I stepped into this one-week challenge, curious. I could possibly find answers to questions I didn’t quite understand and maybe even grudge up new questions. I wanted to see if the grass is truly greener on the other side. I wanted to see if this fantasy I always find myself longing for is actually something I would truly want and enjoy in reality. My therapist oh so happened to go on a one-week holiday and I figured, hey it’s now or never. Let’s do that one-week offline challenge that has been on your list for years. The idea behind the challenge is to shut off the phone completely. In the midst of the challenge, I found myself questioning if shutting off the phone was the purpose of the challenge or if being offline all together was the key. This made things a bit foggy and confusing. I constantly found myself asking – where do I draw the line? Am I allowed to write on my computer? Am I allowed to draw on my iPad? Am I allowed to watch Netflix with my husband? These questions aside, this experiment was a failure. I can comfortably contribute a part of this failure to the lack of clearly lining out the purpose, rules, and idea of the challenge. I simply ran with an idea and got confused when that idea had to be put in practice. Before I discuss what I had learned from the experience, allow me to share what actually happened.
Day 1, Thursday
I started off strong. I started off my morning by messaging the people I’m in regular contact with to share the news. From midnight today to Friday next week, I will be offline. I then spend most of the day on my phone, because naturally once you know you can’t do this thing anymore, you want to overload your senses with that thing. By the evening though, I was barely on my phone – as usual, might I add – and figured why not score in some extra hours and start now. So, at 21:30, I switched off my phone and completed my evening watching Modern Family with Onno.
Day 2, Friday
It felt strange walking into my day without the usual routine. I love reading and I read every single day. I almost always, read a bit in the morning before I start my day. Even when I had work, I would sometimes give myself an extra 30 minutes to allow some reading time. It’s something I’ve done for years and without it, I felt a bit lost. I switched over to reading on my phone when I was 14/15. Back then I mainly read on Wattpad, but these days I switch between Manga and Webtoon. What can I say? I like looking at pictures. Every now and again though, I will whip out a real book. Basically, what I’m trying to say is: I like to read every morning and without being able to do this, my day felt weird and almost empty. I then to pass the time, whipped out the iPad, and started watching anime. I switched between getting some chores done and watching anime for most of the day. I don’t know if it was because I’ve been consuming content left and right, but I didn’t miss the internet. On a daily basis, as is, I tend to limit my time on the internet as much of as possible. Although saying that, I have been spending way too much time on TikTok. I mainly consume plant and animal TikTok. My feed is mainly positive and happy which made it slip through my strong walls of what I surround myself. Saying that I saw some pretty horrible stuff on TikTok when the BLM protests were at their highs. And I’m getting off-topic. What was I saying again? Oh, I didn’t miss the social media parts of my phone but mainly missed being able to read. As I’m not in contact with anyone every single day, I didn’t feel that aspect of it. Keep in mind, my husband is working from home. It probably would’ve been very different if I did this experiment when we were still living separately or he went to work at the office.
Day 3, Saturday
I finally started to ask those questions I mentioned before. Where do I draw the line? What is allowed and what is “breaking the rules”? After a very long discussion with my husband, I decided spending hours watching anime isn’t meeting the challenge and shouldn’t be allowed. I still had not figured out if playing games online was allowed or if watching Netflix with my husband was okay. As I didn’t have much else to do, I very quickly got to work and ticked off some chores that have been on the list for a while. I even folded the laundry and trust me when I say I postpone that shit for as long as I can. I almost never wash and fold the laundry in one week. Although I ticked off a fair share of things from my list, I still had some free time. And in those moments, I was bored and miserable. I missed being able to read. I missed being able to just watch silly TikTok videos about cats. You see, some of the things I consume online make me happy and this sparked a very interesting thought when it came to this fantasy I spoke of in the beginning. But first, let’s finish the week.
