Living Outside The Box

I often questioned our need for television and now, without one, I'm finding out for myself. 

I remember when a mature student from my photography class in college said he had no TV, I immediately said “WHAT?” and then followed that up with some more interrogation such as “WHY???, What’s wrong with you? Are you the last cave man alive? For the love of god explain yourself and this strangeness!!!”.

He was a thought provoking man and because he didn’t drink alcohol or eat meat, I just assumed he had no TV because it was another thing everyone else loved and therefore he avoided. Maybe he chose this ‘no TV’ life for penance because he partied so hard with a band in his early years. The difference between us was that he dedicated himself wholeheartedly to every college project and it showed in the results. Where as I was going out most nights, delighted I was passing all my projects and mainly being the kind of student old people roll their eyes up at.

This is why I think of mature students differently. They may have lived the college life as most of us do first time around, but second time back they mean business. I wondered did he need to focus 100% on his work and thought a TV would be too distracting? Or maybe he just thought people who really need a TV are wasting their lives and money. Are we just doing anything we want nowadays because everything is so easily at our fingertips, regardless of the outcome?

After seeing every project he presented in class and hearing all the activities he got up to every weekend, he certainly wasn’t boring just because he had no TV. I realised he just makes the most of life by being creative, experiencing new things and always being up for a laugh. I never thought about it until recently but he said anything he needs to know he’ll find out reading the paper or on the internet. He was right. That’s all we really need. But why do I still feel like I’m missing out on something not having a TV.

I knew someone who was obsessed with stalking celebrities on the internet while she was at work and then followed every soap in the evening. I think she was so unhappy with her own life making others (lives) seem more interesting. Some people can get caught up minding everyone else’s business instead of their own. Funny thing is they are usually the people who need to sort themselves and their lives out the most. The most successful people don’t have the time to watch hours of TV simply because they’re too busy living their life. Somehow I cant see Beyoncé watching Emmerdale every evening.

Many a time I thought to myself - I can either live my life or watch actors play a fake one. Knowing the first thought was the best, the second option was just so convenient, comfortable and easy.

When studying photography in college I couldn’t possibly imagine life without a TV. I was living with my three friends and it was always on. Silly of course, because when I was in the apartment I was either intoxicated and couldn’t see the TV, or in my room doing a project start to finish the night before it was due. If I didn’t have a TV in college I know for a fact I would’ve still had a laugh and maybe done just that little bit more study.

The best memories I have of that place are blasting up the Girls Aloud song ‘Jump’  on a tiny old radio and the four of us eejets dancing around the table in that filthy little sitting room. Thinking of the laughs we had before we even headed out and the messing we did constantly with everyone and everything always bring a smile to my face. Not one of those great memories include the television. So many of us turn the TV on and walk out of the room just to use it as background noise. Some just flick through stations complaining about the amount of crap on every channel, the price of  the TV licence and bills each month. So the question is now, why does it feel so important for us to have a TV in our house?

Maybe the thoughts of not having something everyone else you know has, could create feelings of isolation, boredom and judgement?The phrase thinking outside the (TV) box comes to mind. A few years ago when my TV broke, I thought “right first things first, lets PANIC AND WORRY as much as possible and see if that helps”.  It didn’t help what so ever as it turns out, but it’s always my first reaction because I’m really good at it. Then I thought what on earth am I going to do in this silence?

This is when everything changed for the better. My mind began to focus on things I’ve always enjoyed doing like photography, painting and writing material. I was suddenly doing things I needed to do like cooking healthier meals, going to interviews and booking comedy gigs. I was even doing things I’ve always wanted to do but thought I never had the time, like sowing all my torn clothes. Most of them made me look like I’d been attacked by wolves and dragged through a ditch - A ditch made of blades and lit cigarettes. I exercised more just to get myself out of the house and therefore felt healthier and happier. I certainly experienced more outside than I would have curled up in my sitting room on my own.

