Earbuds serve many purposes but, most importantly, they serve as a signal to the outside world that the wearer wants no human interaction. They are a sign to all: do not disturb. At least, that’s how I see them. If earbuds aren’t enough, surely the furrowed brows, the chattering of laptop keys and the tablecloth of books are enough to ward off any who dare distract us dedicated students.

That’s why I am irritated when people try to strike up a conversation with my friend. I’ll spare the occasional smile and wave if I accidentally make eye contact with a familiar face while glancing from page to screen, but I try to keep those interactions brief and at minimum. My study buddy, on the other hand, catches someone’s eye and makes a huge mistake. She takes down the signs—earbuds come out, furrowed brow melts to smile, and she actually closes her book.

A catastrophic mistake. Now she’s involved in a conversation, I can hear muffled pieces through the classical music, so I turn it up. While I’m madly typing away about literature in Scripture, my friend is listening intently to the unwelcome interrupter. I’m on page three by the time my friend says her goodbyes and returns to her work.

Later, I feel the need to apologize for the interrupter and, additionally, give my friend some advice regarding the avoidance of such distractions. I am surprised when she shrugs off my apology, but more so when she waves away my advice.

“I’ll get my work done eventually. I just hadn’t talked to her in awhile, and she was telling me about some struggles she’s been having.”

Sure enough, she gets her homework done, if a little later than I did.

I wonder how many opportunities for intentional interaction I’ve missed out on because my earbuds were in, and my eyes were glued to the work in front of me. Dedication is good, but I should be dedicated to more than simply accomplishing tasks. The homework will be completed and later forgotten. Human interaction is what holds value significantly higher than efficiency.

Productivity will always be important to me; however, productivity does not always mean significance. Perhaps I need to start pulling out the earbuds and initiating a hello despite the hundreds of words to be written, or tens of pages to be read.

About the author

Callie Owensby

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