Every time I hear some blogger utter the phrase, ‘If you don’t feed your blog it will die,’ my mind wanders off on a 1990’s tangent. And I’m transported to a warm and happy place filled with my old friend, Tamagotchi.
The Tamagotchi and I go way back. Like 1996 back. The first time I saw these little Japanese virtual pets I was smitten. They were fun, cute and cleaning up after them was easy; who wouldn’t love these things? I liked them so much that I didn’t buy just one, I bought five. And since they were small I took them with me wherever I went. I played with them at school, fed them at lunch, took them to volleyball practice and even slept with them in bed. Soon they became one of my main sources of companionship. And although that last sentence sounds depressing and a bit dire, I assure you that I still had actual human friends.
But while people typically have friends and family to rely upon when needed, my Tamagotchi had only me. Without me they would not and could not survive. They provided me with a sense of purpose. From the moment I pulled out that little plastic tab in the back to activate the battery I had a responsibility. My goal was to raise happy and healthy Tamagotchi and I wasn’t going to fail.
A few days turned into weeks, which soon turned into three months and my life had drastically changed. Things were no longer fun and easy going. Everything now revolved around my Tamagotchi. I played with them, slept with them and dropped everything the moment the alarm notification went off to tend to their needs. The sense of purpose I had so foolishly bought into had now faded and was replaced by the overwhelming reality of virtual servitude.
One night while lying in bed unable to go back to sleep after being woken for feeding time, I reflected on the what my life had become. It had slipped into a downward spiral of misery. To be frank, it was total dog shit. I was a loser with five Tamagotchi. I needed a way out. I could toss them out of a window or leave them on the bus or in A.P. English class where most of my stuff got stolen anyway, but after an hour or so I couldn’t fully commit to getting rid of them. I had already invested so much of my time I couldn’t just stop. Three months of my life would have been wasted for nothing! As I drifted off to sleep, I decided then and there that I would see this Tamagotchi debacle through till the end.
Four months into my self-imposed life sentence, I decided to joined my father on a last-minute trip down to our house in Mexico to go fishing. I love fishing with my dad and since quality time was scarce, I quickly grabbed a few essentials for the long weekend and embarked on an eight hour drive to our beach front hut.
In the dead of the night, our Suburban whizzed down the freeway. My dad was notorious for leaving on road trips at 2 a.m. to avoid traffic, and as we made our way down the coast, you could see that there was a method to his madness. The freeway was bare with no other cars in sight and we were making excellent time. I opened the window and let the cool wind reek havoc on my hair and I deeply inhaled the salty scent of the Pacific. I instantly felt relieved. Leaving L.A. was exactly what I needed and once my father shifted into cruise control, I succumbed to carcolepsy (car + narcolepsy) and drifted off into a peaceful sleep.
Six hours later I woke up groggy, parched and in Mexico. My dad had pulled into a gas station to fill up before we continued on our journey. I got out of the car to stretch my legs. As I raised my hands over my head to work out some of the stiffness that had set in during the drive, it suddenly dawned on me that I had forgotten my Tamagotchi at home. Panic immediately set in. What do I do? Would my dad willing part with his pesos to let me call home? Would my sister even be there to answer? Would she be willing to take care of them for four days till I got back? If she wasn’t, would grandma do it? How does one even say, “Please take care of my virtual pets for me till I get back or they will die,” to their 70 year-old grandmother in Korean without sounding completely insane. My dad looked at me with a quizzical stare and asked if I was okay. I nodded by head and quickly looked at the ground. I felt my eyes tearing up and got back into the car to avoid embarrassing myself.
Once the tank was full, my dad got back in and started the engine. He asked if I was hungry and I just shrugged my shoulders. I was always hungry and loved Mexican food but I couldn’t talk; I was beside myself with grief. We drove in silence to a taco stand along the dirt highway and he ordered me two carne asada tacos. Though my mind was else where, my mouth started salivating and my stomach grumbled the instant I caught a whiff of the sizzling meat. They looked and smelled delicious. We sat and ate in silence. My meal was tasty but I was too worried to enjoy it.
