It’s instinctive — class ends, I pop out of my seat, and immediately pop in my right AirPod. (Not the left, because my left ear gets blasted when I practice violin. It’s a form of aural compensation.) I don’t stop to think. My brain goes from calculating whether a 12-foot long beam loaded with 8,000 pounds force will crack to absorbing the dreamy riffs of 88rising’s “Head in the Clouds.” Out of one world, into another.

Maybe it’s a form of escapism or an alternative method to recharge my brain due to my adamant refusal to caffeinate more than once a week, but I rely on my headphones admittedly way too much. When my trusty AirPods die, I whip out my backup pair of knockoffs  — not as upscale but does the job equally well for something that’s survived a trip through the washers. If those die — well, that hasn’t happened yet, and I wouldn’t be as stupid as to not charge both of them.

I’d do anything for my headphones. I’d trek across campus back to my distant, far-off dorm to fetch them rather than suffer a day in silence. I’d fish them out of the trash like a raccoon if they ever fell in (once). Maybe dumpster diving if necessary. “In sickness or in health” — they’ve stuck by my side since day one, and I’m not one to forgo my end of the deal.

That said, I recognize that my reliance on them is borderline unhealthy. If you’ve ever asked someone what they’re thinking, and they just reply with the bizarre “nothing,” they’re either 1) lying, 2) telling the truth, but no longer thinking of nothing because you’ve posed this arguably intrusive question, or 2.5) maybe they can’t relate to the blissless intrinsic urge of constantly having to think or do something lest they feel guilty of being unproductive.

For me, plugging in and tuning out is the solution: It feels productive, or at least more productive than walking in silence. When I’m not doing anything, I feel a sense of idleness and guilt because my last brain cell screams, “Think of what you could have been doing with the lost time?”. The inability to do nothing is a modern toxic byproduct of being a student, enforced by back-to-back studying and social plans amidst rainbow Google Calendars. And so, my mind blank, I hit shuffle on my music library about six times until a song loosely resembling my current mood comes up, allowing myself to think and feel something, because thinking and feeling something — anything — is better than nothing.

And maybe expounding on this tendency of mine seems unavailing, but somehow I don’t think I’m the only one to fall victim to its clutches. All around me, I see the products of society reaching for their headphones in a synchronized stupor — because it’s the all-too-easy first move when there’s nothing going through your head, nothing to do.

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