Zak of All Trades: Can you imagine life without (fill in the blank)?

It's hard to imagine a world where certain things don't exist, isn't it?

I mean, back when I was a kid, we didn't even have Internet at our house, but today, if my Internet router is acting up for five
minutes, I'm freaking out!

We grow so accustomed to some of these things that we really come to a point where it's hard to imagine what life would be like without them.

So, that got me thinking about what a world without certain things might be like.

Here are some of those random thoughts compiled into one mind-blowing column. Well, it blows my mind, anyhow!

• Internet — Let's start right off the get-go with the one that got me thinking about these sorts of things. I'm a huge fan of reading, but these days, the thing I read most is my Twitter feed.

(No, I don't tweet; I just have a dummy account set up to follow all sorts of sports news reporters and sites to stay up-to-date.)

And when my Internet suddenly stopped working a few nights ago, I seriously didn't know what to do with myself. I pay my bills online; I'm pretty reliant on email to communicate with folks; I check scores constantly on my favorite sports websites; I fall asleep to my Pandora Internet radio; and the first thing I do in the morning is usually run down through that Twitter feed just to make sure I didn't miss anything while I was asleep.

Life without the Internet would be incredibly different for me! I'd either be a hermit, or I'd be forced to come out of my shell to interact with people in real life.

And I'm not even on the connected end of the spectrum.

I have friends who can't put their phones down for more than 30 seconds without starting to twitch. The fact that we're so plugged in sure feels like a good thing, but at times, I'm worried for the future of a civilization that does everything online.

• Beef jerky — Anyone who knows me knows that about 1/3 of my daily caloric intake comes from the most glorious of the food groups — beef jerky.

It comes in all sorts of flavors, but for the most part, it's just salty sweetness no matter what flavor it is. Beef jerky is my go-to food.

I love chocolate; I love pasta; but if I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life for some dumb reason, I'd be scrambling to find a way to make some sort of beef jerky/bacon concoction.

And no, Bacon Jerky doesn't count, because it tastes gross — quite surprisingly. Having tasted that salty sweetness, I truly couldn't imagine what it'd be like to live in a world without it.

• Netflix and other streaming thingies — I'll admit that before I moved into my own place, I had no idea why anyone would spend the money on a monthly subscription for something that showed old television shows and movies, but now that I've sampled Netflix, I'm fairly confident that I couldn't imagine a world that didn't have these streaming sites/programs.

Binge watching has become about as important to me as beef jerky — which, as I noted above, is quite important to me.

Shows that I never thought I'd enjoy, I've watched 12 episodes at a time, just because I could! Shows that I thought I'd love and wait for week-to-week suddenly seem blah and I can barely get through them, even knowing that I could watch all 247 episodes in a sitting if I wanted to.

In an instant gratification world, these programs are pure genius, and now, I couldn't imagine a world without them.

• Caffeine — Honestly. As I type this, I can smell the small pot of coffee I have brewing in the kitchen as it nears completion. I usually drink a cup or two (a real cup, not one of those 6-oz. serving size cups) each morning and another one or two when I get to work.

Some days I have more caffeine than others. Some days I have less. But hardly a day goes by when I don't kick-start my life at least a little bit with some caffeine. I'm sure I could live without caffeine if I absolutely had to — although I've been told that it's present in some of my favorite things that aren't coffee, so I'd have to do some research — but at this point, I truly couldn't imagine what life would be like without it, because I'm so used to having it.

• Memories — I'm what I like to call a "fond rememberer." Some would call it over-romanticizing, but looking back on pretty much every period of my life, I remember it better than it actually happened.

And I'm absolutely OK with that. A big part of that is that I'm pretty good with selective memory recall. I'm sure that those nasty memories are buried down inside me somewhere, but for the most part, my memories of my past are positive ones — even in the ones surrounding the bad stuff, I can recall the good.

So, I couldn't imagine what life would be like without these memories. I'm sure some folks wish they could let go of their memories, but I'm pretty glad to be an over-romanticizer in this case!

• Music — As I type up this list, there's music playing in the background. Most days I wouldn't survive the 20-minute drive to DuBois without music, so I certainly can't imagine what a life without music would be like. I don't think I'm alone on this one.

• Family — Self-explanatory, I hope. I'm quite appreciative of my family, all they've done for me and the sacrifices they've made for me, and I couldn't imagine life without them.

• Baseball — I know a lot of folks think the game is "boring," but this town sure has an appreciation for it, and I'm thankful for that. I just couldn't imagine where I'd be today if it weren't for baseball — both watching it and playing it growing up. It taught me so much about myself, and it continues to do so each day.

• Writing — Writing is my release, and I'm so glad I get to do it for a living. I couldn't imagine a world without it.

When I'm being honest with myself, I can easily admit that, while I couldn't imagine life without all of these things and so many more, I do take them for granted.

That's the thing with things that we can't imagine life without — we don't even consider the possibility that we could be without them, so we take them for granted.

I'd be a little bit odd if I were to start going around thanking my computer for allowing me to write or my coffee cup for providing that daily jolt.

But that doesn't mean that I'm not missing out if I don't take a moment to be thankful that these things are a part of my life — even with their negative effects: I'm looking at you and your high sodium intake, beef jerky!

Every once in a while, I think we should take a bit to think about what life would be like without the things we couldn't imagine living without.

Zak Lantz is the editor of The Spirit. He downed an entire mug of coffee and two bags of beef jerky while writing this column — which he spread out over three days. Don't worry ... He's not that hooked on the stuff!