‘I felt… fine’: How forgetting my earphones changed my life

11 Apr 2019,
By Nana, Student at Heriot Watt University

I love my earphones, not because I hate people - I just hate interacting with them. They make noise, they move, they even breathe. Not that it’s wrong to breathe, that’s okay, it’s allowed - just not my air. My earphones protect me from all this.

But, on a serious note, I’d been planning to leave my earphones at home for a day to see what difference it would make - but I kept procrastinating. And then, one day, I actually forgot them. With only four minutes to catch the bus, there was no going back - this was the day.

Here’s how I accidentally changed my life for the better when I forgot my earphones.

The outside world was vivid

Three steps outside of my building and I was already waiting for my withdrawal symptoms to kick in. Sweaty palms, a racing pulse, a sea of nausea, lightheadedness. But no, it was nothing like that. I felt… normal, almost… fine.

Then it hit me: what is that awful smell? Why is outside so bright? Who is this person smiling at me like we’ve met before? What are all these colours? Is that a squirrel?

A day without my beloved headphones was really proving to be quite the shock. Grass is green, leaves fall off the trees in winter, and couples in parks are gross. My awareness was elevated and, for the first time in a while, I fully remembered each part of my day. I was more present and generally a happier and more relaxed person.

Social interactions were bearable

I became more engaged in conversations with my peers, less antisocial and - dare I say it - a generally better-rounded member of society. I even made eye contact with a group of boys sat across from me, which I thought may be the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Unfortunately, as soon I turned away one began to pick his nose, another proceeded to swipe away on Tinder, and the third called his girlfriend to tell her how much he loved her. Better luck next time.

Also, it turns out the person smiling at me at the bus stop is a actually a member of the flat opposite me but, because I’m usually too busy dancing to the new Rihanna remix, I never realised who they were.

I made a discovery: people trying to speak to you is actually a normal part of the human existence. I realised I should welcome the opportunity to meet new people and not shoo them away or become irritable simply because they made an attempt to interact (unless they are interrupting Posh Spice’s solo verse, because that is just a no-no).

Uni work was easier

I thought it might be tough to get through a commercial law library session without Beyonce there to support me and cheer me on. But I was actually able to concentrate better without her in my ear. I made fewer mistakes, was less distracted, and actually finished my notes quicker than expected.

What I learned about life without music

Among the various things I learned that day was that the buses I get on to go to uni are actually red and not blue, strangers aren’t that awful, and human contact won’t kill me after all (and is sometimes a good thing). The earphones aren’t the issue; the person I turn into with the earphones is. Without them, I am more mindful, more present, and generally just more pleasant to be around.

Unplugging for a day changed my life because it led me to a great realisation. This unintentional challenge taught me that I was using earphones to escape reality. Too many of us are stuck in this habit because we don’t actually want to face what is in front of us.

So I would encourage you to ditch the earphones at least once a week, try not to become dependant on them like I was. You never know, it might change your life for the better. I even wrote a little poem about it:

roses are red
the sky is blue
if you disconnect from your earphones
good things can happen to you

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By Nana
Student at Heriot Watt University