Shut Up and Listen


I know that I’ve spent the last month and a half being quiet. I’ll be the first to admit it.

I’m not sure why — I’m not sure if I’ve spent more time listening or if I’ve spent more time accepting the fact that for the first time in my life, there’s nothing that could be said to make me feel better.

I’m sure people that once considered me a friend now see me as isolated, cold even. To most it probably seems like I’ve perfectly placed myself into a box and tucked it away for a rainy day.

In a way, they’re right. I have. I think part of me is waiting for a rain shower to wash this strange haze away that I’ve been living in; but then I worry about the humidity afterwards.

On the other hand, people might think that I’m losing myself in the shuffle of life. But I’m not. Not even close.

I’m still here — just in a different form.

A year ago I was wild, outrageous, loud. My hair was black and cascaded down past the middle of my back. I had piercings all over my face (and in places no one could see — please, don’t tell my mother). I drank bottles of wine and cried over men and did things that I wasn’t proud of. And on top of all of that, I let people know when I was angry or sad. I didn’t care about anything except for being honest with myself, and as a result, being blatantly honest with the world.

I look back and see that I’m the same as I was back then, but these days I’m about fifty decibels quieter in every way imaginable.

I feel like I’m in a period of my life where so much is going on around me that for the first time ever, I’m having a hard time keeping up with it all, let alone keeping up with how I feel about it.

In the past month, a lot has happened in my life: I helped bury a childhood friend; I turned 22; I realized that gaining responsibilities is actually one of the greatest joys of life, not one of the biggest burdens. I’ve made mistakes, been unable to swallow my pride and have apologized when I shouldn’t have.

And with everything that has happened, I have remained quiet. And it has made people uncomfortable.

There have been mornings where I have woken up with the words, “This is not how it was supposed to happen. We are not supposed to be here,” ringing in my ears. Those are the hardest mornings. Those are the mornings where all I want to do is crawl into a hole and sleep until I can’t hear them anymore.

And a year ago, I probably would have. I’m notoriously known for being an emotional person. I was that girl who would write some strange abstract piece about being in love with your boyfriend and get plenty of public recognition (and praise) for it. I didn’t really give a shit about how other people felt — it was always about how I felt.

But these days it’s different.

These days, it feels as if I’ve learned to live with innocuous ringing in my ears and pain behind my eyeballs. It has been strange to come to terms with.

I’m at this standstill where I finally see that the world truly never stops spinning, regardless of whatever trauma you may face. And I’ve only realized that because I have seen people have their entire lives ripped apart and yet they’re still walking around, still managing to somehow breathe with each passing second — how? I’m still not sure. But it amazes me.

When we’re younger, I think we have this strange feeling of being untouchable. I know that I did. I pushed myself, my body and my mind, to irresponsible limits. I touched flames directly and chewed on scraps of metal until my gums bled and I swore it was because I was an artist. My life was either on one extreme end of the spectrum or the other — there was never an in-between.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I feel so much older now. I think I’m in that “in-between” area. I can feel myself becoming a person who has watched terrible things happen, and while it doesn’t make it any easier, it does make the realization that we can, in fact, be touched by the hands of tragedy and impermanence less of a shock.

Like I said, I may be quiet these days, but it’s because I’ve realized that there’s so much more we can learn from life if we just listen.

In the past month and a half, I’ve learned that community is one of the most important aspects of life. I learned it by sitting back and watching one reconnect, even if it was because something awful happened.

In the past month, I’ve also learned that sometimes people just want to be listened to. It isn’t so much about what they say, it’s just the fact that there is another being in the flesh next to them, silent and attentive, absorbing every syllable that they utter. Being listened to is a sign of respect and admiration, a display of affection that proves that you care so much about that human being that you will focus on nothing else in the world except for their voice at that very moment.

So yeah, stop telling me that I’ve been quiet. It isn’t such a bad thing.

There isn’t always a time for talking, but there will always be a time for listening.

We should all try it more often.


Kelly Smith can be reached at This article was originally published on

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