Why My Tangled Headphones Are A Perfect Metaphor For My Life

by Alexia LaFata

One of my good friends from college always had tangled headphones.

It became a part of her personality. Without fail, whenever we saw her walking across campus or hanging in her dorm room listening to music, the chords of her headphones were bunched up tightly against her neck, nearly suffocating her because she didn't want to unravel them.

It wasn't in a stubborn way, though.

She didn't go around campus proudly strutting her knotted headphones or claiming the oppression she felt from people who tried to get her to straighten them. It was more of a passive refusal.

People just kind of pointed it out sometimes, to which her response was a casual shrug and a "Yeah, I know."

I, unlike my friend, am not the type to keep my headphones scrunched against my neck when I'm jamming to music.

But I'm also not the type to obsess about making sure my headphones are perfectly unraveled, either.

Like my life, my headphones are never, ever perfect -- they're constantly messy, tangled, chaotic. And, like my life, I don't care to force my phones into a state of flawless disentanglement.

In fact, I think the way I react to the state of my tangled headphones says a lot about the kind of person I am.

I recognize there are certain things that are out of my control.

It doesn't matter how many times I untangle my headphones; it's inevitable that when they go back in my bag, they're going to become jumbled together with the rest of whatever other useless sh*t I have in there and get tangled again.

It happens. And there's nothing I can do about it.

I mean, sure, I can put them in a separate zipper pouch to ensure they don't mix themselves up with my chap stick and tampons, but why bother?

Is it really that big of a deal?

Is it really worth it to take this much precaution over something I can't control?

I can spend the rest of my life not drinking alcohol or eating mac and cheese to avoid the damaged liver or the clogged arteries that might lead to my death, but then my life would be really boring.

We're all going to die someday anyway. Might as well spend our time on this precious earth doing what we want to do, including taking shots and keeping our tangled headphones tangled.

I understand life is about the journey, not the destination.

My headphones might be tangled, but that doesn't mean I don't love untangling them when I give myself the chance to do so.

Since I'm not obsessed with keeping my headphones perfect, I revel in the process when I actually make the decision to fix them.

When you take the pressure off doing something, it becomes way more enjoyable.

I like to take my time, to treat the whole ordeal like a puzzle I want to solve, like a riddle I want to decipher.

The appeal of untangling my headphones, however, is not the state of perfection I'm working toward. The best part of working through the puzzle is not actually solving said puzzle.

No, the best part is the effort that goes into solving it. The best part is the process.

I feel the most satisfied when I'm working my way through the challenges -- the stubborn knots, the twisted chords, the volume buttons on the right ear bud that somehow made their way to the left side.

And life, like untangling headphones, is about the journey, not the destination.

If we spent our entire lives focusing on an end goal (whatever that thing might be), then we wouldn't ever appreciate and enjoy what we did, what we sacrificed, what we overcame to get there. We would forget how hard we worked.

It's not about where you are but how you got to where you are.

I know I can untangle any mess I get into.

Having tangled headphones reminds me that struggle is unavoidable, that life is just a series of tangles that I'll undo.

Our headphones, like our lives, can't be perfect all the time. Sh*t gets jumbled. And we have to know how to deal with it.

Thanks to my tangled headphones, especially the way I've come to enjoy the process of straightening them out, I know I'm capable of solving all my seemingly unapproachable problems.

I know I can successfully deal with whatever comes my way, and I'll do so with confidence, lightheartedness and pleasure.

Did I fail a test? I'll just study harder next time. Did I slip up on my diet? I'll just run an extra mile on the treadmill at the gym. Did my nail break? I'll just buy some nail glue to fix it.

Did my headphones get tangled again? I'll just untangle them.

There's truly nothing I can't handle.

Thanks, headphones. You've taught me so much.