[Part of my mission to “live deliberately” involves ruthlessly cutting out anything that saps my time, energy or money to no good end. I’m calling these things my “Quits,” and this is one of the many items that have found themselves on my Quits List.]
NaNoWriMo has been over for a couple weeks now, and I’m thoroughly enjoying having my evenings back for whatever I want. I spent all of November longing to have time for crossword puzzles again, and reading books, and keeping up with the ridiculous family scenarios that people write in about to Miss Manners and Dear Abby. And now I have time for all that and more.
I don’t think I really appreciated how much I can do in the handful of hours I have after work each night. I feel like I’ve been given a gift of extra time, and I come home every night full of schemes for things I can’t wait to do.
But there’s one thing that used to be a staple of my evenings that I was surprised to find I never really missed during NaNo. And now that I have my evenings to myself again, it seems like it’s always one of the last things I feel like doing. That thing is watching excessive, indiscriminate amounts of TV.
My Relationship with the Tube
I never had cable growing up; my family didn’t think it was worth the cost. Sure, I missed out on of some of my friend’s childhood favorites, like Daria, Salute Your Shorts, and basically anything else on Nickelodeon. I felt a little left out of some cafeteria conversations, but beyond that, I didn’t resent it all that much.
Because there was always too much else to do. I read like a fiend, wrote even more fiendishly, and had adventures galore. I hung out with my friends. I played outside. I made things. There were certain (broadcast) shows I watched regularly, but I never really sat down to watch something just for the sake of watching something. I couldn’t. There wasn’t enough on.
There was one semester in college where I lived in an on-campus apartment that had cable, but I was too busy to ever watch it. And after graduation, my budget was too tight to afford it in my own apartment. So when I met and moved in with my future husband, I had cable at my fingertips for the first time in 26 years.
Suddenly, I had instant access to all the shows I used to house-sit for the treat of watching. HGTV! What Not to Wear! Endless reruns and re-reruns of Saved by the Bell! There was always something on at all times, and when we got our DVR, there was always something stockpiled, too. I was hooked. It was fantastic.
Until it got not-so-fantastic…
Where Things Went Wrong
At first, zoning out for hours at a time felt like an incredible luxury. After a day of work that sucked my soul and sapped my energy, it felt so nice to just plop down and passively watch other people do interesting things in front of me. But once you’ve plopped, it’s hard to unplop. Especially when it becomes a habit.
I became a TV whore. I’ll admit it. The instant I got home from work, I turned on the TV, and it was on until about 5 minutes before I went to bed. Sometimes I was watching things I genuinely enjoyed. But a lot of the time, I was just watching. I couldn’t even say why.
It’s pretty clear now that my zombie TV viewing was just one of the many symptoms that things had gone horribly awry.
After being a super-crazy overachiever in high school and college, I suddenly found myself in the 9-5 rut, giving most of my day to a job I didn’t care about and then coming home too exhausted to do any of the things I did care about. With no structure, no deadlines, and no goals except making it through the next day, I lost all motivation and just started to coast. TV was hardly the driving factor behind the coasting, but it was definitely one of the things that aided and abetted it.
I Think We Need to See Less Of Each Other
I’m not jumping on the minimalist bandwagon of denouncing TV as an irredeemable evil that no self-respecting self-improver would ever go near. I respect that some people have no use for it, but I still really enjoy spending a little time with the How I Met Your Mother gang, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
Like anything else, TV in moderation can be great. A good show can make me think, lift a bad mood, or even inspire me with ideas for stories of my own. And there’s nothing like curling up with my husband on a snowy evening to lose ourselves for half an hour in the zany worlds of The Office or Modern Family.
But when TV becomes your default down time activity—when you start to lose whole strings of evenings watching mediocre shows you can’t even remember the plot of the next day—that’s when you know you’re in trouble. That’s what I’m trying to avoid.
So, dear TV, I wanted to let you know that I’m not going to be around as much as I used to be. It’s better for both of us, really. I think I’ll appreciate you a lot more in small doses.
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