How I Killed Mine (Or: My Life Beyond Cellphones)

Today, let us talk about cell phones.

I don’t own a cellphone. Can anyone else claim as much?

A Brief History of Cellphones

The only truly unbreakable cell phone that I have ever had was a Samsung Galaxy S-II.

1

Look how it just stares at you

Now, I want to be very clear about something: I hate this fucking phone. There is no love lost between us. I hated it for the three years that I had it, but during that time, I developed a mentality, which while I think it is responsible led to our mutually assured destruction.

When it came to electronics: until it is broke, I don’t fix it. Meaning if the screen is cracked, but usable, I just keep trucking. So I used that piece of shit every day. It didn’t matter to me that it:

  1. Overheated like a son of a bitch
  2. Died repeatedly throughout the day if I called one person for 15 minutes
  3. Had no data plan
  4. When I got a data plan it couldn’t keep up with the network traffic
  5. And on and on and on….

Every day I got angry at that phone. And every day I hummed it at the ground hoping against hope that it would smash. But, not only wouldn’t the screen crack, but the casing wouldn’t dent or even scratch. I turned it in to a T-Mobile store years later and they were amazed.

Them: “How long have you had this?

Me: “A few years.”

Them: “This looks amazing.”

Me: “I know.”

Them: “You took really good care of this.”

Me: “I really didn’t.”

So one day my phone would turn on to a blank screen. I thought, “OH GOOD. What fresh hell is this?”

I brought it in to a T-Mobile store. They told me that the SIM reader was busted. Somehow it had fried itself. They said it should have outlasted the phone. They asked if I wanted it replaced. I said how much. They said about the cost of the phone.

I started laughing. Maniacally. In a T-Mobile store. The employees looked back and forth at each other worriedly. I laughed. Told them I would like a new phone.

So I got a Galaxy Galaxy Core Prime:

2

You beautiful bastard

And that little guy lasted all of three months. Before the screen shattered. And then I kept using it because…well the screen still worked. Didn’t matter that I was cutting my fingers on it. I could still use it, so I kept using it.

Finally, when it got too severe I did get it fixed. But, that pattern repeated itself probably two or three times. It would shatter within a month and then I would continue to use it until it “broke” and then I would get it replaced.

One time it broke when I was playing PokemonGo. I was walking on cement trying to get a signal. It fell. I blamed myself. One time I tried filming myself hula hooping because I wanted to look cool for social media. I knocked the phone clean out of my hand. It shattered on the concrete. I blamed myself for not asking other people.

The point is: there were many things that were completely out of my control for why I now had a broken phone (gravity). I didn’t need to blame myself, but I did.

Anyway, fast forward to about March of this year. The screen is cracked, but still usable. A cat who shall remain nameless decided to knock my phone off of my top floor of my loft to the ground below. I discovered this after my shower at about 5am. I look at it and half the screen is completely black. I freaked out, my partner freaked out. I said gimme a minute and went upstairs to meditate.

After half an hour I let the scared voices go quiet and started asking myself really reasonable questions like:

  • Why is this so important?
  • Do I really need a phone?
  • If it is just going to cause me anxiety and distress why bother getting it replaced?

So even when my partner suggested that she pay for the cost of replacing it (it was her cat) I said no. I would try living without it. And so I have for six months now.

My Life Now

I feel very free walking down the street. It is very freeing to throw away a piece of tech that people take for granted. It is kind of like walking around without underwear. Nobody needs to know you’re doing it, but you feel kind of cool anyway.

Google Voice

You see, I had already transitioned to a digital number while I still had my cellphone. I decided a plan of $600 annually where basically all I used my phone for was a mobile computer was highly unrealistic. So I cancelled it and transitioned to a Google Voice number. I highly recommend it to everyone. Having it as an international option if nothing else (it works wherever there is google).

So my phone went from a mobile social media center to something I could only use on wifi anyway. Once the screen broke for good, I just got rid of it and instead started relying on my tablet and desk computer.

Google Voice Features

  1. I can use any of my devices now as a calling and video messaging service so long as I have a strong enough connection.
  2. If the program is open, people can call me like they would any phone
  3. If the program is closed or I am unavailable, the call goes to voice mail, which I can access at my leisure
  4. Google will transcribe it for me into a text file
  5. Depending on your settings you can have your notifications sent to you through text (if you still have a phone), email, or through media.
  6. If you have a cell service and someone calls your Google Number, the phone call will not only be forwarded to you, but you will have the option to take the call or send it to voicemail after you hear the person say their name

I cannot emphasize how cool all of this is, especially if you still have a phone and a cell service. It is like having your own personal secretary! She will even field your calls for you. 

