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Let Me Listen

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“Do you have bad hearing?”

I had just taken my blue headphones out of my ears and was wrapping them around my iPod. My ears slowly adjusted to the sounds of the outside world, and I glanced up after hearing someone’s voice.

“What?” I hadn’t heard the question. I didn’t know who had asked it or where they were.

“I said, do you have bad hearing?”

I turned my gaze to some girl in my sociology class. She stared at me with a puzzled expression, probably a common expression for her, as she sat on one of the wooden benches outside our classroom. I could feel myself becoming irritated.

“No, I don’t,” I said, and then turned away again. I hoped this would end any communication with this girl.

“Oh. Well, your music was really loud,” she said, tossing her long, bleached blonde hair that looked completely fried, dried, and fake. Seriously, whoever dyed her hair obviously didn’t understand the art of making it look natural.

Now I was really starting to get pissed.

“Yeah? Well, I don’t like to hear people’s conversations when I walk to class.” Again, I turned away. She continued on with her bitch crusade.

“I could hear your music when you came in. It was really loud. You could even damage your hearing.”

“Hmm.”

It had gotten to the point where she didn’t even deserve a response. Idiot. Maybe if she wasn’t dressed in black leggings, a t-shirt, and Ugg boats I would have had more desire to listen. As it was, she was and I didn’t. I pulled my iPod and headphones out from my backpack, put the headphones back in my ears, and turned on my music again – loud. In the corner of my eye I watched her puzzled face turn into one of offense. I smiled.

It hadn’t been the first time someone had called me out on my music volume. I walk around campus every day and continually get glances from people I pass. In my car, I get the stare down from moms at the grocery store as I pull into a parking spot. I notice people staring at me, as if they are waiting for me to acknowledge their presence and turn my music down, but I ignore them.

On the other hand, sometimes my music is soft. When I lived at home, my mom used to come into my room and give me a quizzical look when she heard faint piano melodies and whispered lyrics. Nowadays, my roommates just shake their heads and laugh when I am absorbed in my writing as a random song plays quietly in the background.

The truth is I know my music is often too loud and damaging to my hearing. Likewise, I know some may think there is no point to playing music when you can barely hear it, but I think people are missing the point: music is an escape. It’s therapy. Sometimes the best way to listen to it is to have it blaring through your car stereo, filling every inch of your car with sound or pounding in your ears as it flows through your body. Sometimes it’s best as background noise, where it’s just loud enough to remind you it’s there but quiet enough so it’s not overbearing.

Both loud and soft, music has molded itself into my own personal therapist, motivator, and inspiration. People laugh when I say this, so they obviously haven’t been enlightened.

There is a line in the movie Music & Lyrics (yes, the one where Hugh Grant can be seen singing and shakin’ his hips) when Grant is trying to explain to Drew Barrymore’s character how important music is, and he says “…you can take all the novels in the world and not one of them will make you feel as good as fast as: I’ve got sunshine/on a cloudy day…”

I’m not trying to devalue novels and other forms of writing (obviously because I am writing right now), but I would say the second half is accurate. One song holds the capability to turn my day around completely.

One day I woke up 30 minutes late, mostly due to the cold medicine I had downed the night before. After pulling myself slowly out of bed, I attempted to look somewhat presentable for the public. By the time I was ready to go I would already be late to my first class: astronomy. Going to class alone was enough to make anyone depressed or suicidal (often both), and the fact that my throat felt like I had swallowed knives, my eyes were red and watery, and my hair hung in limp curls around my face, therefore making me resemble a basset hound with a weak bark, didn’t help. Needless to say I wasn’t happy, but I grabbed my bag, my coat, and my iPod and left.

Throughout the day, as I forgot about my astronomy test, didn’t print my English paper draft, and fell asleep in journalism, I kept searching for a way to feel better. As I started my defeated trudge back to my dorm, I turned on my iPod and clicked “shuffle.” Instantly, I heard a bass drum reverberating in my ears. I practically skipped back to my dorm as Rogue Waves’ “Lake Michigan” played on.

There is just something about a particular melody, beat, or lyric that works. As soon as the first note comes out of the stereo speakers, everything falls into place. Music is a coach telling you there’s one lap to go. Music is the friend that explains your feelings and lets you know you aren’t alone. And music is the unwavering light that provides you with a sudden idea or hope.

People look at me like I have three eyes and a giant mole on my nose when I explain my passion for music, but I’m looking at them with pity. I feel bad for anyone who doesn’t see the beauty music can bring to their lives. That dumb girl in my sociology class never said another word to me, but every time I saw her I made sure to turn my iPod up until I got a roll of the eyes or annoyed sigh. She obviously hadn’t been enlightened yet.

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About sarahgray

  • http://www.victorialegg.com VQL

    my son has an enviable ear for music which i don’t have though I experience it quite holistically as you perhaps do. Music is truly uplifting and since you waxed prophetic on the subject, I wouldn’t want you to ever lose that pleasure. Perhaps listening to music that needs to be heard loud could be done without an ipod and earphones. At least you’ll keep your hearing in good shape for a while longer.

  • http://jonsobel.com Jon Sobel

    It seems to me that the beauty and succor music brings to one’s life is a separate topic from the issue of listening through headphones so loud that it is harmful to your hearing. The first is a beautiful thing, the second seems just kinda dumb.