Why are you sitting in my seat?

You walk into your 9:00 a.m. class and your stomach sinks as you notice the atrocity in front of you. The corner seat in the second row, the best row, because it’s not directly in the front but still close enough for you to be able to see the board and pay attention, the one you have sat in all semester to the point that you’re sure that you have made a butt imprint, has been overtaken. You think back to the extra few minutes you slept, which could have been better used for claiming your rightful spot. Your territory has been claimed, stolen, conquered, overrun! But what can you do? Fight back? Cause a big scene? Scream? Alas, none of these are really worth the trouble, so you reluctantly move to a different seat. During the entirety of class, you notice the differences between this spot and your old one; it’s almost distracting. You secretly harbor a strong distaste for the person who has seized your seat, and remind yourself to arrive to class earlier tomorrow.

Although this seems a bit extreme and silly, people really do love sticking to their seat. There is something comforting about sitting in the same spot everyday. Maybe it’s because you have adjusted your life to this seat or maybe it’s because this seat really does have the best view of the board. Nonetheless, people grow attached to “their” seat in the classroom and often do not invite change.

I find this quite odd and tremendously interesting, because people are encouraged to “change things up” and “try something new”. But it seems that in actuality, we are people of habit.

In psychology, I learned that habits are important for helping us through our day. A habit is a process that becomes automatic, and thus engages our brain less and allows us to complete the task without even thinking. They make life easier as you do not have to worry about little things, like where to sit in class. Instead you can worry about that senior thesis, internship application, or what the hell you’re going to do with your life.

Perhaps habits are an evolutionary thing, as standing out and being different could cause someone to easily be picked out from a crowd and killed.

Perhaps it’s related to homeostasis, how your body tries to maintain a constant state, balancing out hormone levels, blood count, nutrient levels, the works! Maybe our minds are trying to maintain normalcy, its own mental homeostasis, within our day-to-day lives.

My theory is that we, as people, strive for consistency. Life is such a mess, but it’s nice to know that some things can stay the same. There is something reassuring about doing the same thing every day and knowing that the outcome will be relatively the same. That something is guaranteed. Consistency is a beautiful thing; like math, there is a set path with a guaranteed answer.

Thus, habits allow our brains to process information faster. Our brain is constantly categorizing things in order to readily access that information when you encounter it in life. Thus, you can easily remember, differentiate, and understand the world.

The problem arises when you don’t allow for change in yourself and in others. Habits are hard to change, and sometimes something as small as not getting “your” seat in class can create a sour mood. But we become boxers. We begin to confine people to a set image that we have in our heads. A box. A cage. And when someone tries to break away from this label that we have attached to them, this causes dissonance and our mind gets confused with what was and what is. So we try to shove them back into the box, in order to maintain the mental homeostasis of how we view the world. Because if we don’t, our understanding, our control over the world slips away. And that is scary. But I want to stop this.

Every person should try to go against their natural instinct. If people can fight their innate tendency to go with the flow, to sit in the same seat, we will be able to gain perspective on how others see the world. We can learn from the changes and create our own powerful movement. But until we learn to think differently, until we can see things from a perspective other than our own, a seat other than the one we’re accustomed to, we will be hamsters running on our wheels. Moving yet going nowhere. Stuck. 

We must allow others to be and to do whatever they please. Once we unleash people from their boxes, and begin to think in this new, refreshing way, the possibilities are limitless. 

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