I was an avid listener of radio on my way to work. It was a constant companion, background noise, a way to find out about new music. As soon as my car started, the radio came on as well. And unless I picked up the phone, the radio remained on. Yet during a recent work commute, I had one of those silly-yet-powerful epiphanies: I can turn the radio off.
This earth-shattering realization occurred to me as I was flipping between my preset stations one morning. I quickly realized that all the stations had conspired to go to commercials at the exact same time. After I started trying to decide which set of commercials sucked less, I decided it wasn’t worth it.
So I turned off the radio. And it was wonderful.
I found it gave me time to think, which I had not realized I was missing. I was more present while driving, even though it’s the same route I always take. It removed the small stress of trying to find my favorite song on the radio. Or at least trying to find a song on the radio. (Which, between morning talk shows and commercials, can be a feat of strength.)
So I left it off for the remainder of that commute. And then experimented with it being off on the commute home. And I found that I felt more content when I arrived at work, and when I arrived home. The next day, I decided that I would start my car with the radio off and would not turn it on until I thought of it.
Turns out that it takes a long time (often more than half my commute) for me to actively think “I want to listen to the radio.” Turns out that between driving and thinking about my day, I have a lot on my mind. Waiting until I think of the radio allows me to settle into my day (and my evening).
Adding not listening to the radio to my choices gives me more space. It wasn’t a punishment or self-discipline, it was realizing I had one more choice than I thought.
Before I realized I had this choice, if a song came on that I didn’t like, I would search other stations to find a decent song and settle on something.
Now I don’t settle. If I don’t like a song, I may try a couple other of my favorite stations, but I won’t settle. I’ll turn the radio off and just drive.