The Journey of Listening

Most of you are probably unaware that reading has always been a significant challenge for me since my teenage years. It is not that I cannot read or do not understand; instead, it is a comprehension struggle. While in high school, I spent some time returning to my middle school for sessions on a controlled reader to try and improve my comprehension. These sessions were afforded to me by the kindness of my middle school reading teacher. She said I had made some progress, and I still agree. However, looking back on my early college years, I needed more work on this skill.

Fast forward to 2012 and my decision to finish my Bachelor’s Degree at Flagler College finally, a new piece of this puzzle is revealed to me. I purchased one or two semesters of books only to realize I did not need them, save some references for papers or the dreaded group projects. As this was a cohort system, we remained with the same students throughout the program, and sharing was not an issue. I discovered that I only need to listen and take notes during lectures. I made the Dean’s List all but one semester. Never before was I this successful as a college student. Of course, there were other factors, but this discovery was eye-opening and removed a great deal of stress over reading book after book so quickly. Working full time and going to school full time left little time for me to read textbooks more than once.

The desire for knowledge has always been one of my traits, and 2020 ushered in a new push for feeding my brain. When the world shut down, I did not realize the totality of the impacts on myself. Isolation, the loss of both parents over the coming year or so, and the loneliness that comes with the grieving process sent my mind into overdrive. So as I emerged from this past holiday season, I promised myself that I would start reading. It was time for some input, both entertaining as well as informative. I began this process with a subscription to Audible. It did not take long before I was listening to three and four books simultaneously. Not literally, of course. They were all very different, so this was not difficult. I also began journaling using a pen and paper.

The books I chose to start this process related to grief and recovery. There were four books on that topic, and all but one were more helpful than I could have imagined. By mid-January, I felt as though the weight of grief was finally lifted. Then, I came upon a TEDx event with a full day of speakers, 15 total, and signed up immediately. I have always wanted to attend one of these events, and the timing could not have been better. The facilitator of this event is from Jacksonville, Florida but now lives here in Billings. That event was in early March. More on that later.

February was Black History Month. Admittedly, I have not thought about what I could or should do. Not because I do not care, but like most people, I am too wrapped up in my own life, choosing to be too busy. That which does not affect oneself tends not to get attention. This thought process is flawed. We are one together, and nothing divided. So the first thing I did was stop writing and taking photos, choosing to have an entire month of input. Learning, listening, and not speaking. I learned a new acronym. Why Am I Talking (WAIT)? That ended up bleeding into March to encompass the TEDx event.

I seized the opportunity to purchase some books based on suggestions from black, indigenous, and other people of color for that learning period. When I say the floodgates of reading opened, it was a tsunami. I have read or listened to more than 20 books in the last two months, with three in-process and nine more waiting. And that will not be the end. To my amazement, the act of reading combined with listening to books has genuinely helped me with my comprehension and has opened my eyes.

The speakers at the TEDx event were incredible. I was captivated. Someone like me cannot sit still for long, constantly plays with fidget toys, and has a mind that wanders. I sat in my seat, focused on each speaker for a full day. And my mind never wandered outside of that theatre. Using your voice, addiction, faith crisis, music, leadership, and more, each speaker was relevant to struggles we are all currently facing or know someone. I was inspired by each of them, leading to further research into policy, history, and issues of the day as they affect marginalized populations.

If you are still reading this, I ask that you come along on this journey with an open mind. And if you are still reading this, I also want to thank you.

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