Getting in tune with the soundtrack of your life: a headphone optional affair

It’s really too bad that the world doesn’t come with a soundtrack like in the movies. Life would be so much more exciting if the music from “Jaws” started to play every time you were scared, if every time you fell in love you had some cheerful orchestra music in the background, or if every time you were angry you had some thrasher metal to throttle your rage.

Trying to find the soundtrack to our lives is part of why the use of headphones is so widespread. When we’re working out we have music to inspire us to get that extra rep or run that extra mile. We can turn a mundane walk home into an experience that captures our emotional state or transforms us to another one.

Yes, portable music is tremendously powerful, and new ear buds that are sleeker and noise canceling have made the experience even better. That being said, we can sometimes become so lost in the euphoria of our personal soundtracks that we forget about the natural soundtrack of the world.

I use my headphones extensively — usually when walking to class and always when working out. I’m convinced that I wouldn’t run a quarter as much as I do if I didn’t have my music to motivate me.

That being said, my iPod once ran out of battery and I was forced to continue my run without musical aid (I know, first world problems). But, I found it to be a striking experience. For the first time in a while, I actually heard my own breathing and the sound of my feet tapping the pavement. I realized that I had forgotten what running sounded like without music.

A short while later, when I was walking to class early one morning listening to my jams, I thought about my experience running and decided that I needed a brief reminder of what walking to class sounded like:

I heard the rustling of leaves in the wind, the sound of delivery vehicles backing up, and the repetitive rhythm of tired feet heading toward a dreaded 8 a.m. lab section. Then I reached Green Street and heard the voice of a man asking me for spare change (I normally just use my headphones as an excuse to walk by these people). I continued on and heard a funny conversation between two people. I don’t remember at all what it was about, but I thought to myself, “So this is what I’m missing every time I put my headphones in?”

I looked around at all the people on campus who were the same as me, using music as a way to escape the boring nature of traveling from point A to point B. I thought about all the things that are missed because of the artificial soundtrack that people prefer to reality.

It is really hard to say that this is a bad thing, though. On the one hand, music distracts you from your surroundings, preventing you from hearing interesting comments or people calling your name. On the other hand, reality is unavoidably dull at times and music is a great way to insert entertainment and inspiration into everyday life.

Perhaps there is a more elegant solution. Everyone has a time when they need to move to their own beat for a while to get their head straight. There are also times when one needs a simple dose of reality — overhearing a random conversation or seeing an obnoxious bike rider slam into a parked car (I saw that one just the other day).

The important thing is not to fall into a habit of just one behavior. It is the constant struggle of battling between reality and the fantastic thoughts in our head that characterize us as humans.

Embracing this struggle can allow us to more closely emulate that coveted soundtrack that is missing from our lives.

Andrew is a junior in Engineering. He can be reached [email protected]