Day 4, Sunday
I woke up Sunday morning, worn down. I hadn’t been able to sleep much because hormones and as I wasn’t allowed to read until I felt sleepy, I could only lie awake and allow my thoughts to wander…which wasn’t the best. It’s been a rough time. A lot of pretty sucky things have happened these last few weeks and wallowing in these thoughts wasn’t doing me any good. I needed my usual dose of “me” time and that’s reading to me. So, I caved. I switched on my phone and read for three hours. I had decided that I’m allowed to read once a day, as it is something that makes me happy, but I’m not allowed to interact with anyone or use social media. Once I reached a point of feeling satisfied with how much I was able to read, the phone got switched off again and I went back to doing some stuff here and there but mostly being unsure of what to do with myself. For a few hours. By the late afternoon, my anxiety was back to being through the roof. These last few years, my father and I have gotten into the habit of video calling every single Sunday. I can count on one hand how many Sundays we’ve missed since we started them. Although I’m in regular contact with my father throughout the week and I spoke to him just before the challenge started, not being able to talk to my dad on Sunday made me uncomfortable. So, I called him. It was so nice to talk to him and I immediately felt more relaxed. Once I caught up with him, and after messaging my friend to catch her up a bit and to hear how things are, I switched off the phone once more. This was going to become a very common theme moving forward. I spend the rest of the evening moping around before helping my husband with some website work.
Day 5, Monday
Originally when I planned this experiment/challenge, I had zero intention to go out. I wanted to stay in the comfort of my home which allowed me to comfortably be offline without any risks. On Monday, however, I needed to go to the hospital to pick up the new batch of hormones. I will write a separate blog on this relatively soon. But the short and sweet story is – the current dosage was no longer working and I had to pick up a higher dosage. I didn’t feel comfortable being without my phone throughout this travel, so I had it with me. I did refrain from using my phone as much as possible. As I get sick to my stomach fiddling on my phone while on a moving vehicle, it was easy to keep my screen time low. I got home just before lunch completely exhausted. After inhaling yummy spaghetti leftovers, I cuddled up on the bed to read for a bit. After about two hours, I switched off my phone and started to loaf around the house to pass the time. But once more, my anxiety got a bit high as I lacked any distractions. My anxiety has been worse than usual these last few months, but as I had a meeting with one of the professors from my university on Thursday, I was especially wounded up in a tight ball of anxiety. I had somehow gotten it into my head – who are we kidding that’s anxiety talking – that if my Dutch isn’t good enough and this conversation doesn’t go well, they will tell me to well rethink my choices. Basically, my entire future as a nurse was depending on this 20-minute meeting and I was a MESS. As the usual contenders to distract myself with was no longer allowed – reading and anime – I turned to PC games. Luckily, I had just downloaded Planet Zoo, and exploring a new game can swallow a lot of time.
Day 6, Tuesday
I literally spend the entire day playing Planet Zoo. I’m not being overdramatic either. From the moment I got up to the moment I went to bed, I was devoted to building my own zoo and figuring out all the tricks. It served as a wonderful distraction. Between endless gaming, I still allowed myself to read for a few hours here and there. I did interact and message a few people if I had my phone on hand. I also out of habit went on TikTok a few times which if you have the app, you will know that once you’re on there, it’s going to take a minute to get off. But the majority of the day was spent on my zoo.
Day 7, Wednesday
Another full day of working on a new zoo but with hints of reading and TikTok here and there. I finally stopped putting my phone on and off and either switched it on airplane mode or put it aside somewhere out of reach. The anxiety for the big day was building and near the end of the day I stressed chewed off my gel nails.
