This archived article was written by: Kara Heaton
The longest four days of my life were the four days I took a vow of silence. I’m not really sure why I decided to try out this crazy idea; I guess it was just a challenge that I knew I would be able to accept, and succeed.
I got the idea from my high school’s newspaper. I was randomly flipping through it, when I saw an article from a guy I knew, talking about how he took a vow of silence over Christmas break. He admitted that it wasn’t all that hard, considering he wasn’t dealing with school, and only sometimes dealt with his friends. He had also set up some rules for himself, one of them being that he could talk to inanimate objects.
As I read his article, I wondered how it would be, taking a vow of silence during a normal school week, having to deal with roommates, teachers, fellow students, and the daily stresses that life has to offer. So, as I read, an idea formed in my head. Why not try it out?
So, I did. From the morning of March 3, till midnight on March 6, I took a vow of silence with my friend and fellow staff member, Kellie Henderson. We set down rules so there wouldn’t be any cheating, like no singing or whistling tunes, or no excessive laughing (which I did horribly at), giggling, gasping, squealing, or anything else like that. There were exceptions, of course, like if called on in class, or if it was for work. But if the situation didn’t fall under those exceptions, we had to communicate with hand gestures or by writing on a small white board we carried around.
We didn’t rule out instant messaging or texting, though to truly talk to no one would have been a challenge above and beyond our vow of silence. Also, we decided that if anyone tried to call us, we had to make it as short as possible, and let them know we had taken a vow of silence.
The first morning was really interesting. My roommate came up to me as soon as I walked out of my room, wanting to talk about a problem she was having. When I couldn’t respond to her problems, she threw up her hands in anger and said she was going to go crazy, not being able to talk to me.
That was my first taste of what the week would bring.
Classes weren’t that difficult, considering I don’t really talk in class, I just listen. I did have a few friends that threatened to volunteer me when a teacher asked a question, but thankfully, those friends forgot about my vow of silence until after class. It was frustrating, though, when there were a few times that I wanted to answer a question, but couldn’t.
Life with my friends was strange, but funny at the same time. The first day I recruited my friend Sam Heslop, one of Kellie’s roommates, to go to the store with me. We communicated through texting or writing notes on my phone, but she mostly just talked. Luckily, she could pretty much carry on a one sided conversation, and so it wasn’t too bad. I did feel really awkward though; without being able to respond, Sam would feel like I was ignoring her, when I wasn’t. She reassured me she knew I wasn’t, and after the first day, it wasn’t so awkward.
Living with roommates when you can’t talk was a lot harder than it was hanging out with friends. It suddenly seemed like everyone wanted to talk to me, to try and get me to slip and mess up. One of my roommates walked into the front room, after I had been sitting there by myself for almost an hour, and she was saying something that was wouldn’t make sense to anyone who hadn’t heard the whole conversation. I looked up, gave her a weird look, then said, “I don’t wa-” then realized my mistake. We started laughing, but finally convinced her not to tell anyone. I’m proud to say that was one of four times I spoke during the four days (two of those times I said ouch; I had a splinter in my toe one night, and the another night I hit my head sliding into a car).
Another problem, when living with roommates and not being able to talk, is when problems came up. One of the greatest lessons I learned this week was that talking over instant messaging or e-mails is not the best way to go about things. Because I couldn’t talk, I ended up instant messaging or e-mailing my roommate who I was having a disagreement with, which led to the problem being totally blown out of proportion. I wasn’t able to effectively communicate with her how I felt, and in return, neither could she. A lot of harsh words and uncomfortable silences could have been avoided if our communication had happened in person, instead of electronically.
So, overall, it was a pretty interesting situation. I would recommend this experience to anyone, and I plan on trying it again some day, but maybe for a week instead of four days.