Silence and Noise

Listen. Can you hear it? Can you hear the sound of fluorescent lights, buzzing with empty anticipation, the whisper of the air conditioning through the industrial carpet fibres? Listen. That’s the sound of my office right now.

I’ve been extremely lucky in that for this summer work season, I had a job lined up in March. I get to do research, copy-edit, translate, and help to prepare manuscripts, which are all extremely valuable skills to learn and that I might not otherwise have developed. I really enjoy my job- I’m given far more responsability than in any job I’ve had in the past, and some days I’m even able to work from home, thus affording me the opportunity to bake pie during coffee breaks (but that’s a different story, for a different day…).

The one aspect of my job is that it tends to be rather solitary. I sometimes don’t see or talk to anyone during my work day, which can be a little lonely. I love my supervisors, but often don’t get the opportunity to converse with them throughout the day, and I essentially have no coworkers. I do see lots of people when I go eat my lunch in the lovely summer sunshine, but I’m usually sitting alone.

My friends tell me I should go up to random people and ask to sit with them. For some reason when they were saying this as if it were easy, it made me quite angry. Sit with people I don’t know?! I thought. What are you, crazy?! I wondered. Then I thought to myself- what is it that is so cripplingly worrisome about chatting with strangers? I’m not sure I’m quite able to put my finger on it, but I do believe I hear the ripples of my extreme social anxiety alongside the buzzing fluorescents.

The truth is, I hate small talk. I’m most comfortable sitting silently alone, taking it all in and watching the people around me (in a non-stalkerish way, I promise). It’s the approach that irks me- what if someone is having a bad day, or a private conversation? I don’t think I’d mind if someone asked to come sit with me, but I hesitate to intrude on a potential ritual or routine, a conversation or an argument.

The funny thing about me is that I sometimes like to be alone. (GASP.) I feel like society frowns upon aloneness as if it is something to be feared, much like it frowns upon refined carbs and high-fructose corn syrup (but don’t get me up on my soap-box about moderation and joie-de-vivre…). And while I feel that I could probably afford to let go a little and embrace the noise, maybe I should also make peace with the fact that I am ok with being with myself while I munch on my mid-day meal (complete with a slice of pie, thank you very much…). What I know for sure is that I’ll just take it day by day. Maybe one lovely lunchtime I’ll feel like approaching a random stranger. Or maybe I’ll continue on in my quiet way. Either way, I know that I shouldn’t judge myself for my choice.

Are you a silence lover, or do you thrive on noise?

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