Did Curiosity Kill The Cat? …Or Was It Routine?

Image by Jolie Er

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If there’s one thing I’ve always been scared of, it’s settling into a routine. Why routine? Because the very thought of doing the same old actions and activities the same old way day-in and day-out grates like chalk on a blackboard in my mind. 

For some, a routine might be a comfort; for me, it signified the death of spontaneity and passion. And yet, inexplicably, I’ve fallen into this trap.  

I can’t fault anyone who enjoys having a routine. To some extent, I do too. It certainly gives my day structure and makes me feel more in control. But the problem I have with routine is that it often means that I stop doing new things or partaking in something different because I ‘need to get home at a certain time’ or have ‘my day blocked off for calls with friends.’

While these are all comforts I am dearly attached to, they also make my time rather inflexible for trying out new things. And thus, I end up doing the same old thing over and over again.

But I don’t believe I’m the only one who unknowingly falls into some kind of routine, and ends up unable, or unwilling, to try something new. While some people can exist perfectly contently with a routine, and open themselves up to new activities, in my personal experience, I’ve come across many people who get stuck in a rut they created themselves. But before we dive into why we should factor in some time for spontaneity, let’s dissect why we choose what we choose to arrange our day around.

What Defines The Cat?

For the longest time, I’ve defined myself as a writer. I was a voracious reader as a kid, and naturally, trying my hand at writing soon followed. With the vocabulary I’d picked up during my reading adventures, it was easy to get recognised and praised for my writing. And soon, ‘WRITER’ was a central part of my identity. 

Knowing myself as a writer, I did everything a ‘writer’ should do. I joined the newspaper club in high school. I started a blog I never kept up with. I started writing a few novels I never finished, and I submitted a few entries for writing competitions. I joined The Ridge in university. After all, if I couldn’t string words together eloquently, then what could I do? I had fallen into a routine of always picking writing over any other activity, without a second thought, as that was what I was.

But with every failed, or delayed, attempt, I started experiencing an immense amount of guilt; I would feel angry with myself over not feeling inspired to write, over foregoing updating my novel, or for forgetting to keep up with my fledgling blog. Suffice it to say, it was not a good headspace.

That’s when I knew I had to change my relationship with writing. It couldn’t be all that I was—even if that was the one skill I had complete and utter confidence in. 

“Nothing [defines me]. A definition excludes the possibility for change.”

Random Internet person

One of the best quotes I’ve heard, and something that has stuck with me, is a random post I glimpsed while scrolling through Pinterest. It was a response to someone asking the person, “what defines you?”

They replied, “Nothing. A definition excludes the possibility for change.” And just like that, my conundrum was solved. The solution I arrived at was that I shouldn’t let writing—or anything else for that matter—define me. Just as the random Internet person puts across so efficiently, how am I going to change—or allow myself the space to grow—if I tell myself what I am or am not supposed to be? If I don’t allow myself to exist without definition? 

If you’re anything like me, I’d wager you’ve defined yourself by some such word or activity: “I’m a sportsperson,” “I’m a dancer,” “I’m a reader.” But you’re not a sportsperson, you’re someone who likes playing basketball; you’re not a dancer, but someone who likes to dance; you’re not a reader, but someone who likes to read. You’re allowed to enjoy these things without being only that, without tying your identity to it. 

We don’t have to make the skill we’re particularly good at the only thing we do all the time. If we do, we risk living in the shadows of the thing that we think we shine the most in. I like to write and think that I’m capable at it, but I’ve realised that it doesn’t have to be what I do all the time. 

We need to view ourselves as more than just the sum of our parts, or risk falling prey to the dangerous mindset of forcibly fitting ourselves into one small box, and building up only that box without ever exploring what other boxes we could make. 

Did Satisfaction Bring The Cat Back?

If you don’t know the full saying, it goes: “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.” Essentially, the quote’s not advising that you not be curious, but rather that curiosity has a price and oftentimes, the payout’s worth it. 

Similarly, exploring outside of your comfort zone can come at a price: A feeling of awkwardness, a period of being really bad and overwhelmed, even embarrassment or anger at not ‘getting the hang of it’ quickly enough. 

But from my experience, trying new things can be very freeing. Recently, I’ve taken up drawing. It’s something I used to be interested in as a kid, and something I slowly lost touch with as my days grew busier with school and my focus was spent on writing CCAs. It certainly didn’t help when I saw my friend’s incredible artworks on her Instagram account—the one she keeps specially for her drawings. Seeing other people—one I remember having about the same level of skill as me when we both first got started—getting so good at art while I was still drawing stick figures nullified all my efforts to get started again. As happy and proud as I was to see how amazing her works were, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d lost the race somehow. And this becomes a vicious cycle, where instead of providing inspiration, all other people’s talent and success does is clamp on another shackle to your already weighed-down feet. 

But one day, I suddenly got the urge to pick up my pencils again and try—earnestly—to practice drawing. I picked up a few packs of pencils at the local supermarket, bought a really sturdy drawing booklet, and searched up some handy YouTube tutorials on how to draw human figures. I have no expectations to get as good as her, nor is that really what I’m trying for. Now, I just want to see my own skill grow, to track my growth, and to take joy in the fact that I can finally draw two proportional eyes (I’m not there yet). 

I spent a lot of time drawing these eyes. But I’m somewhat happy with the end result, even if I still have a lot of work to do in getting the expressions down.

I haven’t been keeping up with it consistently, nor spending a long time on it, but when I do put hand to paper—in a different sense to writing—I lose myself to the difficulty of the task. I won’t try to phrase it as enjoyable; it’s not. I don’t find drawing fun at all right now. Strokes don’t fall as easily for me as words do. I hate drawing guide lines, I hate how expressionless my human figures look, I hate how I can’t draw hands and how I struggle with the joint between the neck and the shoulders. 

But there’s something freeing about not having to be good, of not being expected to be good. I can have a bad day, a bad week, or be downright terrible at it and that’s ok; drawing’s not my forte. And that gives me so much room to explore and experiment and be downright silly. Honestly, I enjoy drawing; even though I hate every minute I spend on my ugly barely-human figures.

Novelty And The Cat 

Everyone needs a little novelty in their lives. Some space to be terrible and unwind from the pressure and the expectations to be good at something. Why should we have to be good at everything we try our hand at? 

I won’t preach about the many benefits of trying something new. I’m sure you’ve heard it aplenty from parental figures or online websites. What I like most about trying something new is being able to let go and to allow myself to be terrible—and being proud of being terrible. When most of my time is spent trying to upskill myself, or to put on a front of being highly polished, it’s nice to know there’s at least one activity, one hour, I can spend without such expectations. And that, for me, makes the awkwardness and the uncomfortableness of trying out a new activity, worth it.