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18Apr/110

Walden With an iPhone: How I Learned to Live Without Things That Didn’t Really Matter

As it got closer and closer to the book tour, I started panicking about all the things I would have to live without for a month.

I wish I could say I was talking about living without delicious home-cooking or a warm bed or an early bedtime or my girlfriend, but I was more worried about living without the minor.  I'm not proud of what I was scared to live without, but I am proud about how I quit worrying and learned to not need these things:

1.  Television -- For my whole life I've been a guy that hated to miss anything and everything on television.  I don't just mean the quality--everyone hates to miss a new "Breaking Bad" or "Mad Men"--but I had become a completest for every show, even lame reality ones.  30 Days on the road, and a DVR filled to the brim when I returned home, and all of the sudden I could give two shits about what Michael Scott or The Situation had been up to.  Nowadays, I only follow shows I absolutely adore, which are luckily for me, and sadly for the TV industry, few and far between.  ["The Killing," "Fringe," and "Friday Night Lights" are my only *musts* right now, with a few others in "watch-if-there's-absolutely-nothing-else-in-the-world-to-do" territory]

2.  Movies -- My movie addiction was even worse.  I used to literally watch every single thing that came out out, spending countless hours alone in a dark theater, bored by Hollywood, annoyed by the young punks in front of me texting and gabbing.  Why?  Because I told myself I was a movie "expert."  After missing 30 days of movies, 5 whole weekends worth, during "prestige" movie season no less, I learned to live without.  I still love movies, they're still one of my biggest passions, but I can now take a step back, wait to see what films are affecting the zeitgeist or changing the game, and then only watch those.  It's better that way.  Plus, I never have to see Paul Walker ever again.

3.  Sports -- The thought of missing a Syracuse basketball or football game used to give me the shakes.  I used to tell people, "If you're my friend you'd never get married on a Syracuse game day and you probably wouldn't die then either."  And, admittedly, I structured my book tour to thrice be in cities while Syracuse had big games--oh God and was it worth it!--but I still missed quite a few games.  Minor ones sure.  I recall being bored out of my wits having my ear bent by a fan of mine while Syracuse was playing William & Mary on a Sunday afternoon.  At first, I was stressed out--"How can I be missing this!?!"--but I soon relaxed and realized, "Big deal.  So you miss a minor sporting event.  Win or lose, you had no control over it.  This is your life, this guy talking to you about your book is your life.  Live in that."  One bad after-effect is that though I can now handle missing sporting events, I also don't derive as much pleasure when I actually watch them.

And I could list countless other little things I used to be unable to stomach the thought of missing:  rare beer releases in NYC, goofing around on the internet and reading every single thing there is to read, social networking, my daily jog, and the list goes on and on and on.  I lived a Walden-like life existence during the book tour, pretty much removed from normal society, and I surprisingly learned to like it.

Then again, as the main character Stu discusses in "How to Fail," Henry David Thoreau was such a fucking phony:

Thoreau was such a phony. Praising the simple life, panning the American dream, yet going into Concord most days to hang at the local tavern, though the pussy refused to drink. I bet he was sure the life of the watering hole. Unshowered and stinky, ranting about this and that, a man obsessed with teetotalism (he considered “intoxicants” such as alcohol, tobacco, and even tea and coffee to be “demonic”), vegetarianism (he thought vegetarians had evolved and were superior to meat-eaters), chastity (I'm guessing the smelly guy just couldn't get laid and had some serious sour grapes), and not paying his taxes. I'm sure the other barflies loved him.

[...]

 

It occurred to me that perhaps Thoreau was a failure all along. Just cause you wrote a book, even one taught in every high school in America, doesn't mean you weren't a failure.

--from "How to Fail: The Self-Hurt Guide" (Footchapter 2)

Read all about my 30 Bars in 30 Days book tour here.

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