Strength in the sound of silence

Jen Xu
6 min readOct 27, 2022

Silence to me, is a horrifying sound. I realized I wrote about it awhile back, here. It was more about waiting “with bated breath” during one-on-one important conversations, about how I try to fill uncomfortable silences so I don’t have to hear the truth from people.

But today I think it’s time to write about silence in other uncomfortable moments — in more public settings. Namely, in comedy & in science & in presentations & in lab meetings & just slowing down. Gosh, years ago I wrote about slowing down physically, which is usually a manifestation of my brain moving too quickly for my body — luckily I’m much better now, and even if I have to say to myself out loud “Jen, slow down”, it really helps. I used to wonder how I’d recognize moments I needed to slow down, and I just started…doing it.

So that’s my goal. I want to just learn to sit in silence — and actually do it. I am awful at it. Sure, I guess you could say I love the sound of my own voice…but if I’m not talking out loud, I’m screaming internally, and I can’t decide which is worse for everyone involved. But I also think that the idea of instant gratification plays a role. You can just keep talking until someone else interrupts you to say their piece…it feels better than just sitting & waiting & doing nothing. Because if I’m not talking out loud, then I’m wondering what the heck everyone is thinking, & letting my mind assume what they’re thinking. If I just never have to deal with those emotions, it feels much better. Plus, I figure that if I keep trying to explain things, even in a rather flounder-y state, it’ll be better, but that never quite works out.

First of all, I’m awful at it in comedy — I forget to pause for laughs, I forget to look around, slow down, & just have confidence in my stuff. I even start to talk more quickly the closer I get to the punchline. I give away all of my secrets & show my hand & wear everything on my face — which I think is cool, but it’s also awful, because people can tell when I’m nervous or lost or clearly didn’t practice. I swear I get told this every time and I’m still stuck on how to actually get there. But this past Monday, for example, I actually made eye contact with people, which really seemed to help. I wasn’t really feeling the material, but… I tried, ya know?

I’m also awful at it in scientific discussions like in lab meetings or journal clubs. And it’s even harder than comedy, sometimes, honestly — the worst that happens in comedy is that I don’t get laughs…

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Jen Xu

Athletic trainer, PhD student, coffee lover. I write about fitness, mental health, being Asian-American, and personal growth.