Sunday, April 16, 2023

Disconnecting at Sea

Read to the end for my "one year later" update! This post was originally published March 1, 2022

I'm on the Disney Fantasy in the Caribbean, getting close to Sint Maarten. Two days at sea with limited internet (5-10 min a day), and I'm breaking up with my phone! I was close after our October cruise, and I started to make some changes when I got home, but by January I was starting to backslide with more and more late nights snoozing "bedtime mode". This one is a longer cruise with more time away from cell service, and I am already feeling the effects.

I'll tell you one thing the pandemic did for me: it has given me a whole new sense of joy (The Book of Joy also helped here) for watching people find themselves. So many times in the past two years I have watched people make a major change - a move, a job, a hobby - that was positively shocking, given what I thought I knew about them, and it was freakin' delightful every time. For some people, it was such a gift to have two years free of the scrutiny of their peers, free to pursue their passion project or realize that their true happiness lies in a different direction. Turns out, I can just let people enjoy things!

So here I am, on a balcony overlooking the ocean, free of the distractions of my phone and the saddle burrs of People's Opinions About Cruise Ships, thinking about where I want to go from here now that I've put my phone down. Number one is this right here, I miss blogging. Not 2022 blogging, where you can't even read a recipe without 3 popups, one of them an autoplay video, and an ad between each of the 40 pictures of the author making mashed potatoes. I miss 2005 blogging, when I was sharing roadside attractions and little weird, overlooked bits of St Louis and Missouri. Just in the past week, Francis and I have both had conversations where we told someone about something in Missouri they had never heard of, and realized that the void left by the end of Craves, Caves, & Graves has not been filled by one of those SEO optimized listicle sites with 800 ads.

There are still people who don't know about Uranus, MO and the Precious Moments Chapel, and we have a duty to bring that fun back. So I will bring back the Blog of Olde! I also miss my attention span for serious reading. In 2006, I read 128 books in a year. I got a smartphone in 2010, and I'm not sure I've read 128 books in the collective 12 years since. I did majorly improve last year, with 50, but a lot of them were fluff and middle grade books with Lil. I'm using this cruise to get my serious attention span back, so I can go home and read some nonfiction. I'm on my third book in 3 days, and it feels amazing.

My third goal is to keep learning French! I've been working on it on Duolingo for a while now, and have nearly finished one unit. I flip-flop between feeling like I am making great progress and feeling like I'll never be able to converse in it. Sometimes I feel like I just barely understand the phonics, but then I'll be reading something like A Cook's Tour (my current cruise read) and realize that I already know how to sound out more French food than I did a year ago when I reread Kitchen Confidential. Understanding French cooking terminology was a big motivator for learning the language, so I'm pretty excited about that.

If you're reading this and thinking "yes! I also need to break up with my phone! I want to have an attention span and hobbies again!" check out How to Break Up With Your Phone. The first half of the book teaches you what your phone is doing to your brain, why, and who is benefitting from it (hint: not you) and the second half is a 30 day plan to evaluate and improve your relationship with your phone. It's not about switching to a "dumb phone" or going off the grid entirely, it's just about setting healthier habits. It's a quick read, too. I'm not starting the 30 days while I'm physically separated from my real world demands, because that would be cheating, but even just reading the first half of the book started to show me when I am picking up my phone for no real reason, performing behaviors that leave me irritated, or endless scrolling in search of dopamine. More often than not, especially after the last few years of politics, my phone just feels like a slot machine of rage, and I'm not about that life anymore. April 2023 update: This has been a work in progress for the entire year. It's very much like quitting smoking, and takes a lot of self awareness for recognizing when and why I'm picking my phone up, how I feel about it, am I doing anything useful or just doomscrolling, etc. I do still strongly recommend How to Break Up With Your Phone to learn how to recognize all of these things! I still spend too much time on mobile gaming, but I have kept up with French, have already read 35 books in 2023, and drastically reduced the amount of time I spend on social media. And here I am also bringing back the Blog of Olde!

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