Smartphones: Intolerable Convenience

I hate smartphones. They keep me distracted from what I want I need to get done with hours of endless entertainment and the internet at my finger tips. I’m reachable 24/7 through a text, a DM, a call; my alone time is never truly spent alone. I have a constant stream of information in my pocket that society tells me I need to keep up with to stay connected with people around me. With all these connections how is it they seem to interrupt every connection I make at one point or another?
A casual glance down at an incoming message, a need to look something up right in the middle of a conversation because it “relevant”, an important email coming in that takes you away from your friends even though its your day off. They connect us to everyone we don’t have in front of us and pull us away from those who are with us here and now.
What can we do to mediate this? Having no cellphone get together with friends? Has it come down to us having to set aside a specific time where we swear to only interact with those who are directly around us? That promise use to be intrinsically tied to seeing someone in the first place.
I’m not coming from a morale high ground to these statements. I’m mad at smartphones because they conveniently let me make these mistakes. They make it easy to give my attention to something that has no relation to what I am doing in the moment. They make it easy to pass up a hard conversation for something that is more lighthearted. They make it easy for me to find something I am more interested in elsewhere, when a conversation drifts from a topic I care about.
They make it easy to ignore anything and everything around me.
Are smartphones worth it? Are they worth the time they can steal from us with being more convenient than what is happening around us?
They are, smartphones are amazing tools of knowledge, fun, and protection wrapped into a pocket sized device. While writing this I realize that all the things I hate about cell phones are actually personal choices I have made that I regret. Glancing at my phone during a conversation, checking out of a discussion for something more appealing, answering an email that could have waited. I have let convenience win over connection.
Do I truly hate smartphones, no. But I do hate that I have at times allowed myself become lax with responsible use of my phone. While its easy to blame an object in most cases it is to divert blame to keep from having to do work on our self. We all can take a look at our relationship with out devices and make sure they are not removing us from the personal relationships around us.

Why I’m a Minimalist.

Fumio Sasaki (author of Goodbye, Things) said in an interview with Hiroko from Asian Boss, “Well, a lot of people may not know this, but minimalists tend to be people who are messy and have developmental disorders. So these people, who dislike tidying up, take care of themselves through decluttering to create a clean environment.”

This statement sums up why I have taken a minimalist approach to my life. I have been diagnosed with manic depression, seasonal depression and attention deficit disorder. Now, that makes me far from a special case–many people struggle with these conditions and more on a daily basis (my hat’s off to those who do). But some of what makes us unique as people is how we go about dealing with what we’re handed in life.

I’ve made to do lists since 5th grade–a specialist on ADD taught me that they could help keep me on track. But those lists have also brought their own problems. Check lists at times have made my depression worse by enabling me to see in writing all the things I haven’t done. They have brought anxiety as the lists kept getting larger and were clearly too big to fit into a single day. Last but not least, the thing that has affected me the most is dread. I look over the list and avoid the task I really don’t want to do, while always thinking, “I should get that over with.” At times, I would try and put all things I didn’t get done over the week on one day, thinking I would rather have one bad day than deal with it throughout the week. However, you can only do that until you end up with a multitude of self-inflicted bad days in a row that break you. And I did indeed break.

I was single and living in a three bedroom apartment with two other roommates, who were fighting at the time. I sequestered myself in my room to avoid both of them because, frankly, I thought they should just talk it out like adults. But my room came with its own issues: it was a mess all the time, and I still hadn’t unpacked all my boxes from my last move (even though it had been several months since I moved in). I kept it dark because the one window led to a courtyard, and I didn’t want strangers to judge me by what they saw. None of these factors make an environment worth living in, if you can help it.

One day, I got home from work, went directly to my room, and before I could shut the door, I saw it. The box I didn’t know quite what to do with. It didn’t fit in my closet, and I didn’t have space to put it up against a wall, so it floated around on the floor in front of my dresser. I had to move it to open the bottom drawer and move it back if I wanted a book from the bottom of my bookshelf. I dropped all my things, grabbed the box, left the apartment door open as I headed to the trash chute, and threw away the box with everything in it–no questions asked.

