It’s Okay: To Not Want To Try New Things
In It’s Okay, we defend our most embarrassing, unpopular opinions.
I have the same fight with my sister every weekend: I insist on re-watching a movie, she stands resolute in her vow to not watch anything twice. Her reluctance is in line with the broader human expectation — it gives “repetition” a bad name and saves the captivation for new, unfamiliar things.
There are people who wouldn’t dare to repeat an order or, god forbid, revisit a place or do an activity more than once — lest mundaneness and tedium befall them. The lust for newness seems to go hand-in-hand with joie de vivre.
Habit may be “a great deadener,” as playwright Samuel Beckett calls it, but I plead the case in favor of familiarity: There’s nothing wrong with allowing yourself to accept, and enjoy, comfortable things.
“Good” things have earned that repute over time. A book that became a trusted companion on a bad day or a song that has lived on through memory or even a café that serves coffee just the way you like. Coming back to things you know and enjoy is not necessarily any less exciting — how many times have you found a richer, nuanced meaning in that passage you have read before?
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Plus, doing the same thing over and over carries with it room for growth. Incremental improvements are hard to appreciate in real-time, but become progress over time. A friend has spent the pandemic playing chess tournaments every day; what started with losing queens and knights in the first four moves has now almost segued into the five-move victory stage.
There is satisfaction in doing something right for the 19th time; who knows when you might find a niche and end up excelling in it? Perhaps, this is also what gives people discipline. Remember the aphorism “jack of all trades, master of none”? The generalization may be wanting, but there is still some truth to it: that trying multiple things may not translate into a specialization. Finding satisfaction in the familiar allows you to commit to lengthy projects — and actually finish them instead of jumping ship when things get “boring.”
But practice doesn’t always have to make perfect to mean something. Even if you don’t excel, or find productivity in the activity of your choice, chasing comfort in something familiar and old has its upside. Ask anyone what their ideal day looks like, and chances are they would spend it doing the same thing they love doing every day.
Of course, the world is quick to dismiss this reluctance to try new things as fear, anxiety, or even laziness. They take it upon them to rid us of this supposed malady. Endless platitudes of “be spontaneous” and “live in the moment” are thrown our way.
Yes, we might sometimes run away from things that scare us. And we also run the risk of comfort turning into never wanting to leave the comfort zone. There is wisdom in conquering those fears and feeling liberated; but more often than not, we end up battling these mental blocks only to prove something — that we’re exciting and adventurous, even if we don’t want to be.
The desire to find and conquer new things gained renewed validation during the pandemic. Everyone began the wild pursuit of something: trying new hobbies, new exercises, new diets. It is all but understandable during the stasis of a pandemic to paint life red and try the undiscovered. For those who are prepared for this undertaking, I wish you joy.
For those who aren’t, who know what they like, appreciate what they love, and broadly categorize themselves as content, I offer validation and share your passion for good-old-things. To not want to dabble with the unfamiliar is okay — one day, those things will become familiar, and you can still reach out to them.
It’s okay then — to re-watch anything from Star Wars to Dil Chahta Hain, order your usual meal from the place that has earned your love, and revel in the anticipation of how the day will unfold. This is how we claim our joie de vivre.