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Disconnect to reconnect

This past week I’ve spent most of my time in some form of transit. Whether it be on a plane, bus or car, choir tour is defined by a sense of constant motion. The daily ritual can seem like an endless cycle of repacking my massive suitcase and finding a way to get my seat comfortable on the coach bus. Every day brings a new city, new venue and new audience for whom to sing. While it may seem grueling, the sense of motion is energizing and surprisingly refreshing.

Before tour I did my best to try and get as much homework either completed or started that I could be able to stay caught up with classes I’d be missing. In addition to our schedule being completely different each day, our access to the Internet is completely unpredictable. In our information age, reliable high-speed access to the World Wide Web is becoming a necessity and often times an expectation. To complicate matters even more I’m in the thick of my post-Concordia job search and the Internet is a primary channel for communicating with employers. As with any long trip, the idea of being away and missing so much is really intimidating. Last year I may or may not have had a minor panic attack.

However, despite the stress of staying caught up with classes and trolling through job boards, now that I’m on tour the idea of being away for two weeks is actually really great. While our itinerary keeps us constantly rolling from place to place, being forced to focus on something else for two weeks always comes at the right time in the year to help me stave off burn out, or at least put it out of my mind.

Most surprisingly, being off the grid for two weeks is a blessing in disguise. Today it’s pretty much expected for us to be connected to each other all of the time, being accessible at a moment’s notice through email, text or (the increasingly rare) voicemail message or phone call. My friends and I have even gone as far as to describe our daily chore of responding to the increasing sea of email as an “Email Party,” where we take a precious hour out of our action-packed schedule to get caught up with our overflowing inboxes.

As ironic as it sounds, in my opinion our form of instant communication is incredibly detrimental, draining and almost feels like backpedaling. How many times have you stopped writing a paper to respond to a text from your phone? Or how often are you relaxing when you see your smartphone show that you have a new email and your mind immediately begins to race?

Truly a double-edged sword, our communication channels prevent any of us from taking the necessary downtime that we need to process, relax and take much-needed time to disconnect and remove ourselves from the constant noise. Our minds are running constantly, shifting from one thing to the next, reducing our attention span and making it almost impossible to focus on anything for more than 15 seconds, or however long it takes for our next text message to come.

Not one to vilify technology, I think that the lesson that we need to learn as a society is to find the right balance. We need a compromise that works to keep us connected and moving towards a greater future while at the same time helping us to retain our humanity.  On tour I’ve been able to try and see what balance works for me. It would be really easy to stay glued to my phone or iPod on the long bus rides, but instead I’ve spent the hours actually talking to people, sharing stories and, perhaps most importantly, getting caught up on sleep. I’ve also briefly rediscovered the concept of pleasure reading. Work to find the balance that works for you. It’ll be worth it, I promise.

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