This week I realized just how bad my addiction to caffeine is. Between two plays, classes and a couple of essays, I have set a new record for most trips to Starbucks in one week. This was expensive, so I tried to come up with other solutions to keep me awake. This was more of a task than I thought it would be.
I thought about making coffee in my room, but I can only carry one cup and can’t stop for refills. I thought about carrying my coffee pot around with me, but that would look silly. I also thought about just getting an IV drip of caffeine — but I’m afraid of needles. So, for lack of a better solution, I have been buying and chugging an enormous amount of java this past week.
The problem is that, in the back of my mind, I know that using my time during the day more wisely and going to bed earlier is really a better idea than flirting with a caffeine overdose. It seems to me that this isn’t new. Often we take shortcuts to solve our problems, and then end up with more of a mess than we started with. It’s not a matter of procrastinating or ignoring the issue at hand, but a matter of choosing the most immediate solution over one that will work better on a more permanent basis.
I mean, we all know that when we’re young, cleaning our room consists of shoving everything under the bed and/or in the closet, and pretending that what we can’t see does not exist. And it doesn’t stop there. In our adult lives, we face the easy way out often: we can fix relationships, or let them die. We can fad diet, or we can focus on healthy food and regular exercise. We can vote based on the party our parents like, or we can do some research and figure out what we really believe. We can read the book or go on Sparknotes.com. We make hundreds of choices throughout our adult lives, and the easy way out seems to be lurking behind every one of them. But if this is the case, then how do we get to the root of our problems and make the right choices? In middle school and high school health class, they taught us these things called “I messages.” They went like this: “I feel blank when you blank because blank. I need blank.” We were supposed to fill in the blanks with descriptions appropriate to the situation — I feel hurt, when you call me names, because I am sensitive, etc., etc. I thought it was stupid at the time, but now I realize that the real value behind these phrases. They allowed us to directly address the source of our problems; instead of arguing and placing blame, we were supposed to simply tell the other person what we feel and what we need. I think this is the key to choosing between the easy way and a more difficult, but possibly more correct path. Find what is causing the problem and confront it. If we know what our problems really are, it’s much easier to solve them correctly.
Whether it’s a national economic meltdown or a personal stress attack, everything has an origin. By striving to find and fix the cause instead of temporarily patching the results, one is left with a solved problem, instead of a problem that will have to be solved eventually. It’s simply logical. It’s like patching potholes. Some of the roads around my hometown get awful during the winter. So, workers come out and patch the holes. Unfortunately, this does not permanently fix potholes. Pretty soon we have drivers swearing up a storm because the potholes keep coming back. Patching is all well and good in the short run, but really, you need to dig a little deeper to invoke change.
I think this is something individuals and society need to look more closely at. My addiction to coffee made me realize that I need to examine my choices more closely. Even though I will probably continue to be a java junkie, I shouldn’t use it as a substitute for sleep. In the long run, hitting the pillow earlier will make me feel a whole lot better than any amount of lattes ever can.