I’ve stopped wearing my headphones.
Every time I take public transit, which is any time I head off to class to finish that daunting Bachelor’s Degree that’s been weighing over my head for the past five years, I’ve worn my headphones. I don’t look around, I don’t look at people, I lose myself in the wonderful world of music and lyrics. But I have to stop.
The other day I was sitting on the skytrain (it’s like the subway but above the roads not below them, for those of you not familiar with Vancouver transit) and I had forgotten my headphones at home. Curses! No music. I’d also forgotten my leisure reading. Curses a second time! I was not in the mood to read my textbook either, because let’s face it, when are we ever in the mood for that? So I sat and I watched the world of public transit. Everyone, apart from a very small percentage of individuals, was on an electronic device or had headphones in. Of the few who did not have an electronic taking up they’re travel time I think I saw maybe two people reading.
It occurred to me that none of these people were experiencing the world in that moment. They were all somewhere else. I watched each person and I started creating reasons, characters, stories. I watched as a girl texted vigorously with an elated smile on her face; she must have been texting someone who gave her butterflies. A man stood without any distraction just staring out the window watching the world pass him by; he was thinking of how quickly his years have passed or what he was going to make for dinner that night.
These are the types of things I began to notice, to think up. I listened to the creaking of the tracks as we whizzed past on them, or the distinctive bing-bang-bong sound that indicates the closing of the train doors. I listened to people’s phone conversations and the crumpled sounds of music through other’s headphones.
I experienced modern life from the side lines.
I will no longer wear my headphones.
This is what writers do isn’t it? We go out into the world and find stories in life, in experience, in living. Don’t we?
I love my music. I could listen to it for hours, hell I do. But enough is enough. I need to experience life, even if it’s as mundane as traveling on the skytrain or bus. I need to pay attention to human life so that I have an overflowing cache of anecdotes and experiences to fuel my writing.
Life is happening whether we’re looking up or not. I suggest we start looking up. You never know what might happen, I’m hoping it’s something extraordinary or even ordinary.