Too connected?

I’m permanently connected to the rest of the world and even that seemed not enough at times. I used the internet when it was just text-based browsing at my university in the early 1990s and jumped for joy when enough people in Montrose signed up online so we’d get 512k broadband brought to the town.

When gigabit fibre was installed in my house in 2019 and I watched linux distros download in seconds it was the best day of my life. (Caitlin, Alex – if you happen to read this, I’m only joking. Promise! It was movies and television shows I’d purchased legitimately. Promise! And still not the best day of my life.)

Even when I run, I’ve eschewed the bare-eared life of so many of my comrades and prefer pounding the streets with a podcast or familiar album accompanying me.

So when I decided there were better ways to spend my unemployment than sitting in front of my computer getting more depressed and refreshing Seek, Facebook and LinkedIn I went back to an old favourite – golf. With added tunes.

I’m not a good golfer, but I do have a claim to fame – I once hit a hole in one at the Lake Taupo Hole In One challenge and won a new set of golf clubs and trolley. It was an absolute magnificent fluke of a shot, if it had been a millimetre less mishit then it would have bounced into the lake, destined to be picked up by the local frogman employed to pick up the spherical remnants of dashed hopes from the watery volcanic bed.

Divorce and then moving into a small room with everything I owned saw those golf clubs sold off on Trade Me and that’s when my golf ‘career’ ended. Until a few weeks ago.

A summer membership to the beautiful South Head Golf Club and a cheap set of second hand clubs, my last ‘present’ paid for by Microsoft’s redundancy package, and it was time to stand on the first tee and try and send that tiny, dimpled ball careering towards the hole. Almost.

I nearly forgot my wireless earphones. Phew, that was close. There was no way I could survive three hours with just my own brain for company. I packed them into my bag and headed out into something scary, something bright, green and warm and something that I’d not really seen since February. Apparently it’s called ‘outside’.

And then the magic happened. I talked to a couple of people at the golf club who showed more interest in me than virtually anyone online has for a very long time. Thoughts of podcasts to supplement my ball-hitting were lost in the telling of my story and I spent the next 180 minutes or so accompanied by two things I realised I hadn’t heard for a very long time – my inner monologue dealing with the peace and quiet of nature.

It was magical. Not the golf. Oh no, that was utter shite. I spent more time in the rough than the fairways, but it was worth every single second. My round was accompanied by turkeys, geese, ducks, rainbow lorikeets, fantails and kingfishers. There was a tui somewhere close too but I didn’t spot her.

I walked off the 18th hole after another missed putt and was almost emotional. Not at the missed putt, thankfully, but at how wonderful it felt to have disconnected from everyone else in the world and re-connected with nature. One simple 8km wander around a golf course did more good things for my mental health than ANYTHING else in the last few years. There was colour. And beauty. And silence.

Who knew the absence of any noise could sound so wonderful? Certainly not the guy who goes to bed with earphones and a podcast playing every night. And that’s when I realised the wrong kind of connection hasn’t been good for me – and I’m embracing it.

My headphones are no longer packed in my golf bag and I did my first run without anything in my ears since I was in my teens. Even my golf has improved. Mentally, I feel as strong as I ever have despite my continued unemployment. And I’m going to embrace that silence like it’s more important to me than any internet connection.

Have you tried it lately?

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