The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

Open your ears and take in the world

Molly Parker
Molly’s illi about headphones & mindfulness

I bring my earbuds everywhere I go.

Music and podcasts fill the void created by my unstimulated mind as I ride the bus or walk to my next destination.

I’m able to detatch from my environment by immersing myself in a world of endless music.

The regular train commutes to and from my summer job were always accompanied by Spotify. As soon as I left work, I put my earbuds in and blocked out the rest of the world.

The music helped me to both get ready for the day and unwind from a long shift. I played music so loud that I could barely hear the world around me.

One evening the train was running late. As more people piled up at the station, I decided to take out my earbuds and join in the mutual confusion and frustration that everyone was feeling.

Over 45 minutes later, I finally got on the train and decided to keep my earbuds tucked away in my backpack.

I really liked the collecting sounds, with layers of sound including a man playing the harmonica for everyone and a consistent buzz of individual conversations, along with the rush of the train against the tracks.

This train ride turned out to be one of my most enjoyable commutes. I sat in my seat, aware of all the buildings, houses and shops we sped by and absorbed every made-up song the harmonica man played.

I was so in tune with my surroundings and so at peace with the natural swirl of my thoughts, the noise of the train and the yearning feeling of wanting to get to my destination.

Mindfulness can occur in this organic way. Though mindfulness is often portrayed as being an intentional act of tuning into the present moment, I accidentally stumbled on this connection to myself and my environment.

Mindfulness is the awareness of one’s internal states and surroundings, according to the American Psychological Association’s Dictionary of Psychology.

I’m not in any way against listening to music. I find music helps to lift my mood and puts me in a good headspace. Personally, I feel there is nothing quite like listening to a new album for the first time.

But I often find that putting in earbuds is an act of closing myself off from the rest of the world. It’s almost like my earbuds act as a barrier for spontaneous conversation or prevent me from being completely connected to my feelings at that moment.

When wearing headphones or earbuds, others may assume that we are avoiding social interaction, according to an April 3 Cynic article.

We become distracted as we divide our attention between the conversations we are a part of and our music, which results in less meaningful conversations, according to the article.

Each small conversation I had at the train stop that day got me thinking about all the conversations I had missed while locked into my earbuds.

I thought of the times on campus where my music overpowered the sounds from my surroundings or the times I missed out on small talk in a class where I didn’t know anyone.

These moments aren’t earth-shattering, but they are everyday connections between people who share the same environment.

Making these little connections with strangers makes me really happy. I like hearing small snippets of other people’s days or even having conversations about things as simple as coffee preferences.

Mindfulness is something that is so sought after but often ignored in daily life. We reach for the next thing rather than sit with ourselves in the present moment.

Simple acts like small talk or people watching prompt us to be present and separated from technology, even if it is uncomfortable or boring.

Though I will still be listening to Olivia Rodrigo’s new release “GUTS,” I will be taking out my earbuds more often, hopefully becoming more present within transitional periods and moments of waiting.

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About the Contributor
Molly Parker
Molly Parker, Illustrations Editor
(She/her) Molly Parker is a senior studio art and anthropology double major from Hopedale, Mass. She had been a member of the illustrations team since the spring of 2020 before becoming editor of the section in the spring of 2023. Molly also creates prints and zines that she displays in the Burlington area as well as her hometown. Apart from illustrating and creating art, she loves watching horror movies, cooking and crocheting. Email [email protected] to get in contact with Molly.