Posted on Monday, Dec 21, 2015

I do some of my best thinking when I’m on the Washington D.C. Metro. Every morning, I commute about 30 minutes in to the city for work. Sometimes I read, sometimes I listen to music, sometimes I just sit and think. Usually the things I think about are trivial.
“I wonder where that girl got her skirt? Why don’t I have a skirt like that? Should I have a skirt like that? Tonight I will shop online for a skirt like that.”
“The carpet on this train is disgusting. I wonder how old it is? When will they update the DC metro? Will I still be in DC when they finally decide to do some much needed renovations?”
However, every once in a while my thoughts make me think. Do you know what I mean? That feeling when you have a realization and you want to dig deeper and think more about it. These “deep thoughts” have only come once in a blue moon for me lately. It seems like my mind is often preoccupied with things on the surface. Rushing from one place to the next and then hitting the bed hard when I get home, not allowing myself to push past those surface level thoughts of what I’ll eat for dinner or whether or not I have enough energy to do laundry on a given night. BUT when those “deep thoughts” that make you think do come to me, I’m often on the metro. So, thanks WMATA!
I had a thought like this yesterday.
I was riding to work on the metro and listening to the new Adele album, which I am absolutely obsessed with. The song I was listening to is a particularly bouncy song. The kind that makes you want to dance. I’d already played the song (and the whole album) over and over for my roommates, eager to proclaim the excellence of Adele to whoever would listen. That morning on the metro, though, I had a desire to share this song with more people. I suddenly wished that the song was playing out loud over the loud speaker. Instead of hearing the train driver’s monotonous voice recite our next stop I wanted the people on the train to hear Adele’s beautifully crafted lyrics about life and love. I dug deeper. What if all of the people on this train, white headphones hanging from their ears, were thinking the same thing? What if they also felt this urge to connect, to share something that made them happy? Better yet, what if some of them were listening to Adele too? What if the things that I loved about Adele’s lyrics were the same things they loved?
My thoughts came crashing down. I would never know the answers to these questions. It is not socially acceptable to unplug your headphones and play your music aloud on the metro for all to hear. No matter how great Adele is. I also don’t feel like it’s socially acceptable to approach random people and ask what they’re listening to and why. I knew these things. Still I thought more about what I was feeling. This desire to connect. And then I thought about how often I’m in a place where it IS socially acceptable to share my life with people and I don’t. How often I take those times for granted. I stick my headphones in my ears or scroll through updates on my phone and lose all possibility for connection. This is normal. This is common. It catches us off guard when someone sitting next to us at Starbucks starts up a conversation. “Ugh. I should have had my headphones in”, I think. Like the kind stranger who asked me how my day was going distracted me from the most important work in the world. When we refuse to connect, when we put in our headphones (sometimes metaphorically) what are we missing out on? When I come home after work exhausted and I go immediately to bed to watch Netflix, headphones in, what connection am I missing with my roommates? When I take a lunch break alone and watch that funny Youtube video of the dog eating tater tots again, what kind of opportunities am I missing out on to connect with my co-workers.
And there it is.
The golden word.
The moral of this story about my “Adele-induced-deep- thought”.
Washington D.C. is a city of opportunity. Why else would be here? I, we, took the plunge and moved to this city with the belief that it would provide opportunities. For growth, for learning, maybe even for possible future careers. When we plug in our headphones and disconnect from the world how many opportunities are we missing out on? Maybe sometimes all we miss out on is just an opportunity to let someone else make us smile or laugh. Isn’t that still worth it? I think it is. I want to be someone who puts myself in a position to reap the benefits of those opportunities. Big or small. I don’t want to be someone who shuts myself away from the world and the opportunities it provides.  Maybe the next time I ride the metro I WILL ask someone what they’re listening to. Maybe that’s not so weird after all. Who knows what opportunities could come from a connection like that.
Emily Ziegler
Office of Senator John Cornyn
Washington, D.C. - Fall 2015

Tags: DC, headphones, Metro, Reflecting, Thinking