This Is Not About Raisin Bran, But I Talk About It A Lot, Sorry
By: Taylor Nam
“Listen.” -Beyonce, Dream Girls
I’m supposed to talk about a lesson. A lesson I learned or a lesson I’m still learning or a lesson I was taught or something like a lesson. And you know what I learned? If you say the word “lesson” forty times, like I just did in my head because I’m forcing myself to sit on the floor until I come up with something good and moving and oh-so-poignant to write about because that is what I’m supposed to do (cue mental breakdown because I can see my dream career floating away on dark clouds of Writer’s Block)…if you say the word “lesson” forty times, then it won’t even be a word at all anymore. Have you ever done that before? It works with “garage,” and “Christmas,” and basically any other word. A lesson? A “lesson” times forty? Is it even a word anymore?
Sometimes I don’t think I have anything to say at all. Like, my mind has completely dried up into little shrivels of gray turd matter. All the brain juice: gone with the wind. All the little sparkling neurons: blinked out like a couple of busted Christmas lights.
My ego gets the best of me and says: “Yo, like, you’re in graduate school for words, you can think of something to say.”
And then all the rest of me says: “Come on, take a look at your brain for a second—it’s a raisin. You’re a raisin, which means that nobody likes you unless you’re in a cookie and thus masked with butter and sugar. Oh, and your cereal is the worst. Nobody would ever admit to liking Raisin Bran so you’re kindof not in such a great spot.”
Now, I know that I do my fair share of empty-talking. I say stuff and none of it means anything. That is to say: hi, how are you, I’m good, moving on. That kind of stuff. There is ample room for fill-language in my everyday life and I am guilty of using it all up, every um and like and oh my gosh and all of it. I use all of it. So I can’t even say that all my words have been meaningful, but I strive for meaningful, you know? I don’t want to be just noise, just filler noise. And I don’t believe anybody really wants to be “just noise”. We all want to be taken seriously, to be considered, to be listened to.
But when you are in a dry season and no words will come to you, not even filler words because who wants filler words, and you feel like the box of Raisin Bran sitting on the shelf watching all the other cereals get chosen except you because who wants Raisin Bran…that is when you, that is when I, listen.
I’m new to the city. I moved here in August and I’m still getting my feet under me and I have four parking citations to prove it—who knew you had to move your car every two hours if you don’t have a permit? Because I am new, I have lots of time to myself. I’m not lonely. Actually, I have come to enjoy the aloneness. I have learned to be alone. I have two choices when I am alone: 1) talk to myself or 2) listen. I dabble in both. I prefer the latter.
I listened to the bus as it click-clacked over the wires. I listened to how trees in autumn flirt with the wind, waving their branches and nodding their leaves. I listened to how people talked to each other, how much filler they used. I listened to the gentleman next to me at the coffee house as he pored over stacks of old lottery tickets, highlighting in places and crossing out in others. He was going to beat the system one day, I knew it. I listened to the way a million shoes hit the sidewalk and I thought about how the gutter must feel with all of us tramping around on its roof.
I listened and I learned and my brain became a little less raisin-y, a little less dried up. Words were less tired, less overused. The word “lesson” meant something other than the dull repetition of forty times in my head.
A lot of people talk about listening. There are probably enough blog posts about listening in the world to compile a book thicker than a Martha Stewart Home Anniversary Collection. People talk about being still and listening, yoga and listening, coffee and listening. Maybe the reason people talk about it so much is because we always forget. I always forget.
Side note: right now, like right this second, is a great time for listening because things are making sound. There are reindeer decorations doing dances on buildings and snow/rain/sunshine falling on everything. There are cars moving and people moving and wind moving. Stories, that’s what it is, I’m listening to stories.
So, I know I probably said nothing new. But maybe that is the point. I don’t have to say anything new, I don’t have to say anything. I have to listen.