Another pretty major change for 2017 was my discovey of quiet.
It all started in the fall of 2016 really. My doctor and I were increasingly in agreement about the conclusion that I was overly stimulated in loud social encounters, which both explained my inability to focus on / understand the person in front of me in a crowded space, and also my general feeling of exhaustion after spending time around a crowd or a loud place in general.
And so I started to wear earplugs during social gatherings in bars, restaurants, etc. I was noticing some improvement already, but I was foremost hyper self-conscious about the fact I was wearing earplugs and nobody else did.
And then some time in december 2016, as I was about to board a flight to NYC, I invested in a pair of noise-canceling headphones, as an experiment to see if I could focus and work more effectively during the flight.
Of course it did, but nah, that’s not what this story is about.
The real story: as I stepped out of that flight, I kept the headphones on.
I hadn’t intended to do so, but I had some music playing and just kept on listening as I was disembarking. Then at some point, as I was queuing for customs, the music stopped and I didn’t really notice.
What I did notice pretty quickly, is how quiet the crowd of disembarking passengers seemed to be. For the first time in forever, I was hearing my own thoughts in a crowd, and that was a pretty big fucking major change, That There WaS No WaY I COULD NOT NOTICE 1!!1!!!!!!kthx
The proverbial penny dropped pretty fast on that one. Noise canceling off, I’m crazy again. Back on, I’m sane again.
My life had been turned.
I never had thought of wearing earplugs “outdoors” before. I had no reason to expect there would be a difference. Serendipity (and, to be honest, a certain level of wealth without which I wouldn’t have been able to acquire then sport NC headphones there and then) brought a breakthrough.
On that day, I made the next pretty big discovery: walking in the crowded streets in New York is fun. (Before that, it was a chore, making me miserable for hours.)
Later that week, I found out that working with tens of other people in a small open space can be moderately productive. (Before that, I would check out my sanity at the door.)
The next month, I found out that Paris is beautiful but that its streets mostly stink and are full of garbage. (Before that, the persistent agression of street noises was distracting me away from other senses.)
Later that year alternating between NC headphones and simple earplugs, I found out that going out in social places is both fun and pleasant. That I could pay attention to individual conversations when there are more than two people involved. That I could reach a contemplative, meditative state in front of art in a crowded museum. That I could enjoy the distraction of birds and pleasant sights in a city alongside a street otherwise full with cars. That I could truly enjoy my music wherever I was, without the pollution of environment noises. That I could sleep soundly at night even with the occasional vehicle on the road nearby. That I could sleep in in the morning despite flights departing above my home. That my home little town was really the damnest quietest place and that I loved it.
Suddenly, I could do and enjoy all the little things that I formerly couldn’t fathom, that I had more or less excluded from my life out of self-defense and self-preservation.
I could function as a slightly more normal human being.
It was pretty big, and now I gladly share that story with whomever asks about the earplugs. Also, no fucks given.
Quiet saves lives. Invest in your sanity, invest in quiet. It is not a luxury.