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Dear routine, it’s time to break up

How breaking routine and seizing opportunities has enriched my college experience

Sam Saks is a Top 10 writer for The Cavalier Daily.
Sam Saks is a Top 10 writer for The Cavalier Daily.

For Hoos or Hokies, we all have our routines, following the same guide. These schedules are ingrained in muscle memory and crucially supplemented by Google Calendar — week in and week out. We go to the same dining hall, sit with the same people, go to the same club meetings and bunker down in the same study spots. While there’s nothing wrong with the routine, it’s really hard to break — routine is “known,” easily dependable and comfortable. So why would we venture away from what we already know we like and works for us? Half of the answer, I have realized, lies in the monotony of “the same”. 

I’m someone who has long been grounded in routine — I need it to keep myself on track and to balance both work and social life. I needed routine back in high school, juggling after-school tennis matches with finishing homework late at night, and I know I’ll depend on it throughout my adult life. 

But I’ve realized that at no other time in my life than right now will there be more avenues through which I can leap out of the momentum of routine and incorporate new experiences and opportunities into my daily life. Therein lies the other half of the answer — I am surrounded by something new every day and yet have so often missed out on taking advantage of all that’s within reach because of my strong gravitation toward routine.

As I became more adjusted to life as a first-year University student and got a handle on my day-to-day, I started to become more aware of the unique opportunities that were constantly flooding my inbox, appearing in chalk on sidewalks, popping up on bulletin boards and projecting from monitors throughout different buildings on Grounds. Now, as a second year, I’ve seized several on-Grounds opportunities that piqued my interest, the biggest of which is E-Guides, a group of students that gives tours of theSchool of Engineering to prospective students. 

Back in September, I decided to try out for E-Guides to break up my week and to share my own personal experiences with prospective Engineering students. While I was initially unsure if I had the skills to be an effective tour guide, I knew I had the drive, so I took a chance. Now, as a new E-Guide, I have really enjoyed being able to “schedule” a change of pace, a prescribed breaking of my routine while giving these tours. I love imparting helpful tidbits about my college experience, and it felt rewarding to paint a picture of the school to high school students and their families as they navigate college admissions. 

I’ve also pushed myself to get involved with off-Grounds events. After seeing an email about Democracy360 in my inbox back in October, I ventured to The Paramount Theater on a solo mission to hear from former U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger. To listen to stories and powerful insight from someone who was on the “inside” of American politics — and to get a free copy of his new book before it hit shelves — was a truly unique experience. I would never have been able to enjoy it had I not taken the initiative to explore something new. As someone who has humanities interests extending beyond my focus on engineering, I was able to dive deeper into the current threat to democracy by listening to those who directly see warning signs in today’s political climate.

Through my adventures on and off Grounds, I’ve realized the importance of engaging in what this community has to offer. It’s not easy to break routine, but there are too many exciting opportunities all around us to let our typical schedules trump everything and dictate what we do every single day. Events at the University and in the surrounding Charlottesville or Blacksburg area that sound even remotely interesting are worth attending. 

Whether you ended up enjoying them or not, taking the initiative to try something new and perhaps out of your comfort zone is time well spent. Even though the emails easily pile up — I’m personally notorious for this — keep an eye out for niche happenings and flag those messages. 

Take an extra 30 seconds to read the chalk message before you walk over it. You may just find a potential experience that challenges your perceptions, changes what you want to study, or simply serves as a way to break up your routine. All it takes is one great opportunity to create snapshot moments that you will remember years later, whether it altered your life, made you laugh or just created some much-needed balance. 

Ten years from now, it’s not the work, the library and certainly not the dining halls that you’ll be thinking back on in reflecting upon your time at college. It’s the moments you seized and the memories you made while doing so that will define your experience and stick with you. So go spruce up the Google calendar with new events. Read those flyers. Go through those emails. Whether you’re a first year or a fourth year, it’s never too late to start breaking routine — venture forward boldly.

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