I know it doesn’t look like much. It’s not a fancy smartphone. The pictures it takes are barely distinguishable, and it can’t even record or play video. And, OK, I suppose the screen is a bit grimy (geez, Jor, you didn’t have the decency to clean the screen before snapping the picture? No, no, I didn’t). But my phone represents the most fulfilling aspect of my life (besides my Troll and Pound Puppy collections from when I was 10, of course).
Like all of us, I know that I excel at certain parts of my life better than others (namely finding dinner foods that require three minutes or less to cook and rationalizing hours of surfing the internet). But, on the whole, I don’t suffer from pride. However, there is one part of my life about which I am proud beyond all others.
I put concerted effort into cultivating and maintaining strong relationships with my friends and family. The vast majority of my loved ones live in other cities, states, even countries; and it is no passing exhale to build impenetrable safety nets of emotional support from such extreme distances. My phone helps me weave these cloths taut and resilient, making it easier to bounce back from whatever life throws our way. And so my phone makes me happy.
I know some people aren’t phone people. They either have difficulty preserving a conversation’s flow, or they prefer the nuance of facial expression and body language that only physical presence allows. Other people don’t mind it, but thinking to call family or friends rarely crosses their mind. I, on the other hand, love to share the greater and lesser tidbits of my sometimes interesting, sometimes mundane life. Giving these parts of myself makes me feel connected, and making the phone call lets my loved ones know they’re on my mind (or that I’m bored).
When I took the GMAT (the qualifying test for graduate business school), I did considerably better on the Verbal portion than I did on the Math. When I told my friend Nicki, she responded, “Well, that’s no surprise,” to which I responded, “Are you saying I talk a lot?” Ha, maybe so. Maybe my phone’s contact list serves as much as a willing outlet for my winding – sometimes circular – streams of thought as any other purpose.
You might be surprised then to hear that I barely said a word until I was past three years old. Seriously. I’m told that my grandmother thought that I was “special” and that I should be tested. It turns out I was just shy (although I got tons of gold stars in school, so I’m pretty sure I am special). Last year, before I went for a couple of job interviews, a friend gave me a tin full of little pieces of paper with small solid dots on them. When I looked at him quizzically, he said they were periods and that I shouldn’t forget to use them. So, yeah, sometimes I talk a lot. I guess I’m making up for lost time. And my loved ones are willing to engage. And it makes me happy.
Hiking the A.T. has the potential to strain and fray the edges of my safety net. I will likely go for long stretches without phone reception nonetheless the fact that this is an inherently individual, personal journey to spend days hiking through the woods. I’m sure I’ll meet people along the way, but it would be naïve to assume that I won’t have stretches of solitude.
However, instead of worrying about these long stints alone, I realize that they will provide an opportunity for focus and reflection that sometimes escapes me with the constant feedback on the other end of the line. And ultimately when I get to a trail town with cell reception, absence will have invigorated and energized me to reconnect with my loved ones. OK, well, actually, I’m guessing I’ll be invigorated to connect with a plate of delicious, calorie-laden hot restaurant food.
But then I’ll pick up the phone.
** Note: I decided to participate in Wordpress’s The Daily Post: Weekly Photo Challenge. The above post was inspired by this week’s theme, “Happy.” **