Ben Borgers

Gimme Back My Headphones

February 9, 2022

I sent my AirPods to Apple for repair on Friday, so I’ve been going for the past week with no headphones. (In my infinite technological optimism and refusal to pack bloat, I didn’t bring any other pairs of headphones to college.)

It’s been a minor inconvenience: I can’t really watch videos in my dorm room when my roommate is around, can’t listen to music as I work in public, and worst of all I have to go to the gym with no headphones.

After having done this a couple times, I’ve gotta say that it’s not too bad. The gym plays music themselves, and after a couple minutes I tune everything out anyway and start thinking about other things. If I’ve ever been good at anything, it’s getting lost inside my own head thinking things over.

Still, I’d rather have my AirPods back. They were repaired this morning, and (if FedEx is to be believed) will be back in my hands at 10:30am tomorrow morning. Phew.

Still, this touches on something I’ve been thinking about for a while: my reliance on podcasts and music.

I love to listen to podcasts and have since the end of elementary school. I use them to fill silence while I walk, while I do menial tasks like laundry, and even while I shower at home.

I can sometimes feel my brain craving a podcast to listen to — like showering in silence when there could be something occupying a bit more of my brain is uncomfortable. It literally does feel uncomfortable.

But sometimes I can feel my brain wanting music instead. When there’s too many thoughts inside my head, I don’t want more words filling my brain up; I opt for music instead.

But a while ago, a thought popped into my head: what if all my brain’s alone time is taken up by other people’s words? What if I’m missing out on actual thinking because I’m too busy ingesting what other people have thought? I’m not sure.

I do find that I have a lot of stray thoughts when I go to the gym without headphones. I keep having ideas that I want to capture on my to-do list before I forget about them again. Are those thoughts that my brain wouldn’t otherwise have if I was occupying it with a podcast? Is my brain more creative when I’m not filling the empty airtime? I’m not sure.

I dislike the feeling that I’m developing a dependence on something to fill the silence. But at the same time, I genuinely enjoy listening to those podcasts. But perhaps it’d be better if my brain got more comfortable with boredom.