Living life at 10 mph

This past weekend I spent some time at Lake Wapello State Park west of Drakesville. The park is a special place for me. It provides beautiful scenery and the chance for me to exercise my skills as a photographer.

I make several trips a year to Lake Wapello. The camera is a necessity for me during each trip. Many times, I stop and take photos of the same scenery but each time I go I find something new to photograph. Last weekend I was charged with the task of finding some photos for this week’s newspaper.

My wife and I enjoy the park but last weekend I made the trip by myself because she was busy. This particular trip afforded me a chance to not only do some photography for work and for my own pleasure, but it afforded me the chance to continue some soul searching that I’ve been doing over the past couple of weeks.

I’ve been in the middle of some personal struggles and last week’s three-hour trip to the park was just what I needed. While in the park, I realized something that seemed rather profound at the time. Most of the time my trips to the lake find me taking photos right from the driver’s seat of my pickup. I do set out on foot as well, but following my broken leg this past spring and subsequent issues with my ankle, the driver’s seat was the perfect place for me this past weekend.

I drove around the park at what most people would consider a snail’s pace. I rarely drive the posted speed limit of 25 mph. because I’m constantly looking out my truck windows for that next photograph. Much of the trip around the park is spent driving at speeds of 10 mph or less.

As I took my drive, I search diligently for my next masterpiece, that next photograph that would steal my heart. Many times, I stopped, put the vehicle in reverse or even positioned it, blocking the roadway just to get my chosen photograph.

As I negotiated the roadways and trails of the park, I came across a speed limit sign in the camp ground that required speeds of 10 mph or less. That’s not something you see every day. However, it also got me to thinking about my photography choices, what photographs I’d missed by even traveling as fast as the 10 mph speed limit. The terrible thing is I realized I’ve missed a lot. I decided to go back over the park in some places and I actually got back out and set out on foot as best I could.

As I said before, I’ve also been dealing with some personal struggles recently and the 10 mph-speed-limit sign also sparked some thoughts about the way I live my life.

In the past two weeks, I’ve made a huge decision that has affected me in a positive way. I’ve taken myself off of social media. Instagram gone. Facebook deactivated. I rarely use Snapchat and My Twitter usage is mostly for work.

The scary part is, after removing myself from social media on Oct. 1, I realized a horrifying fact about myself. My screen time on my mobile phone was reduced by half to two-thirds what it used to be. My daily usage had reached embarrassing levels of up to half or more of a 24-hour day. Most of that was due to social media.

Since making the change, my phone’s screen time usage has dropped to 2-4 hours per day, including checking sports applications or my new-found activity of reading the Bible on the Bible app.

I joined Facebook in 2009. The scary part is with usage levels reaching 10-12 hours per day or more, I’ve essentially wasted half of the past decade staring at my phone screen for one reason or another. The thought about how much of my life I’ve missed is horrifying to think about.

As I traveled around the lake last weekend, I did so with my side windows down so I could get those photographs. As I traveled by the main lodge building at the beach, I noticed a mother and two small girls exploring the upper level of that lodge building that looked out over the lake. I heard one of the girls yell out, “Hey Mommy, look” as she pointed out something her exploring eyes had found.

The mother was staring at her phone screen and without looking up, she replied, “Yes, honey, I see.” The woman saw nothing except her phone screen and simply verbalized a response to pacify her daughter’s need for that response.

I provide the vision of this mother and children only to illustrate a point. I have no idea what the mother missed by not paying attention to that little girl. The sad part is, the mother will also never know. Life was passing that mother by and she didn’t even care because she was staring at her phone.

I’ve learned a lot about myself, my life and others in the past two weeks by removing social media, the drama, the anger and the sadness that people see fit to post daily. The trip to Lake Wapello opened my eyes even more because I realized even more about what I’ve missed simply by traveling faster than 10 mph.

How many of you purchase tickets to all levels of sporting events, concerts or other activities? When you attend those events, how much of your time spent behind your phone screen because you can’t put it down?

At this point, I want to ask you, my readers, some important questions. What are you missing in your life? What have you missed in your marriage? How much time have you missed with friends or family? What have you missed by verbalizing responses to your children without pulling your face away from that electronics screen? There are 100 other questions that could be asked of you that would fit your life. Think about what questions fit you and ask them of yourself.

It’s time to remove social media from your life and get back to living. Put the phones down. Try living your life at 10 mph or less and see what you’ve been missing.