76 minutes. 5 days per week. No, I’m not referring to the amount of time that I do cardio each day; rather, I am talking about how long I drove in complete and utter silence. When devising my goals as a twenty-two-year-old, I thought about how much I rely on music to make time fly when I have to drive somewhere. Within a few seconds of getting into my car, I find myself plugging in my phone, turning on Spotify, and letting my mind zone out to the music. Music is by no means bad, but I thought that would be a good exercise in self-awareness to remove it from my commute for a week.
The rules were simple:
- Don’t listen to anything (music, podcasts, etc.) while driving.
- Don’t talk on the phone (I knew that I would whittle away the boring car rides by calling friends if I didn’t make this stipulation).
What I learned from this experience:
- I will do almost anything to keep a car ride from being silent. I would catch myself talking to myself as I drove. It was weird, like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest weird. I did not envy the people who would pull up next to me at stoplights to see me jabbering away to thin air because I assume it was about as unsettling as watching an antique doll stand up and start walking towards you.
- In a similar fashion to my talking, I would also sing. I am by no means a good singer (no, this is not false modesty. I really sound like Britney Spears before autotune when I try to sing), but I am usually able to mask my voice by loudly playing the music that I am singing along to. Unfortunately, I kept up with the off-tune singing, even when I didn’t have music. If you were to hear a recording of those times, you would probably think that it was the audio from a sad documentary about delusional divas who have lost their singing ability in their old age yet still try to perform.
- The last, and most important, lesson that I learned from this experience is how beneficial quiet time is. I have a bad habit of running through the day’s events while I try to fall asleep at night, and when there is a lot to process, it can significantly lengthen the time that it takes me to fall asleep at night. By riding in silence, I was able to process what had transpired that day during my drive home, and this helped me to fall asleep sooner than I would when I didn’t process the day until bedtime.
This was by no means an easy goal to accomplish, but it has been one of my favorite ones that I have done because of how eye-opening it was. Although I don’t make myself ride in silence anymore, I now find myself turning off my radio when I know that I have a lot to think about which has benefited both my overall mental health and my self-awareness.