I had one of those moments of epiphany on the golf course last week.
There have been many over the years. By its nature, golf is like that, when you’re out there for hours in a pastoral setting, mostly walking and thinking.
The game is a great teacher. Patience, sportsmanship, ethics, camaraderie, courtesy, competition, coordination are just some of the lessons wrapped up in those 18 holes of bliss and frustration.
Last week, it was a lesson in addiction.
Although I had plugged in my phone that morning, it hadn’t charged and it died just as I arrived on the first tee.
The feeling of panic was unnerving. They actually have a word for it, nomophobia, the fear of being without your phone.
I even briefly considered pushing back my tee time so I could get enough of a charge on it to get me through the round.
I’ve felt that anxiety before when I’ve left my phone at home or at work, but here I was about to set off on an activity that is the epitome of disconnecting from the world for some healthy fun and I was worried about not being connected.
I know people who shut off their phones for hours every day or over the weekend and wondered, ‘how do they do that?’
That’s when it hit me, how unhealthy this technology can be.
I’ve never been diagnosed with a disorder, per se, but I have, all my life, dealt with a kind of generalized and persistent sense of anxiety. In some ways it has been helpful to me. It makes me conscientious about my work and is probably responsible for a lot of the success I’ve had in my life.
In other ways, I know it’s been detrimental. When I inevitably burn out, it’s a hard fall.
I’ve never been a clock watcher because it has always been more important to me to make sure I have all my bases covered. I dread to think how many free hours I’ve given various employers over the years just because I’m worried I might miss something.
But you can’t go on like that indefinitely.
I had four hours that day to think about it.
I can’t tell you how many times during the round I unconsciously reached for that insipient device.
That alone is enough to realize being constantly connected does not alleviate my anxiety, it exacerbates it and I need to do something about it.
I tried to think back to the days before smartphones, disconnecting was a necessity if you wanted to do anything aside from being in your office. Nothing bad ever really came from it.
For my next round I decided I would not touch my phone. My only mistake was I still had it on me and despite my best intentions, it made an appearance a couple of times.
From now on, it stays in the car.