My Christmas present to myself less than a month ago was taking some extra time off between Christmas and New Year’s. Following the example of many other “wise” state workers, I took 4 days off between Christmas and New Year’s, which netted me a 10 day vacation from my full-time job. Friday, 12/23/2016, was my last day at work until Tuesday, 1/3/2017.
During my normal work day, it was not uncommon to have PennLive, ABC27, CNN and / or Huffington Post opened in Internet Explorer tabs, just lurking in the background. I would refresh the pages when I got a few minutes and devote much time to “keeping up on current events.” My lunch half-hour was dedicated to reading the news or researching something that the news had mentioned. Researching the criminal history patterns of newsmakers. Reading the most current horrifying child abuse discovery. Researching the summonable drone safety light program recently deployed in the UK. Reading the story about the most recent home invasion. Keeping tabs on sex offenders that live within 10 miles of my home. I would forward Josh links to articles I thought were “important.” (Let’s be honest…I couldn’t resist sending him the article about the woman driving across her ex’s lawn, blaring Christmas music from her van’s speakers, screaming Merry Christmas, trying to run the ex over while he was stringing Christmas lights in the front yard. That one was just TOO good.) In my mind, it was imperative to check the news sources. I had a strong desire to keep constantly abreast of what was happening, the most recent events, the biggest news stories.
My normal news-obsessed habit continued throughout my work day on Friday, 12/23/2016. But, then I was off work for 10 days. And though incessant news-checking during my work day was just “normal” to me, during my 10 days off, I didn’t check the news one time. We don’t have satellite or cable TV service anymore, so, there was no watching the news on TV. During those 10 days off, I didn’t get the urge one time to open Internet Explorer and read what horrible event had happened since the last time I checked. During those 10 days off, I felt…calm. I slept well at night. I focused during the day without being distracted by the fear-mongering of the news. I didn’t feel anxious at all during those 10 days. And I guess what I realized was that my day-to-day life…my daily routine wasn’t impacted AT ALL by not incessantly checking the news. I was blissfully unaware of the day-to-day dramatic news headlines, trying to source my attention. And that was completely okay with me. Upon reflection, for me, 95% of what I was obsessing over each and every day had absolutely no impact on my daily life other than inciting anxiety, stress, worry and, sometimes, fear. The child abuse, the burglaries, the bank robberies, the traffic crashes, the political circus, the name calling, the drug use, the violence. The ongoing, endless stories had no positive impact on my daily life. Yes, drug use is running rampant, but I don’t need to read three stories a day about fatal overdoses to understand that. Yes, horrifying child abuse and neglect are occurring at an astonishing rate, but I don’t need to read five stories a day about the most recent discovery to understand that. Yes, all of these things are occurring (and may be occurring at record rates with record impacts), but I don’t need to immerse myself in the chaos to understand that. And, the 5% of what I was reading that might have had some sort of positive impact on my daily life (two year vehicle registrations are now an option in PA, it might snow tomorrow, a local K-Mart is closing) was informative but not necessary. And definitely not worth the stress, anxiety and discontent that was imposed by the 95% I sifted through to get to the 5%. I won’t discount the importance of being aware of what’s happening around me and in the world, but, I’ve found that stalking news media outlets to become informed has done more harm for me than it has good.
So, that sparked a big change for me. I haven’t read the news since 12/23/2016. To the point that a co-worker informed me that the Commonwealth of PA Agency that I work for issued a press-release indicating it is going to “cut by half” the Agency that I work for. And I had NO idea. Except for the potentially foreshadowing press-release by my employer, I have not read one single news article since 12/23/2016. And I am LOVING IT. Turning down the “noise” has given me a much calmer life for the past 26 days. I’m less stressed, less anxious and less mentally exhausted. I’m sleeping better, too. For those reasons, I doubt I’ll return to incessantly keeping up with current events. At this point in my life, the calm and quiet that being blissfully unaware of the daily dramatics brings is refreshing and happy. And I’m all about happy! I was just telling Josh a few days ago that I’m really, honestly happy with things I’m doing in my life right now. I readily named a few things – not reading / listening to / watching the news, hiding my own geocache, documenting our adventure by blogging, beginning my adventure on UpWork, focusing on my life outside of work instead of my dissatisfaction with my current employer, unfriending Negative Nancy’s and Norm’s from my Facebook, not feeling bad about using paid time off I’ve earned at work, getting rid of excess stuff in our house – but really, I could go on for a good long while with things that are making me very happy in my life right now. I’ve never been “unhappy” or “unsatisfied” with my life. I’m typically pretty upbeat, optimistic and positive. But, recently, I’ve felt extra happy, content and at peace with the decisions I’ve been making and things I’ve been doing. I contribute a lot of that to turning down the “noise” in my life…something I obviously need to continue doing because it’s yielding great results!
Aside from getting a TON of things done around our house during my 10 days off over the holidays, Josh and I watched a documentary on Netflix called “Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things.” I figured it might be a good watch considering our five year plan and my current commitment to purging unnecessary stuff from our house. If you haven’t watched it, I recommend it, with one caveat. The whole documentary seems a bit ironic – the creators of the documentary wanted to quit their jobs and “live their dreams,” which translated into them leaving corporate America to build their business, which is the minimalist movement. So, essentially, they quit their corporate jobs to market their new business and make money off of selling it to people who want to live a better life with less through documentaries, books, podcasts, etc. (Kind of a twisted web, right?) Setting that hang up aside and realistically knowing that I cannot live without some type of income, I would recommend the documentary as a thought-provoking exercise. I am not sure that Minimalism provided a new, earth-shattering road map for living a less cluttered life, but, Minimalism did give me some food for thought and ideas for a ton more reading! I haven’t ever used Chrome’s bookmark feature as much as I’ve used it in the past few months!