If you know me well, you’ll understand that choosing to go laptopless for ten days was something of a drastic decision. My days generally include 4-8 hours of computer time, most of it online - emailing, writing, tweeting, Facebooking. The theory behind leaving my laptop behind while I visited Mumbai was that the lack of routine distraction would allow me to see my new surroundings with uncluttered vision, and I can safely say that my Mumbai experience was better as a result. I was more open. I didn’t worry so much about being in touch. I met people, I went places, I was busy every day and I feel like my mind was more open and ready to receive the city’s atmosphere.
Still, throughout the 30-hour train journey back to Kerala I looked forward to opening my good old beast once again, to getting back to my routine of reading blogs, news and Twitter feeds and rejoining the online communities I belong to. First on the list when I got back inside my house was a shower - I’m not a complete savage - but you’d better believe the second was getting wired in again. I could see all those familiar pages in my head as I lifted the lid, but when I hit the power button -
- nothing happened.
Oh no. Anything but this. My laptop, dead? The cornerstone of (my) life, suddenly as lifeless as the desk on which it sits? But I was only gone a week!
Wait a moment. Now,
remove and replace battery / doesn’t work / remove battery press power button 32 times replace battery / doesn’t work / remove battery connect to adapter plug into wall / doesn’t work / grit teeth mash keyboard with palms of both hands / doesn’t work
Having gone through the first four stages of grief, my final option was the most healthy: acceptance. The laptop will not work for some time. I must take it to someone to get it repaired, and in the meantime go to net cafes to check my email. I will have more time for yoga, reading and meeting with friends. This is a good thing. It’s gonna be okay.
For a while, it was okay. I did yoga four mornings in a row; I read a book a week; I went out at least every other day to hang out with friends. Still, those social networking sites were never far away via my clunky Nokia, and I made sure to get to an internet cafe every day to catch up on things. However, as each new week passed with no word on the laptop’s repair status, those netcafe hours grew longer as the meetings with friends slipped to once a week and the yoga practice dried up altogether. If I wasn’t banging away on a rusty keyboard at Neethu Communications, I was in a chair at home, glued to email and Google Reader on my phone’s tiny screen.
Finally, I learned that my laptop was in fact beyond repair. I’d love to be able to make some exaggerated crack about getting all depressed at being laptopless... but the thing is, that’s pretty much what happened. My mental state began to deteriorate, slowly but steadily.It wasn’t as if I despaired of ever again having unlimited internet access at home, or the comfort of using my own system set up just the way I like it; I knew I would figure something out soon. It was just so profoundly different. Their mere absence left me empty. Part of it no doubt had to do with my need for some online freedom in my rather isolated Indian village life; still, it was the forced withdrawal from a clear-cut addiction that really burned.
But do you know what the worst part of it is? I am typing these words on my new netbook which just arrived yesterday, and it’s like the clouds have lifted. I smile and chat comfortably with strangers, I crack jokes in the office and the world seems generally to be a happier place. My listless couple of weeks have been swiftly consigned to the past. I can barely remember what it felt like to feel so down.
The lesson here is very simple, and something I (and probably everybody who reads this) learned a long time ago. Life ought to be balanced. I put too much of my energy into one thing, and when I lost it, my entire existence was thrown out of whack. It’s the not the depression that brought this home to me, though; it’s feeling this immediate burst of sunshine and hope at restoring that thing. Now, the challenge is to rearrange and re-prioritise so that next time this happens, I’ll be losing a small chunk rather than the foundation of my life.