(The first conceptions of T.V.)
T.V. disappeared from my life in a slow, inconspicuous way.
When my roommates and I first moved out to B.F.E County, we were so inundated with moving chores that we somehow forgot to call to get cable set up. We were busy moving into our house, setting up the kitchen, decorating the fireplace that we did not even notice we missed T.V. About a couple weeks into living in our new house, we started researching cable providers and realized it would be $120+ a month. Being a student, a teacher, and a mechanic, we re-evaluated our lives and decided we would just try to live without T.V. and if it became painful, we would sign up at a later date.
At first, we hooked up T.V. up to NetFlix and spent the winter watching seasons of shows: New Girl, The Office, Alaska: The Last Frontier, Weeds, Breaking Bad. This was a perfectly acceptable substitute, especially because we could skip through the commercials. And, if there was something not on NetFlix that I HAD to watch, such as The Bachelor or Teen Mom, I would just drive over to my grandma’s or sister’s house and watch it there. Great excuse for family bonding (and free food).
Then, one night, my roommates came home with a DVD, moved the T.V up to their room, and have not replaced it since. Of course, we replaced it with an old T.V. that does not hook up to NetFlix, but this new transition means there is nearly no way for me to watch T.V. anymore.
So, this summer, I spent the time I would have been watching t.v riding my bike, working on my softball skills in the backyard, hanging out with the dogs, reading new books, playing the stump game in our backyard, researching how ducks mate, sitting on my deck watching the sunset.
I did not realize what an impact living without T.V. had on my life until we took a family road trip this weekend to Iowa (who goes to Iowa over Labor Day Weekend, I have NO idea) and stayed in hotels that had cable. In fact, we picked our hotels based on what kind of T.V the website showed; if it was an old, box T.V., then we would much prefer spending more money. It was actually kind of comical: last night, as soon as we arrived at the hotel, we jumped out of the car, and within 10 minutes, all four of us had gone to the bathroom, brushed our teeth, washed our faces, put on our pajamas, and were laying in bed, watching T.V. (of course, since I had to sleep in the same bed as my brother, we used different covers). At first, we argued about which show we were going to watch, because we knew it could be a long, long time until cable T.V. graced us again. My sister wanted to catch up on 19 Kids & Counting (or, maybe it’s 23 Kids & Counting now?–when cable left my life, they were still at 19). Her boyfriend wanted to watch Ice Road Truckers, and I wanted to watch this History Channel show on serial killers. I must say, I was impressed with the high definition of T.V.’s nowadays. I left off when they were just normal flat screens, but the quality is immensely enhanced. When we woke up this morning, we spent an hour or two watching some Dirty Jobs before we checked out of our hotel and it was really, really nice. T.V. has become a luxury to us, something we value when the opportunity comes along.
And, when we returned home today, we went back to what we would do on a normal day without T.V.–my sister went to feed her horses, her boyfriend mowed the lawn, and I started my homework and cleaned my bathroom (ok, that is not what I normally do, but it needed to get done),
People often ask me how I accomplish so many things in my life: I teach full time, head coach a dance team, go to grad school. Part of this is because of the absence of T.V. in my life; the time I would spend getting sucked into show after show, I am reading, writing, grading papers, conversing, thinking of new ideas. Now, don’t get me wrong. When people come over to my house, I tend to get a little anxious, because I am always unsure of how I will entertain them. The general trend in our modern society is to turn on the T.V., and try to ‘connect’ and ‘have a conversation’ over the loud sounds and flashing colors. But, we even without that talking box, my friends and I always find something entertaining to do: hunt foxes from the roof, hit glow in the dark golf balls in the pasture, enjoy s’mores from the campfire in the horse arena (and throw fireworks into the pit for extra entertainment).
I recently read an article that discussed the effectiveness of a Kindle in reading comprehension. Not surprisingly, the study found that readers do not remember as much information from reading off a Kindle versus an actual piece of paper. While I think technology definitely enhances our lives and makes things more effective, I also think it can become a crutch and can cause us to be monotonous, over-stimulated creatures.
My grandparents are farmers. They own about 5,000 acres in western Iowa, farm soy beans and corn, and raise cattle, sheep, pigs, and chickens. Part of the purpose of our trip was to visit my 97 year-old great-grandmother, who does not look or act a day past 70. Every morning, she gets up, does her exercises, cooks dinner for her 70 year-old boys. She goes to church every single Sunday, knows everything about the neighbors, and even remembered my sister’s birthday in a couple weeks. The life of a farmer is very different than the life of us city folk. While her life was certainly no easy walk in the park, there is something to be said about drinking well water, eating unprocessed foods, and keeping busy. There is always something to do, always some project to work on: an electrical cable in the tractor to be fixed, a baby calf to be fed, a barn roof to be patched, a 4wheeler tire to be bolted on.
And, my grandma is still thriving at 97. I was fascinated by the trade-and-barter system. My cousin, who has now taken over the farm, does not necessarily deal in money (because the government will tax it) but rather trades out jobs with people. He let his friend store his horses, tractor, and tools on his property in exchange for the friend doing some work on his house. The neighbor may donate a cantaloupe (or mush melon, as they call it around there) just in case they need a ride to church someday. My uncle, who was driving home late one night, saw the neighbor’s tractor on fire, jumped out of his truck, and started to put out the fire by himself. It is a lifestyle built on preserving human relationships rather than a large bank account.
Along the same context, my great-grandmother kept mentioning how much she loved to drive. In some aspects, it sounds like we were crazy to drive all the way out out to Iowa–about a 10 hour drive–to stay for just a little over a day. I think, in our society, partly due to T.V., we are so used to instantaneous gratification and constant stimulation. I can’t tell you how many passengers we passed that appeared to just be scrolling around on their phones. But, we forget that going somewhere is also about the journey of getting there AND getting home. This is how families used to take vacations. While we had a great time in Iowa, we also had a great time getting to Iowa and a great time getting home. It is all the points of a trip that matter.
I think there is something very valuable about this kind of slow paced lifestyle that we often get away from, because we are so busy trying to “keep up with the trends”. I personally downloaded that new Facebook Messenger Ap last week, felt a little overwhelmed by all those chat pictures that came up on my phone’s home screen, and deleted it almost right away. So sorry, if you Facebook chat me, I am not trying to ignore you. I just can’t handle it right now.
(This is the new wave of the McDonald’s Playplace apparently. I personally find this kind of pathetic. I thought the whole idea behind the play place was to bring your kid somewhere they can run around and get tired out. So, not only is your child eating 1,000 calories, but they are also sitting stationary.)
All in all, I think I will continue my life without T.V. My relationships are better, I can actually sit in a car for 10 hours because my patience is stronger and I don’t feel the need to be constantly stimulated all the time, I am way more productive and do way more meaningful things. If the pioneers could do it, I can too.