My friends, I have a confession to make. As a writer, it’s a little embarrassing to admit that I just returned three books to the Ashland branch of the Daniel Boone Regional Library that I never bothered to read. What’s worse is that they sat on my dusty bookshelf for a full six weeks before I finally admitted to myself that I would never get around to reading them. Pathetic, I know.
My intentions were good, if not unrealistic, when I initially checked-out the trio of books during Christmas break. I had a sincere desire to read John Updike’s “Run, Rabbit,” Thomas Wolfe’s “You Can’t Go Home Again,” and Herbert Huncke’s autobiography “Guilty of Everything.” I could sit here and make up excuse after excuse for why I didn’t read any of the three books I checked-out that December day.
I could tell you that Huncke, famous for being a career criminal and a heavy drug-user, was much better at shooting heroin than he was at writing—a fact I was able to ascertain after reading the first few pages of his poorly written autobiography.
I could tell you all about the heinous, flu-like infection that rendered me unable to read anything more challenging than the recommended dosage instructions on the pills that sustained me during a weeks-long illness.
I could blame my return to work after Christmas break ended, as the long-term substitute art teacher at SoBoCo Primary School, for taking up all my free time—time that I could have been spending lost in a book.
I could come up with many more excuses for why I failed to read more than the first thirty pages of any of those three books. But the simple truth of the matter is that I’ve been spending way too much time chasing fulfillment with my smartphone. Using my phone to scroll through Facebook and Craigslist occupies most of my free time lately, including any time I might have for reading.
In the real world, I regularly socialize with dozens of close friends, yet for some reason I still feel compelled to acquire and follow hundreds more through Facebook. I own six fully-functional motor vehicles, including a gorgeous 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, yet I still check the “cars for sale” ads on Craigslist several times per day. Just as it was with my addiction to alcohol, when it comes to friends and automobiles, I can’t seem to get enough.
With alcohol, I eventually did feel like I’d had enough, and I finally quit drinking just over a year ago. But I hesitated to make that decision for quite a while because I was worried about losing friends. I was afraid people would be disappointed that they wouldn’t have me to drink with anymore. I also felt like I’d be missing out on all the fun they were having.
It may sound silly, but I feel the same way now about Facebook. I’m worried that people would be disappointed if I stepped away from the social network, and I’m scared that I would miss out on all the things going on in my friends’ lives. The feeling is similar with Craigslist. I worry that if I stopped checking it regularly, I might miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime deal on the car of my dreams.
But I already have the car of my dreams, and I already have plenty of close friends who I see and keep up with on a regular basis. Yet I find myself constantly searching for something in my smartphone that is not there: happiness.
I can’t find the time to do something I really enjoy, (reading), because I spend so much time doing something I feel compelled to do yet don’t really enjoy, (checking Facebook and Craigslist on my smartphone). This sounds alarmingly like, “I can’t find the time to do something I really enjoy, (spending time with my family), because I spend so much time doing something I feel compelled to do yet don’t really enjoy, (drinking).”
The real problem doesn’t have much to do with books or friends or cars or even alcohol. It’s all about moderation. Most people can set reasonable limits for themselves on how much time they spend online or how many cars they should park in their driveway or how much they should drink. As you undoubtedly know by now, my faithful friends and readers, Travis Naughton is not “most people.”
Moderation and I have not, as of yet, had the pleasure of making one another’s acquaintance. Perhaps we will as I endeavor to become a more avid reader in the future. Then again, there may still be room at the reading table for my old nemesis Addiction. After all, one could do worse than becoming hooked on books.
I should know.