My good friend Leigh posted this on google reader:
I like the video (even if it is a little crunchy, which doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing). It makes me feel proud of myself that I’ve done all the things the video mentions to do alone. With the one exception of going to a bar alone, I would say I have a pretty stellar record of being independent. I relished my independence in Philly when, boarding a bus from North Philadelphia to Center City, I would arrive back at my apartment to concerned roommates who would ask, “Where have you been all day?” I traveled Rome by myself, even against my mother’s greatest fear that I would get lost (which happened) and be kidnapped (which didn’t happen).
I eat out alone. I go to movies alone. This is one of the many reasons why I crave city life. In the city you can be alone. No one looks at you funny when you travel sans boyfriend, friend, children.It’s perfectly “normal” to board a bus alone, go shopping alone, sit in a cafe alone, go to a museum alone, sit on a park bench alone.
For the first time in my life I am living alone. I’ve always wanted this, and now that I live alone I can’t imagine ever going back to living with roommates. But, even while living out your dreams challenges present themselves. It’s hard to be alone for long periods of time. Think of all the ways America’s consumer culture has taught us how to avoid it; laptops and wifi internet so that when you sit for a cup of coffee you can “do” something, cell phones and text messaging for moments on public transportation, televisions in restaurants for when you are eating alone. There are even televisions in elevators and by the pump at the gas station because G-d forbid you aren’t distracted long enough to realize you have your own thoughts to analyze. It’s clear that our culture wants us to think that spending a moment, or maybe five, alone with your own thoughts is so anxiety provoking that you should do everything within your (credit card’s) power to avoid it.
It was a very conscious decision on my part to not have television. There was a short period of time when I first moved in to my current apartment when I received two channels: CBS and AMC. It was a strange combination to have and it held my attention for different reasons. I watched the news and a few prime-time shows on CBS, and would click to AMC every now and again to see if anything interesting was playing. After I exhasted my attention span clicking between Big Brother and name-a-random-Bob-Hope-movie-here (whose work is -surprise!- really misogynistic), I would eventually turn off the television to read.
My parents always told me, “If you want to be a writer you have to read.” As I’ve grown older my reading habits have gone from noncommittal to insatiable. With all my options for television pushed off the table, I began reading with a voracious appetite; it started as a means to settle my loneliness in a quiet house by myself and grew into wanting to bring myself back again into the fictional world the story created around me.
It’s still difficult to live without television. When the clouds turn a sickly yellow, my immediate reaction is to turn on the television to see if I’m the only fool in New Orleans who is ignorant to an approaching hurricane/tornado/some catastophic disaster involving fire and ice (and possibly the Mesiach?)It’s also unnerving when I come home at night, with no plans, and it’s just me, left to my own devices. The last couple of times this happened I literally had to walk myself through the emotions.
Yes, Janine, it’s ok to feel lonely.
No, Janine, you are not the only one in the world who is sitting alone in their apartment.
Yes, Janine, there are still people out there who love you.
No, Janine, you will not die old and alone on your kitchen floor, surrounded by a handful of cats and a spilled ashtray.
Even through moments like that, being without a television has really helped me learn how to be alone. (Side note: I’m still deciding whether listening to a radio or reading a book or chatting on the phone at home is allowing me the same crutch as a television would. I haven’t really decided on that yet.) Instead of filling my time up with commercials and thirty minute comedies, I’m taking in my day without interruption. I’m reading stories I wish I could have written half as well. I’m writing. I’m thinking. Isn’t that a scary thought?
I’m sure at some point I’ll buy a new television. But until then, I’m trying to learn how to entertain myself without all the advertisements.