I spent a lot of time tightening up old jokes and writing new material. I took every gig I was offered up and down the country, just to meet people and try out the new material. I worked my crazy little ass off  gigging up north, sometimes coming home at 6am. Just so you know when you close a gig in Belfast and you miss the 1am bus by 5minutes, the next bus is 3am. But you only find that out at 2am because the drivers change plans now and again for the laugh. It takes 2hr 30mins to get back to Dublin and then you have to walk home because you don’t have a penny in euros to get a taxi. A particularly tough night waiting in the cold for 2hours, but people laughed at me on stage, so clearly that made it all worth while. And all that hard work paid off because I won a few more comedy competitions to boost my confidence.

Best of all I got myself a day job too which saved me from more than you would believe. I seriously doubt I would have been anywhere near as productive if id have had my trusted TV as a companion every day. It  really was a blessing in disguise.Unfortunately some things change, and just like when someone comes off a very strict diet, they tend to go hell for leather on the goodies when they’re left alone with them. My TV got fixed and I snuggled up on my couch with buckets of ice-cream, bags of crisps and fell right back in love with TV and its company. At least I had a job to go to during the day and gigs in the evening to keep myself and the TV in a healthy relationship.

In more recent times I have gone without a TV for nearly six months now. I know hardcore or what. Getting up at 7:30am means I have 6 hours of productivity done before lunchtime. The word ‘Lunchtime’ wasn’t usually part of my vocabulary. I seemed to miss out on that experience as it was more commonly know to myself as ‘Sure I may as well get up then’ time. Being a self employed comedian and writer means I must be able to motivate myself. Although I find it tough to do all the time, when I do put my head down and focus I feel brilliant and so much more positive about everything. It’s amazing the amount of productive work you can get done in the same amount of time you can have a nightmare!!!

It’s  actually harder to procrastinate when you’ve no TV, as there’s not really much else to do but the things you have to do. You just get on with it and the day flies. Of course the day flies when you get up at 5pm too.

Over the past few TV free months, I’ve the house as clean as it can be. I have been exercising regularly - not snacking while watching shows and forgetting I already ate. I have been working on new material and towards my second 1hour show. Got my website up and running. Half built a canoe from scratch with my boyfriend. (Sure who needs more than half a boat anyway?) Learned more in these few months about cooking than I have in 30 years of my sandwich eating life. It’s been a wonderful experience.All that being said and realised……….we might be getting a TV in the house again!!!

 Straight away I’m so unbelievably excited and happy to have the luxury of a TV again. It will be like soft, scented toilet roll at a festival for me. I’m already fantasising about how my mind slips into living at every place they discover on Location, Location, Location. Adverts will be magical coming up to Christmas too. How sad am I looking forward to watching even adverts? What has happened to me?

It’ll be so strange being able to watch all the comedy shows on a big screen instead of  YouTube on my iphone. I also wont miss having to pray to God that the RTE player doesn’t freeze in the middle of the last episode of  a series. All this annoyance may be gone once again, but will all my productive work go with it?I keep telling myself it would just be lovely to have it over the Christmas holidays but we all know “A TV’s not just for Christmas”. This blog will make me sound like a yoyo dieter when it comes to TV - I over indulge myself with it and then go cold turkey.

So this is it, my challenge is how do I stay productive and hard at work when I work from a home that may have a TV in it soon? With nobody around to tell me what to do or when to do it. I’ve taken advise from people who I think are successful and I remember a comedian telling me “always think ahead and ask what is my goal for today, this week, 6months time? What do I want to achieve in a year and 2 years? And you’ll never get bored because you’ll always have something to work towards”.

Therefore with the impending thoughts of this new arrival to the house, I’m getting myself prepared early before the flashing disturbance starts. Working for myself now, I know I work best under pressure and therefore listing things to do everyday helps me have targets to achieve in short spaces of time. You know what they, if you want something done - ask someone busy. Everything is easier when you’re on a roll.

I’m choosing to take small positive steps of change daily and trying to change this ‘all or nothing’ disaster mode I’m so used to. I am willing to meet this ‘Balance’ that people keep suggesting I try. How about instead of 50/50, I try start with 40% work and 60% play. Finishing with some wise words I discovered on a fridge magnet “You don’t have to be brilliant to start, But you do have to start to be brilliant”.


Written by Niamh Marron