It didn’t start out as a mission to change my life. My hiatus from computers came about because my eyes started hurting.
For awhile, it seemed impossible to escape screens. Between work, browsing the internet, and watching TV and movies, I felt like I was spending all my waking hours in front of some type of screen.
What if I cut out some of that screen time and focused on the parts of life that wouldn’t hurt my eyes?
I couldn’t avoid computers at work, but I decided to experiment at home. From the time I left the newsroom until the time I returned the next day, I would hide my phone, keep the TV unplugged, and ignore the call of the computer. I wasn’t sure what I’d do with all my free time, but I knew it wouldn’t involve technology.
During my time away from screens, a few things happened.
I did stop writing columns, but this was the only potential downside of the experience.
My house became remarkably clean (literally — guests started remarking on its cleanliness). Since it looked so nice, I could have more people over, too.
When I ran out of things to clean, I decided I would create something else to clean up. I started cooking.
Now, cooking is a fairly standard human activity. But I’m not a fairly standard human. I’ve been a strict devotee of the microwaveable dinner for most of my adult life. I think it stems from a childhood experience with a tea kettle, a dish rag, and a smoke alarm.
So I began — very, very carefully — to apply heat to food. Surprisingly, I didn’t catch anything on fire. I made some omelets that fell apart, and some crepes that ended up in the garbage. But I kept at it, and soon my crepes were more or less round and completely edible. I had never imagined that it would be so satisfying to eat something I made myself.
I found that my love of books hasn’t waned since I graduated from college. I devoured Yukio Mishima’s novel, “The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea,” in a single sitting. It was delicious.
I had been concerned that the constant stimulus the internet and television provide might interfere with my attention span for real-life activities. In fact, the reverse was true. When you spend enough time focusing on one important thing — like not triggering the fire alarm as you try to prepare lunch — your patience for technology fades.
Now that I’ve returned to the world of computers and television, I find myself getting up in the middle of a beloved show and sweeping the floor, or rearranging the books on my shelves. Somehow, I just don’t care as much about what’s happening on screens anymore.
What began as a step to make my eyes stop hurting turned into an entire lifestyle change. I never imagined how massively time-consuming technology can be, or how great it would feel to step away from it. I’ve gradually re-incorporated it into my schedule, but now I’ve found a balance between life and virtual reality, and I’m much happier.
Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641.