My husband has felt it incumbent upon himself to use this piece of Victoria-trivia as an ice breaker in our recent social encounters. I have discovered that me not having cable is apparently more traumatic for the people I tell it to than has been for me, but you can ask my therapist. Recently we were introduced to someone and, within the first five minutes of meeting him, my lack of 900 channels to watch cropped up as a topic of conversation. (How? I don’t remember.) He cocked his head and looked me over, this phenomena of the digital age. He drew a deep breath and admitted with a sigh, “I guess you can make it without cable.”
I say “grew up without” but, actually, I have yet to grow up with cable much to Ben’s dismay. (To his credit, he’s agreed that until he’s graduated we won’t have the time or money to
waste spend on a subscription.)
How did I spend the waking hours of my childhood if not watching the Disney channel or Saturday morning cartoons? Well, there’s the usual playing outside and climbing up trees. My friends and I would often make up elaborate story lines and put ourselves in the middle of the action. Sometimes we were pioneers in the Wild West, our bicycles were our horses and old blankets were our makeshift covered wagons. Sometimes we were spies, protecting secrets that could jeopardize national security. And sometimes we would just roll on our back, look at the sky, and watch clouds roll across Carolina blue.
When my neighborhood friends weren’t around (probably at home watching cable TV, I’d imagine) I was left to my own devices. As an only child for 6 years of my life and, then, always being half-a-decade older than my younger brother I often had to entertain myself. As a girl, I was a voracious reader. Mom had to make a rule when we checked out books from the library – I could only choose one book to read in the car while she finished running errands. Before this rule was instituted, I would speed through our newly-stocked library bag of books before we made it home! I was the quintessential PBS poster-child, hiding under the blankets with a flashlight and unlocking new worlds whilst reading.
If I wasn’t reading, you guessed it, I could be found scribbling away in a corner. I began regularly journaling a a very early age. My first piece of writing was an instant classic called “The Broke Finger” – as opposed to “The Broken Finger” – reflecting on, as you may have gathered, that one time I broke my finger. Though it’s full of spelling errors and poor syntax, my parents were wonderfully supportive of the hobby and even took me to Office Depot to have the book printed and bound. I was a writer!
Though I’ve never had access to the Discovery channel, Animal Planet, or TLC I think I’ve done alright.
This post isn’t meant to decry the luxuries of 2013. Sure, I’ve never been a cable TV subscriber but I don’t begrudge those who are. There’s tons of shows I’d love to follow that I miss. Staying in hotels was a treat for my family; as soon as we got to our room us kids would excitedly ask my parents, “Do you think they’ll have cable!?” I imagine my kids will have cable TV (and I can only pray their brains won’t melt out of their ears, as my mother prophesied would happen to children that watched too much television).
What has unsettled me is that we often define happiness by the possession of things. I didn’t miss out on life by not having cable TV. I may not catch every pop culture reference from the 1990s, but I’m doing okay. Material possessions don’t define happiness. Happiness is much deeper and less transient than that. There’s tons of ways we humanoids have devised to dull our senses and waste time. Tons of ways we can be mindlessly entertained and let other people, let real problems, fade out of our consciousness. I certainly am not an innocent party; I’ve found my own ways to waste time and dull my senses.
Whatever your opinion on the right amount of luxury items that constitute a proper existence, I beg you to not take things as tokens of a life well lived.