What I’m Watching: Nothing (I’ll get to that in just a minute!)
What I’m Reading: The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams, Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson and Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. (This is just a short list of three of the 25 books that I’m trying to get through this summer.)
What I’m listening to: Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, a hodgepodge playlist mix on Apple Music, or the new album Originals by Prince. (Because I’m a weekly current events quiz nerd who loves Bill & Peter, with an eclectic taste in music and a Minnesota girl who loves anything Prince.)
As this post makes its way to the internet, I’ll be waking up in my own bed for the first time in four days.
I just returned to Iowa after spending four days with no screens. I stayed in the tiny house that I rented in the middle of Kansas. No cell phone reception. No internet connection. No television. No streaming. Just me, myself and I.
You might be thinking … “Wait…what?! She did what?!”
And that’s been the reaction that I’ve received overwhelmingly since I made this plan in early May. My coworkers have looked at me like I’ve grown a second head. My friends have asked if I’ve lost my mind. My therapist even asked me if I really wanted to go through with this.
Posts from Samantha and Will made me realize I wasn’t alone in feeling overwhelmed, overloaded, and inherently exhausted. Serving as a communications and marketing staff of one within the Community Development Department for a city of 15,000 isn’t easy. I’m always on, always connected and seemingly always connected to a device. My work was bleeding into my personal life.
And it’s not just during the work week..the weekends have been taken over by my work screens. There’s always something to reply to, a question to answer, an email to write…and I was having a hard time setting boundaries.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I love the community members I work for and the things I get to do on a daily basis. I work with some of the most amazing, hard-working and dedicated individuals. I get a lot of satisfaction in what I do and love making a difference in the community I live in.
But managing social media, marketing, and communication in government is one of the most difficult fields. My job is NOT something that an intern can handle; there’s lots of stress, high expectations and limited resources (even when your elected officials are progressive in their thinking – it’s still not enough).
I didn’t love who I was becoming with all of the anxiety and stress. I’ve felt the love I have for my marketing and communication turn into an annoyance more often than not this year. The memories of stressing out to the point of being sick and too tired to see family and friends haunt me. I wasn’t living in the moment. I wasn’t experiencing life. I was watching it fly by me.
And all of that has taken a toll on my health; mentally and physically.
So I took matters into my own hands. I decided to be selfish with my energy for four days and focus on me. I decided to get rid of the screens.
I escaped into four days of a digital detox over the Fourth of July after a long search on Airbnb for the perfect spot. I knew the retreat was perfect when I read “no cell phone reception” and “spotty internet connection.” Plus the wooded acreage that the tiny house sits on is part of a wilderness retreat that was originally built as a respite place for others by a priest.
While staying at the tiny house, there was a tv but I decided not to turn it on – hence why I’m not watching anything right now. I put my iPhone in a kitchen drawer (and actually left my work phone on my desk at the office). I brought along a box of 20 or so books that I haven’t read in the last 18 months but have been sitting on my nightstand. I spent time outside; drank my coffee in the morning and even at night (because I’m addicted). I went hiking on the trails. I ventured into town for dinner at the diners that my hosts shared with me.
I focused on me. What would make me feel better as a human; what would center me and allow me to be happier and healthier. And I’m glad I did.
Now don’t get me wrong, I know this digital detox is not going to cure all my problems. Things actually have been getting better over the last couple of weeks with some reorganization, a change of offices and talking through some of the stresses in my work life. (My therapist has helped me realize that there isn’t a magic pill to make life easier – no matter how hard I wish there was.) But I know that I’ve come out of this detox with a new sense of purpose and a newfound respect for being in the moment.