Column: Out with thoughts, in with music

‘My heart beats to the melody, allowing the stresses thus far to melt away.’


Taylor Sumner

“As the bell rings I’m already on my way out, the earbuds go in with the volume at max.”

Music is the only thing that calms the unnecessary panic in my heart and silences the tornado of intrusive thoughts spiraling 24/7 in my head.

Anxiety is everything I’m afraid of snowballing into a single moment of panic. Small things turn monumental: looking people in the eye, speaking up in class and facing the strain of the schoolwork. The effort everyone expects, but can never be fulfilled. I try and try, but it’s never enough and I’m not sure if it’s just me or the expectations people unintentionally impose on me. 

People say they care; however, the thought that it’s out of pity or for their entertainment overrides their words.

I want to scream and cry and sometimes there’s just so many feelings at once to the point of feeling nothing at all. 

It’s always searching for those moments of silence, that safety from my thoughts. 

Sept 8, 2022 I powered through my day knowing, in the back of my mind, a socratic seminar was waiting for me when I reached fourth period. 

On the bus ride over from Main to Harmon, I sat hugging my knees to my chest. With my head pressed against the faux leather seats, I let myself become consumed by the music booming through my 2-year-old black Skullcandy earbuds.

My heart beats to the melody, allowing the stresses thus far to melt away. Through the bumps and rocking of the musty yellow bus, I was already worlds away. Free from the stresses of school, of socializing, of feeling, of thinking, until we reached Harmon and suddenly, I was back to reality.

I raise my hand, throwing my knuckles against the wooden door, hoping it’s loud enough for them to know I’m outside Ms. Saiki’s English class. I stand there patiently rocking back and forth on my heels, when the door cracks open. I pull the door, enter and take a seat on the outside circle, which means I would talk second. It feels like a good idea until everyone starts talking and suddenly half of my arguments are gone and already being explored.

I’m music-less.

I’m in a silent panic.

What if my voice cracks? I have no idea what to say. What if I say something dumb? What if it doesn’t make sense and I trip all over my words? What if someone laughs at me? Or what if they don’t listen? 

The inner circle concludes their discussion 20 minutes later, prompting the switch of the inside out. 

With shaking hands, I switch spots with my partner and open up the Google Doc that has questions and evidence I can mention if in doubt. Once everyone is situated we have a leader chosen and the seminar begins. 

In those 20 minutes I couldn’t manage a single word.

It’s hard to explain what happened, except it’s the same thing every time.

A heavy weight silently manifests in my chest clawing its way up to my throat, gnawing at it to the point of a choking sensation that suppresses the ability to breathe. Having that stolen from me only leaves the instinct to panic. My hands tremble becoming all clammy, my eyes dart around in search of a focal point, something- anything to calm me down. 

I try. I try so hard. To focus. To breathe. To think.

It’s all so surreal; the way I feel so prepared and then the minute eyes are on me, that confidence dwindles until it’s nonexistent.

There are so many eyes! God, what if I’m making a weird face. I’ll just look down. I really need to talk because I can’t afford to fail. Maybe now? Yeah, no, they’re already talking. What if I fail and my grade plummets and my parents get mad at me, I don’t know what I’ll do then. God, I can’t breathe. I really should try to talk. I just can’t though. 

The thoughts go on and on and on. One stringing onto the other. A never-ending spiral, amping up my anxiety by the minute. 

And then Ms. Saiki says, “That’s 20 minutes, let’s wrap it up.”

The socratic seminar was over. School was over and I didn’t talk once. All I managed to do was pull at my nails causing them to bleed around the cuticles and struggle to breathe; not at all what I thought would happen.

As the bell rings I’m already on my way out, the earbuds go in with the volume at max. 

There it is: the feeling I’ve always needed.