Lately I’m all about the self-help books. Some people are just naturally good, while the rest of us have to use literature to remind and teach us what being a decent human looks like. Our habits play a big role in how we are perceived by others and our quality of life. Bad habits are just a part of life that we either continue doing or try to overcome. I recently read a book called “Making Habits, Breaking Habits,” and while it’s not the best beach read, I did learn a lot about the psychology of forming and breaking habits. The book made me want to develop new habits, like reading every night and drinking a glass of water between drinks. It also inspired me to break bad habits like overspending, overeating, forgetting to proofread my blog posts, and blowing homeless dudes. I’m not a psychologist, 97 percent sure I got a C+ in psychology, which is pretty disconcerting…but I do know that the key to making habits and breaking habits is repeating them (or gradually wading off of them). Once something is repeated a certain number of times it becomes habitual. It just takes a lot of persistence and willpower, and sometimes all it takes is time….
Most childhoods are characterized by one habit – it could have been nail-biting, lip smacking, being a pain in your parent’s ass, or thumb-sucking. Mine were the latter two. Even if you knew me in pre-k or kindergarten, we probably never talked because I was too consumed by the thumb in my mouth to even speak. For a while it wasn’t a concern, in fact it may have been irresistibly cute. I imagine a scene in my kitchen, my family in a half circle around my highchair, swooning over how Goddamn flawless I was. But while the average toddler looses interest in their thumb around the age of 5, I was still an active user beyond kindergarten. I could go all day without that thumb leaving my mouth. Upon exiting my mother’s vagina, the first decision I made as an infant was to suck my left thumb and not my right. Good call baby Tina. Even with my left thumb occupied, I could still use my right hand for every-day tasks such as writing, drawing and hailing cabs.
I continued to suck my thumb past kindergarten, but started to notice my parents scolding me whenever I tried to suck. I started to hide under blankets…but my parents – with their fancy college degrees – quickly realized what I was up to. Months turned to years and before you knew it I was learning fractions and still sucking my thumb. Seeing no sign of me stopping, my parents decided take matters into their own hands, or in this case, thumbs. Sorry I had to.
Anyway, they employed some pretty harsh methods to get me to stop. There was this gross nail polish that tasted like rubbing alcohol, but that wasn’t enough to stop me. I was also forced to wear heavily bandaged thumb brace, which really did wonders for my already slipping social standing, but much like Paris Hilton in a spelling bee, that thumb brace didn’t last long, and it didn’t stop me. I just took it off when I wanted to be intimate with my thumb and slyly slipped it back on whenever my parents or any of my parent’s spies were near. I must have thought my parents were the biggest morons. I eventually came to the much overdue realization that I was no longer a child, and if I ever wanted to be taken seriously as a violinist, I would have to quit. At the time I really wanted to start playing the violin…see it all came full circle: I broke a habit and started a new one. I played the violin for two years until I decided that my social life took precedence over everything.
Bottom line: if you put your mind to it, you can make and break habits. It may take a few tries, but as long as you keep trying, there’s a solid chance you’ll get there. I hope I’ve #inspired you guys today.