Ten things I used to do a lot that I don’t do a lot anymore

Ten things I used to do a lot that I don’t do a lot anymore

Watch TV.

My peak of TV-watching, on an hour-per-day basis, was in the 80s—when I was a kid, and when kid’s television was notoriously terrible, full of half-hour advertisements for crappy toy lines. Now I’m an adult, and TV is having a new golden age of adult programming, available at the click of a button. I still watch my share of TV, but I’ll never be as committed to Girls or Empire as I used to be to Family Ties or Siskel & Ebert. I think I miss the thrill of the hunt: pre-Netflix, if your show was on and your siblings or parents hadn’t beat you to the TV, you absolutely had to watch it. Now? Whatever.

Play soccer.

There was a two-year period of my childhood when I really tried to style myself a dashing young footballer. I tried to toughen up my shins, and I prided myself on my knowledge of strategy. (Dad: “You always just hang back by the goal.” Me: “I’m playing defense!”) Eventually, though, I came to terms with the fact that I didn’t have the wind for soccer—and wasn’t going to have the wind for soccer, because it bored me to tears. The current American soccer craze feels like my past coming back to haunt me.

Go to church.

At least twice a week: once on Sunday with my family, and once during the week with my Catholic school class. Church also bored me to tears—I’d have elaborate daydreams, and during those Masses that happened right before lunch, I’d imagine that the whole church was edible and try to decide what sweet substance each statue and pew would taste like—but there’s a part of me that will always miss the ritual of church. It felt like the whole world was coming together to solemnly acknowledge how much Sundays suck.

Follow professional golf.

With each passing year, it becomes more and more clear to me how deeply ironic my long-time interest in golf was. I learned to golf from my dad, but our testy times together on the course weren’t exactly idyllic. Then I played golf for four years on my high school team, and in those four years we had precisely one earned win. To this day, I’ve never broken 100 for 18 holes. Yet, somehow I took interest in professional golf—subscribing to Golf Digest and having my friends over for games of VCR Golf, where your score would be contingent on whether Chi-Chi Rodriguez sank his putt. Once I got to college, I quickly stopped caring about pro golf; a few weeks ago, when the Masters were on, I looked at the TV and thought, “Who are these people?”

Put Equal on my salad.

I used to be deeply confused about how basic human biology regarding weight gain works. I was a chubby kid, then I got a little leaner in high school, and then when I chubbed out again in college, I decided that the solution was not to exercise (although I did have some misadventures on Rollerblades) but to eat less. That was a problem, because our daily ritual at Boston University involved sitting in the dining hall—with its unlimited food—for about four hours a day. To reconcile this, I devised ever weirder ways of eating without really eating. The peak of my dietary oddness was Equal salad: I’d get a big plate of lettuce from the salad bar, then lightly dust it with aspertame to give it some kind of flavor. (Emphasis on some kind.)

Read philosophy.

My college roommate Dave was a philosophy major; he used to read the 90s-era crazy-color editions of Frederick Copleston’s 11-volume history of philosophy, as well as other texts that he seemed to actually find interesting. My curiosity was piqued, since in Catholic school philosophy had been implicitly dismissed as the kind of thing you read if you’re a heathen skeptic on the highway to hell. I started to buy a lot of philosophy books, some of which I read, although I never made it too far into anything that wasn’t an introductory text or Sophie’s World. In grad school I took a course on the philosophy of consciousness, which I did fairly well in despite trying to argue that rocks are conscious. This period of my life coincided with my participation in the Massachusetts Humanist community, where I was actively encouraged to read books by heathen skeptics on the highway to hell. By the end of my grad school career, my interest in Socrates & Co. had tailed off—but the first volume of Copleston’s history is still on my Goodreads want-to-read shelf.

Drink tea.

Another habit I picked up from Dave—and, like so many Gen-X science fiction fans, from Jean-Luc Picard. As with TV, scarcity was a factor here: the one closely-rationed item at the BU dining halls was Bigelow tea. You could request one teabag, insulated in its fancy little individual sleeve, when you swiped your card. Of course, I requested one every time, and since I rarely actually drank the tea during mealtimes, I accumulated a sizable stash of Bigelow tea bags back in my dorm room, where I’d drink the tea late at night while I studied. I also happened to travel to London several times in my 20s, and each time I’d come back with a stash of tea bags. Eventually, like the good American I am, I tipped over towards coffee and largely abandoned tea. I’ve recently started hitting the Celestial Seasonings section as a guilty pleasure, but if you come over to my apartment and ask for a cup of black tea, you’re definitely getting a bag of Earl Grey that I bought at Harrods in 2006.


When I was in college and grad school in Massachusetts, I flew back to Minnesota a minimum of three times a year—plus other destinations, on academic and personal trips. Now that I live in Minnesota, I fly at most a couple of times a year, almost exclusively for personal reasons. I do and don’t miss my old jet-setting lifestyle, which was tied to the fact that I essentially lived in two places. I always knew where I was, but I never really knew where I belonged. Now I know where I belong: in this water-stained Minneapolis four-plex. When I do travel now, I can really enjoy it. What most sucks, looking back, is that all that airport time happened before Twitter.


Just like I used to think I would be a kid who plays soccer, there was a period of my adult life when I thought I would be a dude who jogs. In grad school I’d hit the dorm’s treadmill after boozy academic dinners, blasting indie-rock podcasts on my earbuds while I clomped along in a merry haze. Even after I moved back to Minnesota, I’d load up a playlist and go scurrying around St. Paul. When I moved to Minneapolis, though, I realized that biking was both more practical (you can actually get places) and easier (you can sit down while you’re doing it).

Blog gratuitous lists of personal bullshit.

In, like, 2011 and 2012, this blog was full of crap like this. Haven’t you missed it? Don’t answer that.

Jay Gabler