Open lap: A computer-inspired self-realization
    What ditching my laptop taught me about my dependence on technology, time management and Bergson's coffee.

    Just like any other college student, my laptop was my lifeline. Covered in sentimental stickers and programmed to fit my lifestyle, it was essentially an extension of my cell phone, a means to produce graphics for both career and club needs and a database for my personal life all wrapped into one. It was balanced on my legs throughout boring classes, allowing me to multitask to my heart’s desire. It was there for me when I was eating alone in the dining hall, making it appear, in the absence of friends, that at least I was productive. And it was there for me at 11:50 p.m. when the essay was due at midnight, allowing me to type from the comfort of my dorm wearing a stained Wildcat Welcome t-shirt and rhinestone-studded yoga pants straight out of 2010.

    And then, it broke.

    I called my mom in tears, but she was quick to say exactly what every 21st century suburban mom is going to tell you when something goes wrong: “Honey, this is a learning experience.” As luck would have it, she was right. Tearing the keyboard from beneath my fingers taught me a few interesting things about myself that even limitless Buzzfeed quizzes never could.

    1. I was lost without my laptop … and that's where it gets scary.

    I brought my computer to the Apple Store a total of three times during this exploit, but the Genius Bar workers eventually reached the suspenseful conclusion of “We Don’t Know What’s Wrong,” which is dramatic and all on Grey’s Anatomy, but frustrating as hell in real life. I wasn’t just losing homework; I was losing my notes. My photos. My calendar. And I didn’t know how to carry on without them. I was more than just reliant on my computer – I was addicted. Over the next few days, I suffered through class taking notes on paper. I started eating lunch alone with nothing to do except stare into space like a neanderthal … or a person born before 1980. I went back to my dorm room and read the course packet without using Command+F to find the answers on an online PDF. Sure, things were slower without technology, but I could do everything I’d been doing before without my precious laptop. And sure, I wasn’t happy about it, but for the first time in a while, I was actually doing work the old-fashioned way. A weird sense of pride came with that. Every day without my laptop made me feel like a pioneer – but that doesn't mean I didn’t miss it.

    Photo by Emma Kumer / North by Northwestern

    2. Backups save lives.

    Throughout my life, various teachers and family members had always nagged me to keep a backup of my files on some external drive as I acquired more and more data, but I always did so grudgingly just to shut them up. When I went to college, I updated my backup weekly with the same chore-ful reluctance I reserved for washing my towels or changing the dorm sheets. I never really thought I'd actually use the extra hard drive, but when my computer broke, that little puck-sized storage unit became my salvation. I had no idea my half-hearted backups would make my life a million times easier – but with that knowledge now, I'll definitely make sure I continue updating the hard drive whenever I can ... and encourage others with valuable documents to do the same.

    Photo by Emma Kumer / North by Northwestern

    3. Discovering the library: You can use a different computer for everything you do on a laptop – yes, even text.

    If you’re anything like me, you go to the library to study with friends in Core or use a printer when your Medill friends won’t let you abuse their free printing. You’d be surprised, but there are actually a lot of valuable things in there, like the basement labs. I only ever went to the basement when I didn’t want to go upstairs to go to the bathroom, but the Mac Lab on the lower level became a second home. I logged in with my iCloud account and the screen was flooded all of a sudden with my calendar, my texts, and my notes as if my laptop was reincarnated in its clunky desktop body. The computer even had all of the Adobe software I needed and more, which led me to realize that my laptop, though convenient, wasn’t completely necessary. God bless the Cloud, wherever and whatever it is.

    Photo by Emma Kumer / North by Northwestern

    4. Making time for each assignment led to getting more stuff done – who would have known?

    Of course, having to go to the library to do most of my work meant I needed to budget time for travel, so I decided that I wouldn’t bother going if I wasn’t going to be there for at least an hour. Before I’d broken my computer, I used to do assignments in short spurts when I found time, but clearing large chunks of my day to get things done actually boosted my productivity. Plus, when I arrived at the lab at night knowing that I wouldn't be back until the next day, I was forced to finish my homework instead of procrastinating.

    Photo by Emma Kumer / North by Northwestern

    5. ... As does ditching friends and food.

    As an added bonus, being laptopless meant leaving the lure of my dorm snack drawer and distraction of friends from the floor. Take a trip to the lab sometime and you’ll be impressed how much you get done with no one to distract you except the beckoning call of Bergson’s coffee on the second level. You’ll be glad you did – but your meal swipes might not.

    So, my computer is still broken. Am I pissed about it? Absolutely. But I’ve learned to live without it, for the moment, and I think I’ve become a better (if not, more resourceful) person for it. Of course, I’m probably not going to miss the corded mouse and detached keyboard of the lab computer when I no longer need them, but who knows? I'll probably be back. My replacement hard drives might be short-lived, but main library? That isn't going anywhere.

    Photo by Emma Kumer / North by Northwesterm


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