeing what life had to offer me.

To make a long story short, none of that went well for me last year.

However, as an extremely competitive person, I have decided to use last year’s failure as my motivation to get things done this year. A mantra I have been using to help me step out of my comfort zone comes from the song “Closer to Fine” by the Indigo Girls. It reads: “The best thing you have ever done for me is to help me take my life less seriously. It’s only life after all.”

As a committed academic, it has always been hard for me to not take things seriously. Now that we are in the fourth week of the semester, however, it comes with great joy for me to announce that I am having the most fun I have ever had while attending college.

Considering that many associate attending college with the best years of their lives, it feels good to finally get in on some of the action. This newfound happiness comes from my choosing to be more spontaneous.

This past weekend acts as a great example. In a last-minute decision, I decided to spend my Saturday in the Appleton and Green Bay areas of Wisconsin.

I really had no excuse to travel the 200 or so miles, a friend and I just felt like driving. Perhaps I wanted to get off campus for a bit, taking some time to walk around a bigger city and disconnect from the many obligations I had waiting for me back home.

Nevertheless, this day-long jaunt to Wisconsin was a challenge for me. I usually spend my weekends catching up on homework assignments — not running away from them. So, of course, part of my mind was fixated on the responsibilities waiting for me back in Marquette. But, if I truly want to take my life less seriously, this random shopping trip where I probably spent too much money was a great way to start.

So, I indulged myself. I went to my favorite food court restaurant, Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, flipped through vinyl at a rundown record store and attended the late showing of “Pearl” at the Bay Park Cinema.

It was the much-needed getaway from the “real world” that I had been missing. I would honestly do it all again this weekend, but I do not think my bank account would forgive me.

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Andie Balenger is a native of Gladstone and is currently attending Northern Michigan University. Her column focuses on college life and runs Thursdays in the Daily Press.

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