The clang of metal and the sound of breaking glass from inside the box was the most satisfying sound I had heard all day–a normally distressing noise brought me so much calm. I went back to my apartment and grabbed another box, and by the third trip back, my roommates caught on. For the first time in a month, they were unified under the thought of, “What the hell is wrong with him?” They asked questions, and I simply replied, “I’m taking something off my to do list.”

My reply became a truth I live by now: take whatever I can off my list. I don’t approach my daily tasks as something I have to check off, but instead as striving to remove it from ever showing up again. My to do lists are much shorter now. By letting go of my belongings, I have less to clean, less to dread and one less opening for depression to creep in from not finishing a task related to the items I own. Minimalism has become my coping mechanism: I’ve removed that which caused me stress, and I make sure not to invite it back in.

What can you get rid of? Nothing big, just some small things, like the second spatula you don’t like as much and that jams the drawer. Maybe the college textbooks that you kept because they were too damn expensive, but you haven’t opened them in….. how long? Or my personal favorite: the one million dead pens jammed back into the holder, or hell–the ones sitting next to it that work but don’t fit because you decided to keep the dead ones anyway. Eliminate a stressor–just one–and let me know how you feel.

Starting Somewhere

A few years ago, my parents gave me a beautiful notebook for Christmas: a special edition hardcover Hobbit Moleskine. Cream-colored pages wrapped in burgundy leather with Smaug and the map of the Misty Mountains embossed on the front cover. At first, I was hesitant to use it. I didn’t want to sully the pages with my meager writing attempts or a quick sketch. This book was made to contain art. I still own it today. After multiple moves across multiple cities, this notebook was kept on my bookshelf for me to admire, hoping I would write something worthwhile in its pages.

I had the same fear while trying to write this first post. I made the website, got the layout just right, picked a palette I enjoyed and then…. I had to write. Writing was always the goal obviously, but actually doing it? I was struck with the fear of defining this blog with a poorly thought out first post. I knew going in that I would make spelling and grammar mistakes, those I could live with; but content is everything. I bummed around the house for a day thinking of content and possible titles for a post I had yet to write. Until I realized that I couldn’t be alone in this feeling.

The fear of starting something new, to forever be judged on your first attempt, is a common one. Even though we all have been told, “failure is how you learn,” “No one gets it right on the first try,” “Third time’s the charm.” Why don’t we take those sayings seriously? I know plenty of people who produce amazing work in a wide variety of mediums that all started by making mistakes. Just like the rest of us.

Those first steps into anything new define everything and nothing at the same time. For the time being, this post will be the only one on my blog–front and center is my first try. But it will also be the first thing forgotten, lost in the posts to come, buried beneath my new and improved work (hopefully). The first failures being buried are the foundation of your experience in whatever new thing you take on. They become the work you can look back on and say, “Look how far I have come.” To which people will say, “Wow, you’ve worked really hard at this. Good job.” We’ve all had this conversation at least once in our life, even if it was with ourselves.

So now what? The fear is still there. I may have acknowledged it, but facts don’t always change feelings. What now? Well, for me I write, not only this post but more to come. Learning and letting my first few steps be stumbles as I try out this path. I choose to immortalize this fear of starting something new and use it to help people around me, supporting them as best I can with encouragement to get past their own fear. The best thing we all can do is acknowledge that we have all felt this and can help others overcome it, simply by giving the one thing we all wanted: a little support.

As I sit here in the morning with my laptop and a freshly poured cup of black coffee, I realize I can’t fail at this. I’ve already accomplished what I set out to do. So what’s holding you back? You know you can do it, or you wouldn’t even think about the attempt. You have at least one person rooting for you, even if it’s the strange guy on the other end of this blog.

So go out and do the thing. Make the mistake knowing that this may be your first attempt, but it won’t be your last. I want to hear all about it!