Illustration by Jennifer Martinez Flud for Jamie L. Rotante

Routine Maintenance by Jamie L. Rotante

Jul 19, 2022

One Punk’s Look at Social Anxiety, Neuroticism, and Other Fun Stuff

I’m working on this just before 8 AM on a Tuesday. I’ve been up for the past two hours and, out of them, I’ve spent a good hour deliberating about how to spend my morning. This is an unfortunate routine I find myself in more often than I care to admit, but not a part of the morning routine I want.

The weirdos who get up at the crack of dawn to do chores or exercise before the rest of the world awakens. I don’t get them.
But I want to be them.

For the longest time, I thought of the concept of a “routine” as hell. My grandfather is the definition of a creature of habit. If he doesn’t follow some kind of routine, no matter how self-imposed or arbitrary, he’ll self-destruct. Or, as it’s more likely, take to just lying in bed watching TV for hours on end all day (though that’s become a new routine for him in his older age). The folks who can keep a routine down to every last detail have befuddled me. The freaks who willingly choose to eat the same exact lunch every single day without changing a single aspect of it. The weirdos who get up at the crack of dawn to do chores or exercise before the rest of the world awakens. I don’t get them.

But I want to be them.

Okay, maybe that’s taking it a stretch too far. I don’t necessarily want to live my life by very set rules and regulations I follow, without fail or alteration, every day. But I would like to make the positive things I do a more permanent mainstay in my day-to-day life. This often proves to be a harder task than it seems it should be.

Over the past few months, I’ve inserted small positive habits into my daily life. I mentioned that I recently joined a gym, and I’ve made it a goal to start every day—or at least a majority of the week, with an early morning gym session. And, for the most part, I was able to keep it up for a while. It wasn’t a slog, it wasn’t even really a challenge—I actively enjoy doing it. I like the time to myself. I like the energy it gives me. I like feeling clarity and defogging my brain before the workday. The days when I can drag my ass out of bed early and get moving set a positive tone for the rest of my day. Once I’ve started the morning off with that bolt of energy, I can cross items off my to-do list faster. I can focus on each task at hand better. I find myself working smarter, not harder.

So if everything about this is a net positive, why is it so hard to stick to this routine? 

So if everything about this is a net positive, why is it so hard to stick to this routine? 

I started writing this on a day I opted to forego the morning ritual that typically puts me in a good mood. Today I just wasn’t feeling it. A brief road trip back in mid-May threw off my four days a week at the gym routine and I’ve found it hard to get back to that ever since. Even if I get up with my first (of so, so many) alarms, I lay in bed for just a few minutes, which inevitably leads to at least an hour. I’m awake. I’m sleepy, but could just as easily get up as I could fall back asleep. I want to be awake. I want to be moving. I want to start my day.

I just don’t.

I’d like to believe there’s a tiny anarchist in my brain that hates order and defies it every chance it can. It sounds more punk rock that way—that the routines I impose upon myself are too authoritarian and my brain has a natural inclination to revolt. Unfortunately, I doubt that’s the case. It’s just a part of yet another vicious cycle—whenever I get off the path toward betterment, I convince myself it’ll be easy to just jump back on the next day. But getting back on the horse is never that easy, and the practice of not doing things takes over.

Plus, if it were me just trying to fight off routine and normalcy out of some act of radical self-love, then I wouldn’t feel so bad when I do stop myself from engaging in the daily activities that bring me joy. Whenever I make a choice to not stick to a daily schedule—even if it’s because I want to do other important things: clean, finish tasks, or get ahead of deadlines—I don’t necessarily end up hitting those targets, either. I just mostly sit around feeling bad, wallowing in self-pity and anger that I’m not taking better care of myself or my happiness.

What I think is happening, though, is that my instinctual hatred of routines will at some point make me resent doing those daily tasks. That the things that give me a positive boost of energy will at some point just feel like work, that I’ll have to find other things to do to make up for that loss of happiness. That the healthy things that bring me joy will become to-do lists tasks, pushing me to engage in unhealthy behavior to reclaim that sense of joy.

That’s a whole load of bullshit and even I know it.

Here’s what I know—actually getting up and starting my day early feels much better than sleeping in does (save for those few occasions where I can do so without remorse). Being active, no matter how, makes me not only feel good but gives me the energy to feel like I can accomplish anything. And getting fresh air offers me a reset whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed or overburdened. Doing healthier things makes me feel happy, and for that reason, I should do them as much as possible without fear of them not making me happy. Because if that does end up happening, there are always alternatives—so long as there’s an outside to walk around in (while we still have it), a song to dance to, and a desire to get up and do better, I can make my way towards health and happiness.

I just need to not beat myself up until tomorrow comes.

And when I fail to stick to a plan? Like I said, just get up and get back on. As long as there’s a tomorrow (while we have it), there’s a way. I just need to not beat myself up until tomorrow comes.

Now if I can just fit in daily writing and reading for fun into that schedule, I might just achieve true bliss but, alas, there are never enough hours in the day. At least that’s what I tell myself when I’m spending another morning hitting the snooze button too many times.

Jamie L. Rotante is a writer and editor living just outside of NYC. She reads comic books like it’s her job and even tries her hand at writing them now and then. You can read more of her work at