My love-hate relationship with structure

In early April, I visited my parents in Hawai‘i for a week. Ah, fresh Kapoho Solo papaya, my childhood bedroom, backyard orchids, pouring rain. (I love the drumbeat of raindrops at night.) I brought my computer and two books, but ended up doing only essential work and asana. Instead I switched to Hilo mode vis a vis my parents.

One predictable thing at home is “the news”: In the morning they read the local dailies, Hilo’s Hawaii Tribune-Herald and the statewide Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Before they go to bed (and sometimes at dinner time), they watch local TV news.

Don’t get me wrong, they lead active lives and aren’t rigid in their routine. They go with the flow. But traditional newspapers and on-air broadcasts cultivate a certain consistency. They have an iMac and their home page is Google News, but they never spend hours online. They enjoy their local sources and household rituals.

On one hand, I couldn’t live without the freedom of Internet information. On the other, I appreciate the limits of “print edition” and the six o’ clock news. With old media I can’t fritter away 45 minutes online in the name of research. I couldn’t have clicked that headline about John Edwards’s latest humiliation or that link to Paul McCartney’s “My Valentine” videos featuring Johnny Depp and Natalie Portman doing sign language. I mean, seriously? Is this stuff I needed to see?

In Hilo, I slept early, before 11pm . In Hawai‘i there are three 30-minute evening news broadcasts: 9pm, 9:30pm, and 10pm. We’d watch any of them, perhaps simultaneously reading and changing channels midstream. Only in Hawaii, I thought, observing the multi-ethnic anchors, aloha shirts, kama‘aina humor, island weather reports (below 70 degrees is considered cold).

Sometimes I find more freedom with structure. With limitless access to information, I never feel “done.” There’s always more to read and to know. With a single paper or broadcast, I’m done in 30 minutes! Sure, the information is limited and edited, but I suddenly have more time.

As a freelance writer/editor/yoga teacher, I love my autonomy. I cannot imagine working at an office, Monday to Friday. That said, I function better with some structure: within agreeable boundaries and rules, I find freedom. So I appreciated the way “the news” segmented my parents’ and my days and especially how the evening news signaled bedtime (since I’ve so far failed in my resolution to get more sleep).

Images: Home backyard; local papers during Merrie Monarch Festival week, 2012.


  1. interesting!! i also find that periodic forced disconnection from internet (and cell phones) can be an excellent way to reconnect. that said- i like working within a 9-5 (well, 8-4 for me) but wish I didn’t have to work 5 days a week… and my weekends are usually very unplanned- i like to keep them that way.

    but that said- i work much better within structure 🙂


  2. Since having children I realise that I like a lot of structure in my days; I like routine and planning. I used to think I was very easygoing and flexible (body and mind) but I have come to see that I find comfort in routine and I like to plan even if it is only in my head.


  3. I have a similar need for some scheduled appointments within an overarching autonomy.
    I work rigid, scheduled twelve hour shifts, but the flip side to that is that I have big, open days all to myself. I realize now that I totally revel in the freedom of my days off (but need to go to a yoga class or a hair cut or something so that I don’t feel too lost), and hope to one day create structure within a life that is totally scheduled of my own accord. Being in an office five days a week does not work for me, either.
    See you during one of our structured moments!


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