Regrets

Here is the thing that I wasn’t expecting: I couldn’t keep my same number.

That really was very, very sad. I have had my cellphone since I was 14, which means I have had the same personal phone number since I was 14. It had more significance than my home phone number did. My home number is how you reach my parents. MY number is how you reach ME.

And I lost it, guys. I lost it when I gave up my plan.

So my number changed.

Which meant that nobody had it. I am still sending texts and calling people reintroducing my number. People are still calling my old number, which has since been given to a very irate middle aged man as I understand it. I’ve considered calling him to apologize about the confusion, but figure it’s probably best to leave him well enough alone.

So those are some of my biggest regrets:

  • Losing my original number
  • Losing my contacts for a lot of people with that
  • People not knowing how to get in contact with me

If I were to do something again, I’d probably find a way to get in touch with all the people in my contacts just to make sure that I could stay in touch with everyone.

Setbacks

What I was most surprised about was the vitriol that I would receive for making this personal choice, which if I could remind you was:

To not replace my phone.

It wasn’t like one day I decided to trade it in or burn it or anything. My phone broke, I decided I didn’t need the hassle and anxiety of replacing it particularly with where my financial situation was.

That being said, I have lived and worked in a number of industries. A lot of them ask for a reliable way to get in touch with you, which is reasonable.

Now, keep in mind that my employers have that. I have provided all of them with my

  • new digital number &
  • they have my email.

The only thing I did not do was I did not inform them that I had broken my cellphone because I figured that that would discourage people from using my new number.

 

In most instances my not having a cellphone caused a lot of animosity or distancing between me and my work contacts (even after I told them it was now broken). I was astounded and when I asked why it came down to one thing:

We need to be able to get in contact with you all of the time.

This staggered me.  It wasn’t even subtle; I have had that literally said in a directive tone of voice by employers or managers. Some asked what it would take for me to get a new phone. This was the root of all of the problems I had had with every organization over the last few months.

I was made to feel crazy, but the more I thought about it the more crazy the notion seemed to me.

There is an idea that we all need access to each other all of the time. And I’m seeing it more and more:

  • Work places use Facebook to befriend and open private group messages between employees
  • Through Facebook and other social media tools private files are shared, work related events are planned totally through the social networking platform
  • Employers have their own private form of social media, a private messaging service, that is required by their employees to be open all of the time for “emergencies” but they can shut off when they go home

It is this mad-brained idea that we, as employees, need to be in contact or able to be contacted 24/7. Think about it and think about it in your own lives. Why should we do that?

Why should I, an artist, be treated like I am on-call like a doctor or a nurse? People aren’t going to die if I get stuck in traffic. People aren’t going to die if I get into an accident and have to be rushed to the hospital.

I’ll give you an example. I was working on a show. I also use public transit. Sometimes it is on time, sometimes it is late. Because I don’t have access to a cellphone, I cannot call ahead. So there I am, sitting on the bus, approaching the rehearsal hall. I get there just a few minutes late. The stage manager pulls me aside and asks why I didn’t call ahead. I inform them that I don’t have a cell phone and that I take public transit, that this might be a thing moving forward. They tell me they need me to call ahead if I am going to be late.

Now, I appreciate their position. They need to know if they need to move on or not. But, seriously, what is the best solution? What did people do in times of yore? Because I only have so many resources. It’s not like there are payphones everywhere. Not everyone has a cellphone and not everyone is willing to let a stranger use theirs. I cannot predict when I am going to be late based on traffic and once I’m out of my house, I have no way to do it.

But, here is the kicker for me: I was five minutes late. It wasn’t the only time, and I am no angel, but I was five minutes late. It was a first offense and I warned there could be others. But, FIVE minutes late. There was just this implicit assumption that I had access to a phone and that I should have called ahead. That I was in dereliction of my duty to inform my manager. And they would be correct, but how could I possibly have done that? I ask you. These things can keep a person up at night.

The Nitty Gritty

I am discovering in the midst of everyone else’s inter connectivity what an island I live on.

If anyone has any suggestions on how they have lived without cellphones in the past, I’d be happy to learn because I was not even working when I got my first one.

I do want to end with this though: I find it absolutely liberating.

  • I cannot call ahead so I don’t worry about it.
  • The only times I get mad are when people are in the room with me.
  • Arguments don’t last longer than they need to.
  • I can’t storm off and then type out my staircase wit (l’esprit de l’escalier).

