I have this bad habit where I always walk around with headphones in my ears. Since I was in middle school, my mom has warned me not to walk or ride my bike with my headphones in, for fear of me being unable to hear a car approaching. For years I have been listening to her chide me to take out my earphones, but for years, her reasons for asking me to do so have been very specific. Take your headphones out, so the car doesn’t hit you. Simple, right? However, last summer I worked at a school that had a mandatory headphone rule, and this time the rule wasn’t for the purpose of road safety. From 7 AM to 7 PM no one on campus—student, staff, or faculty—was allowed to have headphones in their ears. When I first starting working here, I didn’t understand why we couldn’t wear headphones. But, another staff member explained to me that the 7 AM- 7 PM rule existed with the intention of making sure each community member was fully engaged with their surroundings.
I promise I haven’t spent so long rambling about headphones for no point. Engaged. Connected. This was the purpose of the 7 AM- 7 PM rule. Of course, I don’t want to disregard my mom; road safety is important, but there is something to be said for being fully engaged. Here in Rome so much is happening all around, all at once. People are laughing in the mini-market, the bus is picking up passengers, someone is buying a croissant at the bar. And to be honest, so far, for the majority of the time I’ve been in Rome, I’ve had my headphones in. Yesterday, though, I went for a run in Villa Borghese (which, by the way, is becoming one of my favorite spots in Rome), and I listened to music the entire time. When I finished, I sat down to cool off, and it wasn’t until then that I took my headphones out. Immediately after doing so, everything was amazing. That may sound like an over-exaggeration, but it’s the truth. For anyone’s who ever been to Villa Borghese, you know that this park feels like a fantasy. It’s like a little oasis, isolated from the hustle and bustle of the city. Once I took my headphones out, I felt so at peace. I realized that I didn’t need to fill my surroundings with anything extra; the latest Top 40 hit could wait. Sitting there in Villa Borghese, listening to the sound of life all around me, and watching the sun slowly start to set— this was enough. It was more than enough. (Look below for proof of Villa Borghese’s wonderful running trails!)
Rome, and this entire experience, has so much to offer, and sometimes I worry that we forget to remember that. My roommate and I were visiting the Colosseum the other night, and then we saw some beautiful ruins. Everything was lit in a way that reflected the sheer majesty of the entire structure. We both looked at each other and paused. We stopped taking pictures, put down our phones, and just stood taking it all in. I am finding that wherever I am in this city, whether it be in Villa Borghese, outside the Colosseum, or along the Tiber, I am overwhelmed. Overwhelmed thinking about the history of this place, and overwhelmed knowing that I get to be a part of it. There are so many outside distractions we let ourselves fall prey to, most of them technology-related, but I want to remain engaged and connected with the city, and not lost in my own world. The 7 AM- 7 PM rule existed for a reason, and I want to remember that while I’m here. Living in Rome feels like a fairy-tale, but I am constantly reminding myself that being here is in fact very much real.
Engaged. Connected. That’s how I want to spend my time here. So from here on out, the headphones are coming off.