Taking My Earbuds Out

IMG_20171013_080828549Having already ugly-cried in a professor’s office that day, standing in the middle of the college cafeteria, I could feel another meltdown coming on. My face heated up and my eyes began to well with tears. I tossed a couple more vegetables onto my salad, grabbed some silverware and a cup of coffee, and headed over to a table. I put in my earbuds, pulled up the Audible app on my phone, and lost myself in the world of my book.

I ate quickly, then headed off to work. Once at work, I removed my earbuds and sunk back into my grief. Work distracted me effectively, after all, gotta act happy for those customers, and by the end of my shift, I was myself again. I walked briskly through the cool night air to the beat of my favourite band (Yonina, if anyone cares), heading back to my dorm to sleep the day off.

Once I was back at my dorm, my boyfriend called me on Skype. He asked about the details of my rough day, and I switched off my video and cried all over again. He comforted and encouraged me, and finally, we said goodnight. I wiped up my tears and opened Spotify. Before long, I was humming along with Elton John and Billy Joel as I carried out my bedtime routine. Finally, I switched off the music, crawled into bed, and drifted off to sleep, leaving the miserable day behind.

As I drifted off to sleep, though, I remembered my near-meltdown in the cafeteria and what I’d done to prevent it. I had inserted my earbuds and drifted off to a different world. I remembered my tears on the phone with my boyfriend and what I’d done to end them. I had pulled up my music and focused on that. I realized that just like a drug user inserts a needle to avoid his issues, I’d inserted my earbuds to avoid mine.

I picked up my phone and glanced at the apps. Spotify. Pandora. Facebook. Instagram. Snapchat. Pinterest (did I just confess to that?). Youtube. An impressive stash.

Today, I was going through my camera roll, looking for a picture, and something struck me. It was the amount of pictures of me in which I had earbuds either in my ears or draped around my neck as my favourite accessory. After all, you never know when you might wind up in a stir-fry line a mile long with nothing to do. But then again, the stir-fry line is where I met Katy and Ben. And Alyssa and Lauren. Why was I thankful for those relationships, yet making myself unapproachable to others I could cherish just as much?

So when I went off to class today, I left my earbuds behind. During the ten minutes I call my “ten seconds of sanity,” which I usually use to sit on a retaining wall, listening to my favourite songs before heading off to class again, I sat on the retaining wall, simply listening to birds and wind and distant chatter. A couple friends greeted me as they passed by. Between classes, I didn’t check my social media. I smiled at people’s real faces and chatted with friends in the cafeteria. And at the end of the day, I felt… peaceful. And at the end of the day, while I brushed my teeth and washed my face, I played a song. It was nice. I checked Instagram. It was also nice. But nicest of all was the day I spent with friends and nature and… quiet.

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Thank Goodness for Change

2017-10-13 08_13_34-Michelle Hodges (@barefootmichelley) • Instagram photos and videosToday, a little grey cloud has settled over my soul. In a little encounter that seemed to happen in half a second, I greeted, then confused, then really offended a friend of mine. As he turned to run off to his class, I blurted an incoherent apology, then scurried up the steps of the building and headed for class.

I might as well have skipped class. As my favourite professor, whose class I’ve always found fascinating, expounded on his models of polysaccharides and phospholipids, I replayed the dialogue with my friend over and over again, kicking myself for every word I’d said. Really, Michelle?!?! Really?!?!

The encounter isn’t really what’s eating at me. In fact, my friend readily forgave me and agreed to get lunch later. The thing that’s eating at me is the fact that everything about me in that moment was exactly not who I want to be. I had justified myself to a human. I had panicked. I had failed to explain the meaning of something important to me. As I replayed the dialogue to myself for hours and hours, the more I was bothered by the proof that the Michelle I am is not the Michelle I want to be.

After nearly nine hours of turning over the encounter in my mind, I had a thought. How often do I think of an embarrassing moment from middle school, cringe, and think to myself, ‘Younger Michelle, what were you THINKING?!?!” How often do I tell a story from high school with the disclaimer, “I have grown up since then and would not do that again?” Why do we condemn the actions of our previous selves, when they seemed like a fine thing to do at the time? Well, we change, of course. We become more mature and more like the people we want to be.

Humans are programmed not to like change. Change is stressful and difficult, however, today I am indescribably grateful for the existence of change. The existence of change is the hope I have to become the Michelle I want to be. So as the sun sets in Northern Illinois, I begin to contemplate heading off to bed, where I will sleep today off and wake up re-energized and ready to chase down the Michelle I want to be.