I got an iPhone about 18 months ago through my work. Before I got the iPhone I used to watch people around me checking and checking and checking their email and texts and whatever other mysterious things they were checking. I saw them doing it in the elevator. While walking down the street. White eating at a restaurant. While waiting for their kids at swimming or ballet or baseball or wherever. I remember thinking how I didn’t want to become one of them and thinking how weird it was that everyone felt this pull to be constantly connected.
Tonight, I went out for a walk alone (except for my canine companion). Walks alone have been fairly uncommon for me lately. I’ve been extra busy at work so H. has been doing most of the morning walks this summer. And in the evenings we typically walk as a family. But tonight I was alone. The kids are away at grandparents’ house for the weekend and H. has been doing more than his fair share of dog walking and wanted to say home for a post-dinner snooze.
I like being alone, so I was fine with a little time to myself. I had to take my cell phone with me as I was on call for emergency calls for my practice but that was easy enough to do.
About 20 minutes or so into the walk, I started to wonder if someone had emailed me so I pulled out the phone and quickly checked it. I realized that I felt somehow restless and bored. I remembered I had a Pandora app on my phone and thought maybe it would be nice to listen to music as I walked along. I turned it on and put it in my pocket, walking along to some song or another.
And suddenly I realized I had become one of those people I used to find so weird. I wondered when I lost the ability to just walk and be alone for an hour. When I lost the ability to enjoy the cool summer evening and just be? And when did I find it so intolerable to be a little bit bored that I needed to pull out something to entertain me?
I turned off the music.
I’m not a Luddite. I actually love having the iPhone. It makes my life easier (and yes, more fun) in so many ways. I’m very grateful that my work provides it. And as much as I might bemoan modern society’s tendency to expect constant connectivity, that’s where we are. I can’t realistically see myself saying that I will ditch my phone or even that I will leave it home or turn it off. (Alert readers will realize that I couldn’t have gone on the walk tonight at all without some kind of phone or beeper since I was on for emergency call.)
So, where does that leave me? It reminded me of what I thought when I first got the phone, that it was a cool tool to have but that I still wanted to be someone who was more likely to pull out a book to read during my kids’ swim practice than to pull out a phone. I’ve definitely drifted away from being that person who I want to be. I don’t want to ditch the phone but I do think I need to learn to resist its siren call.
I tell my kids all the time that a little boredom is not a bad thing. Life is not about being entertained all the time. It’s ok to be bored and have time to think and wonder. Or it’s ok to just be bored. I think I need to remember that for myself.