Every night my internet goes out just when I want it the most. It means I have to turn on my iPhone’s hotspot to get a connection, which does work well for the few minutes I need it to. It happens at the same time every day. I could call someone about this, but I am lazy. That’s the truth- but what I tell myself is that they will probably just charge me additional money to not fix the problem, or to make it worse. Which is also true. I find this all very disappointing. I just want it to work without a lot of hassle. Or even a little hassle.
Do you ever have moments when you notice just how much the world has changed and it seems kind of insane? It’s funny to think about things I once wanted, and to realize how many of those things have become obsolete. It makes me feel like I have lived longer than I actually have. If I feel this way in my thirties, what will my sixties be like?
My phone is obvious. Every time I watch a TV show from the nineties where the plot revolves around people not being able to reach one another, it seems absurd. Was this really how we lived? Now characters are forced to lose their cell phones, get lost in places with no reception, or just angrily ignore each other’s phone calls in order to keep the plot going. Because while cell phones solve a lot of real life problems, they offer an inconvenient solution for sitcom writers.
But we don’t just have cell phones. We have everything I ever dreamed of as a child in the palm of our hands. And I am pretty indifferent about it most of the time. That’s the insane part.
Do you know what I would have done for one of those miniature TVs when I was eight? Who cares what channel it got in or how hard I had to work to see it. I would have watched the news on it and been in heaven back then, but I wouldn’t pay a quarter for one at a garage sale now. My parents were the first to get a video camera- but the last to get cable, call waiting, caller id, or a computer. I needed these things. I was hand-writing my school reports, in blue or black ink, until the eighth grade. When we finally did get a computer, we were the only ones I knew who had Prodigy (Google it). This was awesome, but you couldn’t use the phone and internet simultaneously- which often ruined my life. And I got in trouble for sending too many emails, which were charged at an additional cost back then.
I just wanted my own phone, like those kids in the phone book listed as “teen line” under their parent’s name. Remember when you could look up almost anyone in the phone book? I remember when a cordless phone was impressive. Sometimes it even worked outside! Any phone conversation that could take place outside of my kitchen seemed like the plot to a science fiction movie.
And speed dial was mind-changing. We still had to carry around little books with everyone’s address and phone number in it, but I haven’t used my ability to remember phone numbers since I was ten years old. If aliens ever capture me and then accidentally return me to the year 1986- I’ll know how to reach my parents, at least (731-4653). That’s reassuring every once in a while. It was an unlisted number.
If you had presented me with a smart phone back then- oh my God. It would have been above and beyond anything I had ever thought of. And if all of my friends had phones, too? I am not sure how I would have graduated high school. Sophomore year would have been particularly tricky.
What is wrong with me? I never learn. I have a whole list of desires, right now, that are somehow going to change my world. They would change my world, all right, but not ever in the way I think. It would all become normal to me eventually. Change never ends, amazing things will happen, and we will adapt.
Not to say these things wouldn’t improve my life. There was a time when all I wanted was to drive a car, get married, have children, sleep in on a weekday….those things are still instrumental in making my life happy. They just seemed more supernatural or something before they existed. As if they would change me in bigger, more fantastic ways. Maybe they have.
I mean, a lot of my wildest dreams of youth have clearly come to fruition. And then some. It’s as if we just check those things off our list and replace them with new desires, instead of soaking up the joy of finally having what we wanted so badly. That seems like the right answer. But it’s just something people say, isn’t it? Soaking up joy is surprisingly unsatisfying as a final payout. We aren’t designed that way. We’re designed to hope; to keep reaching. It’s a part of survival.
With material things there will always be something better just around the corner. Hope will never end, even for the richest among us. But some things (and people), once you have them in your life, are irreplaceable. There is nothing more to want. If I lost any of them, that list of desires would suddenly all work backwards. Instead of dreaming of the things I could have- I would obsess over the things I used to have. Hope would become regret. It’s scary when you have something that is as good as it gets, because you can only lose it.
That’s your best scenario in a world of desire and disappointment. To experience as good as it gets and then lose it. The material world is best experienced through longevity and riches, I suppose. Try and see as much technological advancement as possible before you die, and be able to afford the best so as not to miss anything. Sure, you watch all the non-material joys in your life slip away by outliving everyone….but at least you got to achieve those things before you lost them. Again, this is only an elusive ideal reserved for the rich and the very lucky. For many of us, the reality will fall a little short.
Which leads us to religion. Humans are always capable of being better humans, and the search for the next level of enlightenment with the final payout being heaven (or whatever other reward your religion believes in) fits in very nicely with human nature. There is a reason people who seem to have everything suddenly become spiritual. What makes heaven ideal, really? The concept of having everything you need with no chance of it ever being taken away? That’s part of it. It’s accessible to the poorest and least fortunate among us. And, it is evidence that even when religion leads you to feel content in life, you are still constantly looking forward to what’s next. In fact, it is the ultimate next.
Maybe never learning is a good thing. This is comforting, since I know that tomorrow night I am going to get upset when the internet goes out again. I am going to use my phone to connect in the meantime, because waiting would be unacceptable (and unnecessary). I will maybe watch a movie, shop, text a friend, catch up on stories around the world- all at the same time. And I will forget to be impressed. Maybe I have made my peace with it. For now it may be best for me to just stop over-thinking the possibilities.