The drive to the beach seemed like an eternity and my thoughts kept returning to my Tamagotchi and devising a plan of rescue. Maybe the town near the beach would have a phone. Maybe my dad would lend me the money if I told him the call was homework related. Maybe I could bribe Grace into taking care of the Tamagotchi for me. Ugh. I felt like a failure. How could I have let this happen? How could I just forget them at home like that? They had no one else but me to take care of them and I abandoned them. I felt horrible.
So I did what any other teenager would do. I sulked. I didn’t want to fish, I didn’t want to swim, I didn’t want to go horseback riding, I didn’t want to do anything but wallow in my own self-loathing. I was having a pity party for one. Quality time was not working out as planned. But to my relief, our neighbors arrived with their kids in tow and could easily keep him company while I went behind the sand dunes to sulk uninterrupted. I began drawing the Tamagotchi’s faces in the sand with tears streaming out of their eyes. They were probably sad and alone and frightened without me. This was horrible. I quickly rubbed out their faces with my hand and let out a frustrated yell. All of the sudden I heard a voice behind me. “Uh, what are you doing?” It was our neighbor’s son. He was around my age, maybe a bit younger. He had been dragged down to Mexico to spend some time with his dad and wasn’t very happy. I murmured that I wasn’t doing anything and avoided eye contact. He gave me a weird look and walked away. As the day continued, none of the other kids came to talk to me and avoided all interaction. Not only was I an irresponsible Tamagotchi caretaker, I was now a pariah. I felt like Tori Spelling in Beverly Hills 90210 pre-boob job.
Now, I’m not an illogical person. Actually, I’m quite rational. So after an emotional day of sulking and over analyzing, I laid out on the beach looking up at the stars and began to think to myself about what would happen if my Tamagotchi died. Would the world end? Would my world end? Should I still consider calling home to save them from a fate worse than virtual death? Then it hit me. This was probably some plot by the Japanese to oppress the Koreans!! I laughed. It was something my dad would have probably said if he knew why I was being so aloof and moody. No, the reality of it all was that I got absolutely nothing out of taking care of these things. Rather than having a sense of purpose or receiving any joy, they left me stressed and tired. They just took and took. No, the Tamagotchi was my oppressor and I had had enough. I wasn’t going to make myself sick worrying about them. I had wasted enough time on them and I refused to waste anymore, especially this weekend. This was a lesson learned and I decided there and then that the lesson was now over.
I spent the rest of the weekend doing my best to have a great time with my dad. We stood on cliffs catching perch. I accidentally hooked him once in the butt when the wind kicked up and threw my line off course. Sorry! We told stories, had adventures and ate like kings. I even hung out with the other kids. I was no longer the weirdo leper for I had a bag of Jet-Puffed giant marshmallows and an open fire. Winning.
After one day of misery and three days of fun we headed back home. I didn’t want to go back because I knew what was waiting for me, but it was unavoidable. Once we got back I went to my bedroom and saw that my Tamagotchi were still next to my pillow like they always were. It made me sad. Maybe I had been wrong about it all. Maybe they really did need me. I picked them up and noticed that a few had died and others were on the verge. I could have easily nursed them back to health with some medicine but opted against it. I had to draw the line and stand firm. I put them in shoebox with some old socks to muffle any sounds and put them in the back of my closet. No longer would I be at their beck and call. My virtual shackles were unlocked and I was free.
For a week or so afterwards, I went through withdrawal. I still woke up in the middle of the night without fail for feeding time. I still heard ghost alarms which made me reach for my bag only to realize that they were no longer there. It turned out that the dependency I had on them was far greater than what they had on me. But as time went on and they faded from my memory, other things took their place. AOL, MSN messenger, Google, eBay, facebook, Diablo I and II, online scrabble, Twitter, blogging and more, each taking up my time with nominal return. I would lose a few hours here and there, then afternoons and soon whole days were wasted away. While others enjoyed their day, I slept all morning and afternoon before I awoke and started the process all over again. It was a lose-lose situation that was highly addictive and I had to fight to break free. I still do…
Technological dependencies, what a bitch.
So when someone says a blog is going to die without constant care and upkeep, I say, why not. Let it die and see what happens. I’m sure we’ll all survive. After all, blogs will probably be around much longer than we ever will, so it doesn’t hurt living our lives now while we still can.