There is a certain freedom to that. I have to tell people my stories while I’m there. I don’t get to just walk away. It makes for a lovely organization to my life of which I have grown fond.

I have to tell people I love or hate them to their faces a lot and very quickly before we part.

That is just the nicest thing.

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F is for Fickle

 

F is for Fickle, capital “F”.

Fickle is a good word. I would call most things fickle.

  • love
  • attention
  • concentration
  • resolve
  • relationships
  • work

Fickle means changeable, marked by sudden or unexpected changes in the nature or quality of a thing. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.

The challenges that I set for myself this month:

  1. Camp Nanowrimo (write 50,000 words in 1 month)
  2. NaPoWriMo (write a poem every day this month)
  3. Blogging A to Z challenge (blog according to the alphabet every day)
  4. 21 day challenge (retrain your brain through meditation/exercise/gratitude)

My attention is fickle, my resolve is fickle. People have called me fickle, but I don’t know that that is a bad thing. A synonym for fickle is mercurial. We tend to dislike Mercury, the god of change, of speed and all the rest. But, why is that?

Mercury was based on Hermes, a beloved character in Greco-Roman myth. He was one of the few beings in existence that could outsmart Apollo. He was the fastest among the gods. He acted as a messenger. He was the comic relief.

In the modern pantheon Flash is Mercury. He is quick, smart, loveable, & affable. And dare I say fickle?

So fickle doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but we treat it like it is. Why is that? I think because we prefer the idea of stability. People who are consistent in their reactions are people we can trust. Yes? Well, yes and no.

We like people being consistent because that makes them predictable and to a certain extent that is healthy. Right? I mean it is outlined in basic psychology:

Secure attachments vs. avoidant/ambivalent attachment. Secure attachments are developed when people are consistent with how they show love to their children. Ambivalent attachments are developed when parents are inconsistent. If you are greeted with either love or hate when you show love, you aren’t going to show that love very often are you? So inconsistency can be really unhealthy.

However, in this time of political polarization, we are approaching a society of tribes. People are choosing movements over ideas. With a remarkable certainty if you know someone’s stance on one thing, you will know their stance on a number of other things. Case in point, here are some hotly contested topics in politics:

  1. gun control
  2. birth control
  3. immigration
  4. health care
  5. education

Now, none of these are interconnected. You can safely reason that guns have very little to do with babies. You can have completely divorced reasoning about both. Yet, with almost absolute certainty (some studies have shown) if you know someone’s stance on one of these topics, then you know their stance on all of them.

Without knowing anything else about me, if I say:

I support the constitution with regards to the second amendment.

What can you glean from that? What does that tell you about me? Everything you need to know? I hope not.

Because I do support the original framing of the second amendment, which states:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Emphasis on the “well regulated.” Surprise! I support gun control as outlined in our constitution. You can be a supporter of the constitution and believe that some people deserve to have their guns taken away. Who knew? I knew.

Because I’m fickle. Because I’ve supported both sides over the years and I have finally settled on this idea that I don’t need to belong to a tribe or a group. I can make up my own damn mind all of the time.

E is for Everything

E is for everything. Capital Eeeeeeee!

That was a scream by the way. A scream of terror. I don’t know if you know this about me, but this time of year is hard for me. I don’t know if I knew this about me. My life long partner wasn’t. So it goes. I’ve been pretty skittish around relationships ever since.

Turns out I’m polyamorous. People don’t like that in a straight guy. Who knew? I never saw a problem with loving more people. The people I fell in love with did. So it goes.

My company just hit a rarefied wall of “Fuck You”. They said it nicer than that, but they still said “Fuck You”. So that has to be thrown in a dustbin. So it goes.

Taxes are due so I write checks that cut like knives. So it goes.

I started two new jobs in the time since and haven’t cashed a single check because I’m afraid to look at those balances. My heart rate picks up and everything gets tunnel visioned.

The people I am closest to seem to be vanishing down rabbit holes. I can’t tell the difference between static, radio silence, and ignoring me so I just assume most of my relationships are fled. So it goes.

I pick myself back up only to be pinned to a wall by friends, family, and myself screaming at me why I haven’t done the right thing. How could I let this happen? Morale falling apart, arguing over forks, trying to keep everything clean for one more day before everybody starts packing only to discover the bags are already packed. So it goes.

Day 14/21

Today,

I am grateful for…

  1. muffins
  2.  my brain
  3.  making it through the day

3) Muffins.

It’s a funny little thing. Comfort food.

