I always like to joke that I lived under a rock for the entirety of my childhood. I had what could be described as a typical first generation Asian-American upbringing. My parents were always strict, expected me to do well in school, and had a lot of random rules that I always thought were normal. (For example, I wasn't allowed to go to sleepovers, and I definitely wasn't allowed to date until I graduated from college.) But by far, of all of the rules I grew up abiding by, growing up without internet or cable tv was one of the most memorable — and arguably the best — parts of my childhood.
Now I know what you're thinking: How on Earth could I have possibly gotten through an entire childhood without internet or cable TV? To be fair, it was a different time when I was growing up. We didn't necessarily need the internet to get through our classes — I used books to do research (GASP!) — and I feel like I didn't miss out on much by not having cable. Sure, I miss out on SpongeBob references in casual conversations, but I got really good at completing homework assignments within the two hour-limit on the computers at the public library.
Even though some people might think it's weird that I didn't have internet or cable TV growing up, I think that it's a part of my childhood that made me the person I am today.
I used to think that not having these things were some form of cruel and unusual punishment.
My parents are from the Philippines, which already made me feel like I was different than the rest of my classmates when I was younger. (Bringing Filipino food in tupperware for lunch instead of turkey sandwiches probably didn't help, either, but that food was delicious, so who cares?) But because I couldn't connect with my classmates about the latest episode of Even Stevens, I felt even more alienated.
I can't even begin to count the number of arguments I got in with my parents about their rules; the lack of internet and cable were just the tip of the iceberg. For some reason, I thought that they were purposely making my life miserable to make me undateable or unlikeable. Of course, that wasn't the case, but try telling that to melodramatic middle school me.
Not having internet and cable helped me concentrate on the things that were important to me.
When I was younger, I thought that not having internet or cable was the worst kind of punishment ever. But even though I didn't realize it at the time, not having those things helped me concentrate on all of the things that I needed to do. My parents allotted me one hour of television a week (which I used on American Idol, of course), and I spent the rest of my time doing other things that made me happy.
I practiced piano, read a ton of books, and went to my extracurricular activities, like school choir and dance class. Because of my dedication —and lack of distractions — I began to excel at the things that I eventually fell in love with, like music, theater, and school. (Yes, I'm one of those people who actually loved being in school.)
Not having internet and cable freed me of distractions that would hinder me from reaching my goals.
Times have changed, of course, but I still love telling this story.
Nowadays, it's probably impossible for kids to get through school without at least access to the internet, and cable TV is all but obsolete. My siblings and I definitely won't have the option of raising our future kids the way our parents raised us — my niece already has a favorite cable TV show, which is Mickey Mouse Clubhouse — but we definitely carry around the lessons we learned from our parents.
I like to think that not having cable and internet is part of why my siblings and I work so hard, and why we've found success in the things that we do. Admittedly, I'm now the kind of person who works on my laptop while streaming a show on my iPad while also texting someone on my phone. But even though my dependency on technology has grown immensely, my dedication to the other things in my life outside of my electronic devices has stayed.
Thanks, mom and dad. I guess you knew what you were doing, after all.