I left my headphones at work the other day, and it meant going for a run in the morning with no music. It also meant walking around on a day off without any music, or podcasts. If you think this is one of those cliche posts about how great we all are without social media and technology, think again.
I love social media, and the fact I have the entire world in the palm of my hand. I don't believe there was a golden age where everyone used to talk to each other and suddenly that's disappeared. In fact, I think people are more honest in the way they approach relationsips these days. You no longer have to suffer through making polite conversation, and can instead be on your phone connecting with the people and things you actually wish for.
The key is in not letting that get out of head, and really finding purpose in what you are doing. If you're sat on the phone surfing Facebook over dinner, that's a bit much. Similarly, I sometimes find myself scrolling Twitter before bedtime and an hour of what was meant to be reading time has passed. This makes me feel bad, that I haven't done anything productive or in any way stimulating.
Back to my headphones. I was in a bad mood about having to run without my headphones. I really didn't think I could run as fast or as far without music to keep me from getting bored or unmotivated. I still had a good run though. I was more aware of my breathing, and the sounds of the park. I felt more involved in the world I lived in, I paid more attention to the smells and sights. I don't think I would do it all the time, but it was still a positive experience.
Walking to and from work, however, was a revelation. I did feel more connected, funnily enough my brain was more stimulated. Although I always listen to a podcast, which in turn can be food for my brain, not having anything to listen to made me more aware of myself and the way I go through life.
I've always had this battle with myself, where I think of myself of nosy. I have no greater pleasure than looking through windows into people's homes. I enjoy hearing conversations on other tables, and where I used to think it was just people being loud and not letting me read in peace, I realise now it's just my brain wired into getting those nuggets of curiousity for myself. I saw it as a weakness that I can't multi-task in that way. I can't read if I have the television on, or music, or someone is talking next to me.
Now I see, that people are simply stories to me. That I am obsessed with secrets and what people do in their lives, because that is essentially what makes a story. Rather than give you some story about how I found inner peace on the tube without my headphones, this is about my brain exploding at the sheer overload of people's lives around me. I saw threads before me that needed to be written, situations to make future scenes in novels, characters bursting fully-formed into little boxes I keep in my mind.
So I'm not off to join some Buddhist retreat, I'm just realising every day that what I was born for is to write. It is not a case of enjoyment, or a hobby, and whether I make a career out of it is a matter to which I am kind of indifferent (other than it meaning I could write all day and not have to worry about a day job). I just have a head of voices ready to spill out, and after taking a break it feels like not doing it makes me feel ill.