Do we eat it to feel good or do we eat it because we feel bad? I have noticed a trend with comfort food that I get for myself. It tends to be always a bad idea. Taco Bell, muffins, too much popcorn. Anytime I make comfort food for myself, it tends to be an excuse to wallow in my own sorrow. This may not be true for everyone, but I have noticed time and again that things get really rough whenever I get it for me.

Taco Bell was something I had as a kid. My father would always take me after one of my matches. I couldn’t eat before weighing in or during the meet, but I could eat after. It was quick, it was the only place open after 10pm when I got off, it was the solution. Oh, and I also always lost. So the Taco Bell helped gloss over that.

I didn’t mind losing. I minded losing all the time, but I didn’t mind losing. I was upset because my training montages never looked like what I saw from the movies and television. I was upset that I never looked like them or knew how to even begin. My sensei always said: he never skips push ups. I really hated push ups. Like a lot.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah. Muffins.

So I never buy comfort food for myself anymore. I try to get it for other people. Or I make it. That way it isn’t for me. It is for other people. I can’t do comfort food for me anymore. The last half dozen times I got Taco Bell I almost put the car through the median. They were really bad days and I don’t think the Taco Bell made them better. Instead, it felt like an acknowledgement that I had been beaten that day. That I wouldn’t get around this funk.

But, when people make or get comfort food for you? That shows somebody cares. I think that is the key to comfort food. It can’t come from you because what we find comforting is the acknowledgement from somebody that another person cares about our well being. This may be just because I am built to hate myself so effing much, but I think there is a kernel of truth there. Comfort can and does come from others taking care of us.

We can build and do that for ourselves, but very rarely is that going to come from consuming unhealth and that very much is what comfort food is. Show me the nut whose comfort food is a kale vegan protein smoothie and I’ll give them my firstborn.

Point being somebody got me muffins and that’s great. Today might even warrant eating them. Who knows? It’s still early where I am when I’m writing this. Things could always change.

Day 13/21

Today,

I am grateful for…

  1. good ideas
  2. an abundance of good ideas
  3. time to write

2) Ever since I was a kid I have loved Tolkien.

Like really loved Tolkien. My father had his first editions that I have worn down to the spine. He has a 10 year anniversary edition that is absolutely stunning. So the family love of Tolkien runs deep.

Tolkien spent his entire life crafting a single story. That story is remarkable.

Growing up, I always wanted to write. I was, shall we say, dissuaded. I blame a number of things: teachers, friends, family, idols 

Really it was me. I dissuaded me. I led me to think I had a single story in me. One that was not nearly as good as Tolkien’s.

So I worked on it. I crafted the hell out of my  story. I worked so long that I never wrote it. I never wrote anything. Part of it was the fear–the very real fear that if I emptied out that story, I would be hollow. There wouldn’t be another story.

I had a new idea the other day.

It wasn’t the second idea I’ve ever had. Or the third. I’ve had dozens of new ideas. The fear still lives in me: what if that is it? What if I never have a new idea again? What if instead of one it’s a limit of five or six or eight?

So I fight the fear with new ideas. I don’t believe in writer’s block.

D is for Detroit

D is for Detroit. Duh.

Detroit is Detroit. There really aren’t other ways to describe it. Ask anybody outside the city an you get things like: it seems to be coming back OR it’s not as bad as it was. Ask anybody inside the city and the fandom is rampant. Ask anybody who has lived here for any length of time and you get a different story:

Detroit never went anywhere.

That’s the thing I take most away from this city. If you think Detroit is going through a renaissance, you don’t know this city. If you think Detroit is bouncing back, you don’t know it.

Maybe it depends on your point of view:

Now’s the time to visit Detroit, finally on the verge of a real renaissance

For sale: The $100 house

About That Detroit Renaissance

Depending on who you ask:
Detroit is going through a “revitalization” where buildings are bought up, renovated, and made habitable again for new tenants.
OR
Detroit is the city where the black community won the race riots. Detroit is the city where it has continually been punished for winning those riots.
They can both be true, in fact, I think they probably are, but Detroit is a city where the official statistics state it is 88% black population. Can you understand why a city that literally tore itself apart might be upset at a process some call gentrification, which is also a nice way of saying pushing out the current population.
The way it was put to me at a meeting of people of color I was fortunate to be a part of:
There aren’t white saviors for Detroit. There is an invasion happening. Recolonization of Detroit is happening.

Day 12/21

Today, 

I am grateful for. ..

  1. Friends coming over
  2. Fun at work
  3. Space to breathe

3) The problem with bad days is that they make transience hard to come by. 

