How to Get Off the Hamster Wheel Without Quitting Your Job

Sometimes it’s the small stuff

05.20.16
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Despite being a newly minted 27-year-old, lately, I’ve been feeling much more like an antsy Kindergartener who has grown bored of playing with the Duplo blocks and needs a new activity. Except instead of throwing a tantrum, my boredom is manifesting in this feeling that I’m trapped on the hamster wheel with no way to get off.

So what’s there to do?

Move to a new city? Apply to some sort of grad school? Pack my bags and move to a remote sustainable farm? I’ve tried to convince myself that any one of these things will certainly make me feel like I’m in control of my life. That I’m the one making decisions instead of cruising along on autopilot.

The only issue is that I don’t actually want to do any of those things. I like where I live and I like what I do.

Feeling similarly? Like you’re trapped in your own remake of Groundhog Day?

Personally, I’m focusing on taking smaller steps in order to break free from the comfortable boredom of the schedules and habits I’ve grown accustomed to.

Welcome to my experiment:

1. There’s a world outside the elliptical

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Instead of the same gym routine day after day, sample a new class. Class Pass has a $19 trial membership that lets you take five classes in a month. Or you could throw on a sequin leotard, call yourself Jane Fonda, and try a workout video like Pure Barre’s video streaming subscriptions.

A lot of studios out there have discounted rates for new clients so that you, too, can try your hand at aerial yoga or trampoline cardio and still pay your rent.

For a grand total of $0 there’s the November Project: an outdoor workout community that trades in the currency of “verbals” – a verbal commitment to show up.

2. Mix up your commute

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Want to feel like you live in a new city, instantly? Take a new route to work. Maybe it’s a new train or a different subway stop. Get adventurous and try out a cross-town bus! Spring is (allegedly) here; try walking to the office while you work on your base tan and call your grandma. It’s refreshing to see something new in the morning even, if it’s just buildings.

3. Be a nerd

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You don’t necessarily need grad school to keep learning. With a little Google-searching, you can find just about any type of class out there and even some with online options so that you can finally master Russian without getting out of bed.

You could take a course in song writing from Gotham Writers Workshop or finally learn how to use that camera you bought with a class at Photo Manhattan (both of which offer online courses).

CourseHorse is basically the adult version of the course catalogue you had in college except this time, you won’t get bumped out of that one course you need to finish your major.

And of course, there’s Skillshare, where you can basically learn to do anything.

4. Three words: Treat. Yo. Self.

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The simplest way to break free from doing the same thing every day is to break free from doing the same thing every day.

I dutifully make my own coffee every morning, but once a week I pop down the street to my favorite espresso bar (Abraço, for you NYC dwellers), order a cortado and pretend I’m European for 15 minutes before cramming myself onto the F train.

Maybe for you it’s actually using that lunch break you’re entitled to take: get your nails done, read that long magazine article you’ve been carrying around, eat lunch away from your desk or catch up on a podcast.

5. Use your days off

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Somewhere along the line it became a badge of honor to show up to work even when you look like the before shot in a DayQuil commercial or so mentally exhausted that you can’t find your pen when it’s in your hand. Unfortunately, some of us have been taught to think that it’s a sign of weakness to take a day off. False. You’ll only be an effective team member if you’re taking care of your physical and mental health.

6. Try a new recipe

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Jennifer Aniston apparently ate the same lunch every day on the set of Friends, and though Rachel Green is my personal Polaris, I don’t think I could handle 10 years of Cobb salads.

Alas, my cooking skills start and end with boiling water and every week, despite waltzing into Trader Joe’s full of culinary optimism, I always leave with the exact same items. No matter, I’m determined to actually start looking up recipes that I can conceivably execute without setting my apartment on fire.

Put the 32094809 minutes you’ve spent watching Tasty videos to good use or for the price of one dinner in a restaurant, snag a Crock-Pot, which comes with its own book of easy recipes that will feed you for days.

7. Take a trip

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Maybe you don’t want to permanently change locations; you just need a quick dose of a new environment. Get away for a weekend, or even just a day.

If you’re anywhere near New York City, hop on Metro North and spend a weekend in Hudson, hike any one of the Hudson Valley’s Instagram-worthy trails or take a solo day trip thanks to these tips from Haley.

For a getaway on a shoestring, set price alerts on sites like Kayak and Trip Advisor.

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Life can feel like a perpetual state of keeping up with the Joneses’ achievements. We’re conditioned to think that it takes something BIG to make us feel like we’re controlling our lives instead of our lives controlling us. And as we settle into our own patterns, it’s easy to fall victim to that latter mindset when repetition turns into monotony.

But sometimes, all it takes is changing up the small things to remind yourself that you’ve got your hands firmly at 10 and 2. Promise.

Illustrations by Emily Zirimis.

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