My earbuds broke, and the silence was deafening

I labored through a grueling week without earphones, and I made some observations

The moment I crawl out of bed before class in the morning, I’m blasting music on my Bluetooth speaker to throw myself a mini bathroom dance party. Music is a lifeline to me — so much so that its absence causes me emotional withdrawals. 

Without the constant pulse and the harmonies in my ears, I ache for the sound of a guitar or fresh vocals. One could imagine how excruciatingly torturous a week without earbuds would be for an audiophile such as myself, and well I wouldn’t describe it any other way. 

Last week while cooking breakfast at 5 a.m., I split my earphones in half with one swift swoop of the wrist. 

I was shocked, horrified and completely unsure of how I would be able to function normally for a week. As someone who has earphones in every time I walk anywhere on campus, the week that followed was eerily silent and thought-provoking.

The Silence

"A view of the State Farm building from Lot 59." Illustration published on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019.

ASU has certain times of day where campus feels completely and almost eerily silent. 

With over 40,000 undergraduate students, I had thought that there would always be some sort of baseline level of noise from kids walking to classes or their dorms. But throughout the week, during several beautiful moments of peace, I noticed that campus was almost completely silent. 

Save the hum of a few buildings and the sound of rackety golf carts driving by, the Tempe campus felt dead.

Particular times that were the quietest were Mondays around 4:30 p.m. on my walk to Lot 59 and Fridays between 9:30 and 10 a.m. primarily near Memorial Union

The Grass

"Picturesque architecture outside of Wells Fargo Arena." Illustration published on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. 

There is a significant amount of green space on campus which is rendered almost completely unusable due to the heat. 

The lawn over Hayden library, the grass belts in front of the Wells Fargo Arena and other locations all throughout ASU's Tempe campus all have gorgeous areas of fresh green grass perfect for a picnic on a cloudy day.

I have not once seen a student utilize any of these spaces, and I blame the heat for that. What if shade or cooling structures were incorporated near or around these green spaces? I can only imagine how many more students would go out on the grass to finish their homework instead of locking themselves in Hayden Library until 2 a.m.

The Loneliness

A lot of ASU students appear noticeably unhappy. Though I cannot prove this statement other than through my own word, as I traversed through ASU campus without my usual earbuds it dawned on me how unhappy many of the people look. 

You can see it in their eyes mostly, almost like how you can tell someone is faking a smile by the emptiness in their gaze. The faces I saw had fake smiles or grimaces of disdain, and there was an eerie feeling of loneliness and alienation which, though subtle and difficult to detect, permeated through the corridors of campus. 

Was it real, genuine unhappiness that I felt coming from the students, or my brain finding a pattern where there is none? Though I hope it’s the latter, I have a strong hunch it’s the former, much to everyone’s dismay.

The Time

 "A stone bench set under greenery outside of Lattie F. Coor Hall." Illustration published on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. 

There are beautiful moments of freedom to be found in absolute silence. Walking around with constant buzz in my ears on most days, the prospect of doing — compared to not doing — has an addictive magnetic pull. 

Our generation’s perspective has become so inundated with the necessity of never-ending action that instances of nothingness are few; taking a short slice of time to take a break from doing is akin to taking a breath of air from a different planet. 

These times I spent without an agenda were intensely freeing and fulfilling. 

A favorite was Friday at 4:30 p.m. outside of Coor Hall, where I found myself sitting underneath a shady tree on a long bench, reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It was a brief 15 minutes of pure silence, (except for the occasional cyclist drifting by) and it was lovely. 

I realized moments like this are relaxing and invigorating, and we need more of them. 

Reach the reporter at and follow @beal_camden on Twitter. 

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