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Life detox - Joel Hall

Since moving into a new apartment earlier this summer, I have experienced some give and take.

For $50 extra dollars a month, I have twice as much space as I once did, twenty times more security, and peace and quiet I haven't experienced in a long time.

However, the high-speed Internet access, which I enjoyed at my old apartment, has not followed me to my new domicile.

Since the end of July, I have had no Internet access at home. That can do strange things to a man who has become accustomed to the cyber world.

It hit me when I realized that after unpacking, I hadn't even turned on my computer for about a month. I hadn't even taken the mouse out of the bag that I had packed it away in for the move.

In the previous year, my computer was a life line. It was the first thing I turned on in my apartment, even before the lights. I would use it to check my bank statements, write to my friends and family, look up fun activities for the weekend, keep up a blog, post meaningful articles or viral video on Facebook, and stay in touch with the many friends I have left behind in other countries using Skype.

With no Internet and with many of my possessions still in boxes, I found myself constantly staring at the ceiling fan. All the while, my mind was racing, wondering what was my bank account balance, what funny pop culture was I missing out on, and which people in Austria, South Africa, and Japan were questioning my friendship for not calling them.

In the last month or two, I have gone through some serious Internet withdrawal. You would think that they would have come up with a patch for that by now, but I've really just had to sweat it out of my system.

There is Internet access as work, but it's not the same as unbridled, nobody-is-looking-over-your-shoulder, nobody-is-listening, nobody-cares-if-you-spend-two-hours-researching-the-history-of-cheese Internet. There are limitations to what you can do, and where you can go.

In addition to that, by the time I complete a 12-hour day at the newspaper, I usually don't have enough functioning brain cells to lollygag on the Internet, anyway. I am forgetting to do at work many of the Internet tasks I would perform at home.

Very slowly, I have had to rediscover the person I was before I encountered the Internet.

Sorting out my new apartment, I have realized how many interesting endeavors I put aside to make room for free time on the Internet.

Two years ago, I had bought a "how-to-juggle" kit from a book store that was going out of business. Since moving from Virginia to start working for the newspaper, I have never opened it.

Since 2006, I've accumulated an impressive collection of classic and best-selling novels, most of which have never been opened. Daniel Keys' "Flowers for Algernon," Amy Tan's "The Bonesetter's Daughter," and Ben Mezrich's "Ugly Americans" are books I have never touched. I stared Ishmael Beah's "A Long Way Gone," but put it down after the first chapter.

I had forgotten I could draw cartoons with relative ease and, with some rehearsal, speak four different languages somewhat intelligibly. I had forgotten that I can play two or three instruments, and when pushed, was not a bad tenor, either.

While not having the Internet has been frustrating at times, it has given me all the time in the world to rediscover the individuality I could never achieve on the web. For that, I am grateful.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at jhall@news-daily.com.