Day 8, Thursday
The big day finally arrived. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to distract myself with a new zoo or anything like that, so instead, I spend two and a half hours redoing my nails as they were now too brittle to be left as is. Once I finished my nails, I went downstairs and started to set everything up. A good two hours before the meeting is supposed to start. I then switched between practicing what I wanted to say and going over my answers in front of my iPad camera – so I could get used to seeing myself – and watching Dutch TV. The big moment finally arrived and I was a shaking mess. Dankie actually came up to me in the beginning to lick my hand. He doesn’t usually do that. He was sleeping by the stairs, sensed my panic, and came up to comfort me. It did actually help a little and I calmed down. All in all, the meeting/conversation went relatively well. The nerves made my Dutch shaky and I was speaking a bit too quickly at certain parts, but I like to think it went well. The professor did seem impressed that I had done proper research and have given it a lot of thought. I had spoken to nurses, and I’ve glanced into the reality of my future career. I didn’t rush into my decision. The reason why they have these meetings/conversations is that students rushed into their studies, choosing the first thing they thought fit, to then discover either during or afterward, that it wasn’t the right fit after all.
And here is my stress hives from that meeting. I get them from time to time in especially stressful or anxious times. They don’t itch or anything. I just get really red and shaky. I hated this growing up and my nerves always showed. To me, people being able to see this would 1) make me break out even more and 2) make me more nervous. I usually try to dress for it but they climb up my neck sometimes. Fun, I know. The anxiety didn’t quite go away and I went over the conversation multiple times but I can say now, a week later, I feel good about it. That’s something right? Oh, and I spend the rest of the day reading on my phone and watching Netflix.
Day 9, Friday
I was beyond relieved when I woke up on Friday as I was finally allowed to be on my phone as much as I wanted to be. I no longer had to feel guilty for spending hours on it. So, I spend the entire day switching between reading, watching YouTube videos – and much to my horror I discovered that Jenna Marbles left YouTube – and etc. I was happy to have the experiment/challenge behind me and now all I had to swift through my thoughts and make sense of the answers I received over the last few days.
More questions than expected popped up as I slowly made my way through the week. The experiment itself might have been a failure, but the lessons I walked away from it is not to be taken lightly. I think the most important realization I’m walking away with is the simple fact that I enjoy technology. I enjoy being able to read on my phone every day. I enjoy my PC games and the usual evening Netflix with my husband. Yes, I probably knew this beforehand but what makes this realization important is what it means for my fantasy. When things get overwhelming and stressful, I will at times find myself daydreaming about this heaven in the woods. I see myself in this little cottage, away from everything. It’s bright, small, and perfect. It’s surrounded by nature and I can spend my days doing what I truly enjoy. It’s a positive place where nothing bad can ever touch it. There’s a lot to unpack here when it comes to this fantasy, but let’s get to that realization part again. In this fantasy, I imagine myself being off the grid and disconnected, but in reality, I now know with full confidence this would make me absolutely miserable. This positive place that’s completely untouched by anything bad won’t make me happy. Yes, it seems like the sweetest place to escape too, if something like it existed, but just because you’re disconnected from the world and your problems, doesn’t mean those problems go away. I will still struggle with depression and anxiety. I will still have problems and stress. But I think that I sometimes forget is the simple fact that you need a negative to have a positive. If everything is always perfect and pure bliss, would it truly be perfect and pure bliss? Would you be satisfied with that? As I’ve grown and healed from many far from perfect events, so, in essence, live through many negatives, every positive moment is appreciated, celebrated, and thanked. Smaller, almost uneventful things, became that something positive that helped drive me forward through the negative event. A prime example of this is: one of my favorite things in this entire world to do is tickle my husband’s feet. He is extremely ticklish and my entire being gets all warm and fluffy seeing his face light up like an innocent child lost in laughter. It’s a small act of something positive, but it can outweigh the heaviest and cruelest of negatives. Because in that moment, it’s all worth it. It’s worth it to live through those negatives moments so you can get to those positive moments. I knew all of this before. I’ve heard it and have said it to others, but I believe it now. I learned multiple little lessons throughout this one short week. Many new questions popped up, but the exciting part of life is finding those answers. I still haven’t quite made sense of everything I learned about myself in that short week, and that’s okay. Everything will fall into place as I continue to grow.
Thank you so much for reading and I will see you in click!