I was the kind of child who would take herself off and climb a tree, then sit there for hours completely enthralled in the sounds and creatures around me. I would study with wonder the bark patterns on the trees in the woods behind our house, or lie on my back in the grass fascinated by the cloud patterns in the sky, or the wind making shapes in the long grass, and I would be so happy.
I’m happy now; I have no reason not to be: wonderful husband, house, job and security. But some days I feel completely numb and void of senses—I’ve begun to wonder if I am so used to the external stimulus that is so rife in my world, that there is no energy left after work for detecting me anymore.
I’m working at the cutting edge of mobile technology, and it is thrilling and creative and all the things I ever wanted work to be. I’d never trade it in, but some days I am terrified by the suspicion that even if I did want to go back to being a hopeful and lusty stargazer I would not be able to. I can’t seem to do “nothing” for half an hour anymore, let alone a day or longer—nor have I done for years.
Under the (misguided?) impression that busy=successful=happy, I have worked and worked and worked some more. Am I happy: yes. But I was happy before, wasn’t I?
Here is the equation I ponder:
Staring at bark on trees for hours as a child = Happy.
Working every hour God sends = Happy.
I love my job, but sometimes I struggle to come to terms with the fact that my ability to truly be myself — that person who I am when I am alone in nature — has gone. I try to find her sometimes — the odd weekend when I drive out to take a walk in the mountains — but there is not enough time and space. By the time I get back into my car I am checking my phone and answering emails again.
The trouble is, it is not my job. It’s life now.
Life with phones: devices that always know where I am, where I should be next, what the weather is going to do, whom I need to communicate with, and all the brilliance that mobile technology is. Every now and then I want to get away from it all, but at the same time I am intwined in it. I love that I can text, email, work from anywhere, I am part of this. I cannot get away from that, and for the most part nor do I want to; but holy shit sometimes it makes me so sad to know that.
I think the difference is, that I cannot get as absorbed as I once was able to. Not in anything. I cannot commit because my brain knows that there is a screen on a device somewhere that is going to give me a bigger and more addictive dopamine hit. How much traffic did the website at work get today? What is the latest LOLCat meme? Who followed me on Twitter? What idiotic prank did that Disney excuse for a politician Trump pull off last?
Sometimes I wonder if I am really any happier for all the technology that I have. Sometimes I wish that I lived in an era without it just just so that I could find out what a day of uninterrupted presence feels like; because I’ve forgotten now.
Device dependency crept up on me; it didn’t announce itself or give forewarning: remember today, because today is your last day of life without having a gadget in your pocket from which you can, and will, do anything. If it had, maybe I would have paid more attention to what unconnected felt like. Or maybe, without the ability to post a selfie about it or write a blog, I wouldn’t.
I believe that happiness should be the mission in any person’s life. Does the ability to interact with anyone from anywhere, anytime really make me happier?
Some days yes. But then again, so does staring at bark.