Turning On Independence

Haley - Carlsbad, California
Entered on February 25, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
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A year ago I sat in my college dorm listening to Rachel Ray explain the only way to make “perfect” chili. I changed the channel to see a girl on MTV’s “The Real World” wandering around the house in her underwear, swearing at her roommates. On the next channel the “Desperate Housewives” gossip about each other’s husbands. It took nineteen years for me to land on the channel of realization, in which I became aware of my dependency on television. I realized that much of my life was spent watching others live their lives, many of which were fabricated in the land of Hollywood.

Television was causing me to lose track of how I want to live. The thoughts and views of the people I observed on television were overriding my own. Even the enticement of advertisements caused me to purchase items I did not even care about. I compared my lifestyle and reflection in the mirror to that of the teenagers on shows like “The Hills” and “One Tree Hill.” I was like a house constantly being renovated to match the rest of the cookie-cutter houses. I was reliant upon television to tell me who I should and shouldn’t be.

I had become so absorbed in reality shows that I lost track of my own reality. Somehow, finding out who the “Bachelor” wants to marry was my life on Mondays; judging people sing on “American Idol” was my life on Tuesdays; watching chefs compete during “Top Chef” was my life on Wednesdays; and finding out who was going to be voted off the island of “Survivor” was my life on Thursdays. My life was lived in observation and envy, and I lost track of what is important. I lost track of me.

It wasn’t until last summer when I went to work at a camp for two months that I stopped viewing life through a television screen. The camp was at Stanford University. Within the dorms of Stanford there was no television anywhere to distract me from living my life. Camp was the beginning of my newfound independence. For the first time I stepped out of the box that has confined its viewer’s individuality to its own images and voices. It was not long before I would once again have the choice to be a viewer.

When I came home I was reminded of my old obsessions with the real and made-up lives that are showcased on television. It was refreshing to be uninterested. Television fits me like a childhood dress two sizes too small. I have grown out of it, and I do not feel the need for it anymore. Every day I make the choice to make my own reality show. Though, not every episode is so captivating as the savage life on “Lost,” as glamorous as the young people of “Gossip Girl,” or as intense as “The Apprentice,” I am at least not a spectator.

Today I get the best out of life because I am not watching, I am doing. I believe that by turning off the television, we are turning on our independence to live our own lives. I do not watch people explore the outdoors, but I make my own adventures. Rather than watching people have conversations, I make them. Instead of watching Rachel Ray cook her “perfect” chili, I make my own.