Every single thing feeds into your present state of mind. 

Last night the heat cut out. The heat cut out and I saw no way out. No where to go. 

I’ve been trying to fix it, but with the weather refusing to break, I felt abandoned. It felt I had nowhere to go. It felt like all of my problems were wrapped up in it and if I could only fix it. 

So I kept trying. Because I fix things. But, some things cannot be fixed. Not right away or not at all. 

Accepting that, getting out of whatever situation is triggering you, and getting on with your life is the most important thing. 

I am really happy that I have space to forget about it, even for a little while. 

Day 11/21

Today, 

I am grateful for…

  1. Having somewhere to go
  2. Having a way to get there
  3. Having down time

1) I have a need to flee. 

It is very real and can be deeply upsetting. 

When I’m healthy it translates into wanderlust. When I’m unhealthy it translates into running away. 

When I feel trapped, when it feels like there is nowhere to go and nothing to do: public places, libraries, events, parks (because this is the land of perpetual winter), then there are very few places that I feel I can go. 

When I have nowhere to go: friends, family, etc. I almost always switch to running away. 

Today, I woke up upset, which seems so unfair. 

Fortunately, I had to head into work, spend time with people I like, and then get paid. 

It was a good day. 

C is for Hipsters

This one is a bit silly.

So I heard a rumor back when I moved to Detroit.

Detroit is the birth of hipster. 

Basically that everyone was too poor to purchase CD’s when they came out so they bought records. Everyone was too poor to buy designer clothes so they bought off brand and thrift stores. 

Now, I am not an expert. I have no idea if it’s true, but it was a fun bit of trivia living and working in Detroit. 

That is the extent of my hipster history knowledge. But, there is something more. ..nobody positively identifies as a hipster. It is definitely a counter culture movement that nobody seems to want to be. People never self identify as a hipster and I wondered why that was. 

I mean, think about it. 

A hipster is

  • Thrifty
  • Environmentally conscious
  • Aware of musical trends 
  • Well educated

A hipster also tends to be

  • A douche 

Which again is weird, but that feeling doesn’t go away depending on who you ask. A hipster is vegan or fruitotarian or only hand makes their clothes. They tend to be white, work as baristas, have rich parents, have liberal arts degrees, also dreads. 

Like none of this should be a bad thing. Yet over and over the counter culture movement of the millennial generation is viewed as negative by both older and present generations. Why? 

It got so bad that articles were written claiming counter culture was dead. Mass consumerism had consumed the counter culture. Found a way to box it and supply it to the masses. 

Full disclosure, I have been called a hipster. When asked why people sort of gesture at me. I think they mean my graphic t-shirts and large board game collection, how I use the word socialism and anarchism appropriately and not communism, my glasses and the fact I’m an artist. I make all my own food, am vegetarian, and am looking into how to garden. I identify as Buddhist, recognizing the beauty of the philosophy while also appreciating the Buddha intended it to be a living doctrine and so explore what it means for me. Also atheist.  None of this am I ashamed of. 

And yet when people call me a hipster, I feel as though I should be. It’s really ridiculous. Why are we so compelled? Is there a reason to despise? To not identify as a hipster? Is there anything wrong with living off the grid, trying to be sustainable? Abstaining from having children? Or is it more a matter of privilege and people having the resources already to do it? 

I don’t have any of these answers. I’m trying not to block myself into categories so much anymore. I feel really strongly in this case because hipster does not define all of my weird, though people try. 

Oh, also the title:

Hipsters are too cool for their own letter “h” so they wound up here. Also I thought it was really funny. 

Sue me. 

Day 10/21

Today, 

I am grateful for…

  1. A vocal email
  2. Dinner with my work people
  3. Bedding down for a night in

1) Today, I received a, shall we say, strongly worded email. 

It was among the first I’ve received. It was based on my blog here. I was very surprised. 

Words, man. Words can send people over the moon or straight into hell. This was leaning toward the latter. 

I was ashamed. I was angry. But, I remembered all of my lessons of the last few weeks:

  • Christopher Hitchens
  • Milo Yiannopolous
  • Richard Dawkins
  • Sam Harris
  • Neil degrasse Tyson
  • Noam Chomsky

How they comport themselves, how they work with words against unimaginable blow back.

I decided to engage. 

I said them you to the vinegar, treating it like spice instead of poison. 

I asked why they felt the way that they did and was genuinely surprised at what they said. 

In the end, I won’t say we were friendly, but we were more neutral. 

It was a place that no one in my support group that we could achieve. It just n means that at this time if polarization we can still find a middle.