Last month as I planned to travel to the Type-A Parent blogging conference, an unexpected mix-up found me without a room at the conference hotel. Based on a friend's recommendation, and encouraged by a drastic reduction in price, I made a reservation to stay at a local hostel.
Hostels, if you are not familiar with them, are generally open-plan, dormitory-style lodging options for typically younger travelers. There is little privacy, and general conveniences - kitchen, bathroom, living area - are shared.
I had been warned that since this particular hostel was located in the upstairs of a building occupied by a popular bar below, I should expect some noise. And in fact, when I checked in, the woman at the desk made sure to point out the large basket of free earplugs to her left.
It did not take long to see that the warnings were justified; I arrived after 9:30 on my first night, and the bar downstairs was full. To top it off, someone was playing live music - singing along to a piano, no less - and the crowd was certainly enjoying the performance.
The noise inside the hostel was significant, too. People talking about their day, watching television, washing dishes, doing laundry - all until just after midnight.
And yet, the most surprising thing happened to me. None of the noise bothered me a bit. Something inside of me clicked early on that first night of my 3-night stay: this noise had nothing to do with me. I wasn't responsible for making it stop, wasn't responsible for what was being said or done. No one was calling to me through the noise, asking anything of me, needing anything from me. The noise simply had nothing to do with me.
It was a liberating to be so detached from what was happening and simply allow myself to relax. I slept fairly well all three nights, and without earplugs.
The experience made me wonder: is this a lesson I could apply to life?
How often do we become consumed with the "noise" around us, whether it involves us or not? How often are we distracted or just generally affected by things that maybe have nothing to do with us at all?
My guess is that this happens to each of us in some form or another. So my challenge is this: determine what truly demands your attention, and what does not. Figure out if the noise has anything to do with you. And when it doesn't, tune it out. Release yourself from that concern, and allow yourself to relax. It may mean a better night's sleep for you, too.