Making peace with my loud and annoying neighbours upstairs – a perspective of Stoicism

Noisy neighbours in the middle of the night-- who knew it would lead Aysha to some philosophical revelations that she holds on to dearly until now?

Noisy neighbours in the middle of the night– who knew it would lead Aysha to some philosophical revelations that she holds on to dearly until now?


My dorm in winter

IT IS MY LOUD AND ANNOYING NEIGHBOUR THAT INSPIRED ME TO WRITE THIS ARTICLE PIECE

The two kids who lived on the sixth floor right above my dorm room were notoriously loud and annoying.

Like, seriously.

Almost every night from 8 p.m. to early in the morning (it can be any time between 2-4 a.m.), if you lived at St. Paul University College’s dormitory on the fifth floor near the emergency exit during the fall semester of 2021, you could hear some robust and erratic noises coming from the room right above you. Specifically, there were plenty of basketball sounds bouncing all around their floor (or sometimes even their walls), or screams of boys telling each other to pass the ball or some bottles of beer and some bags of chips. We, the normal and peaceful humans of the fifth floor had reported them for noise complaints so many times, but to no avail.

Usually, I don’t mind background noise. I’ve lived in an apartment on one of the busiest streets in Bali, namely Raya Canggu street, and I’ve been so good at mentally blocking the humming of car engines and the loud honks so I’d say life was pretty peaceful in Raya Canggu for me. Crazy, I know. However, it is arduous to tune out the sounds of eighteen-year-old boys spending their last bit of excess energy (like whenever your dog doing the zoomies) during our resting hours.

This specific experience of mine is not the reason why I came to Stoic philosophy, but it did present a perfect example of our daily life challenge: a continuously inconvenient but not materially threatening circumstance that was entirely beyond our control. I am sure you are familiar with those kinds of situations. Perhaps it’s the broken AC in your classroom, the long queue at your favourite café where you get your morning cup of caffeine, or the heavy traffic on the way to your campus. It can be anything, but you have to get through it, and Stoicism can help you to overcome those daily challenges.

|| ABOUT STOICISM ||

Stoicism, which was first popularised by the Hellenistic philosopher Zeno of Citium, has seen a resurgence, especially during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic; Stoicism was having a moment. According to Burchill (2020), there were bursts of sales of books on this particular school of philosophy such as Seneca’s Letters From a Stoic by 747 percent and Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations by 356 percent since the lockdown began globally in 2020. NPD BookScan also tracked a COVID-19 sales increase of The Obstacle is The Way by one of the best-known modern Stoic thinkers, Ryan Holiday, by 37 percent in 2020 compared to the previous year (Young, 2021).

But what could a school of Hellenistic thought founded in the early 3rd century BC possibly teach us the so-called Gen-Z kids? Quite a lot! Stoicism is still relevant to this generation and we can apply it to so many aspects of our lives.

Stoicism has been devised and refined over centuries, but the basic principles are easy to grasp. The ability to face terrible occurrences with composure is one of the key foundations of Stoicism. The Stoics will advise you to perceive disaster as a learning experience to respond appropriately to it, or to test and develop your character to be a better version! Just as Seneca said, “Disaster is virtue’s opportunity” (Fideler, n.d).

For the Stoics, the only true good is excellence of character or virtue, and we should dedicate our lives to attaining it (Young, 2021). Virtue itself is the prize, but the pursuit of it will also make us happier along the way. We should also be able to distinguish between the things we can control and the things we cannot control, and stop worrying about the latter (Young, 2021). Additionally, Stoicism advises us to be more attentive in our daily actions, acknowledging our mistakes and learning from them but at the same time not dwelling in regret over them (Young, 2021). Stoicism also teaches us to be mindful of our emotions and our thoughts so we are not controlled by them, as we suffer more often in our imagination than in reality (Bayati, 2020).

|| STOICISM – MY SAVIOUR ||

Cool humans of the fifth floor

I get that to a lot of people, the way of life the Stoics teach us can easily be translated into an ‘emotionless’ way of living. But it is not about disregarding your emotions. It is more about being aware of them and being more rational in our daily acts. I find it super helpful to deal with the challenges I met daily. And to some degree, it also helps me to feel more alive, and even deal with deeper challenges such as stress and anxiety (and also heartbreak, which I went through just veeery recently lol but hey, I survived!).

These daily nuisances I face, such as my loud neighbours, are something that is not in my control. Neither is the extremely hot weather in Bali. Or my ex-boyfriend’s new job that required him to be in Vienna full-time so we had to call it quits. Or my supervisor that wants me to revise my thesis over and over and over again. But then again, what can I do about it? Stressing or complaining about those circumstances won’t change anything, and it definitely won’t make the situation any better. I can complain and stress about all the uncontrollable and unpleasant situations in my life like many people do, but I chose to turn into Stoicism and acknowledge that I can find a way around my problems and I have to keep on pushing through. I know I will be a better version of myself at the end of it.

Stoicism has taught me that there are more things in life that are worthy of our mental energy instead of the negative aspects. I’m not saying we should disregard our emotions, we are humans after all, and emotion is an important part that makes us humans. We just have to be aware that we are not controlled by it, instead, we should be the ones in control of our emotions. I was sad over my recent breakup because it was the most beautiful relationship I’ve ever had, and I gave myself some time to be sad over it but I will not let myself fall into deep stress and sadness for long that I won’t be able to function properly. I won’t skip my training at the gym just because I feel sad. I won’t ditch my Norwegian class just because I feel heartbroken. I know I will overcome my emotions, but I will never say that my emotions are not valid.

In my observation of my own self-growth journey, Stoicism has also helped me to grow into a better version of myself. I do not complain as much, I don’t worry or overthink about the things that I have no control over, I do not dwell over my past mistakes and learn from them instead, and I certainly feel like I can go on with my days with a light and easy heart.

If Stoicism helped me with my devastating heartbreak (ever the dramatic, I know), it certainly can help me with other minor challenges, and in this case, my loud neighbours. I couldn’t make them stop playing basketball in the middle of the night, and if I didn’t have a Stoicism mindset, I might let them ruin my sleep every night and I might not be able to get through the semester due to sleep deprivation. I might perform poorly during classes, nap during the days and miss the opportunity to hang out with friends or be productive. There were many possible negative outcomes that could happen, but I acknowledged that it was just a minor challenge that I could overcome.

So, the first nights in my dorm room might be hellish, but the autumn semester had just started, which means there were three more months of screaming and basketball sounds to come before I could go back to my peaceful apartment in Canggu Raya. But everything is well because Stoicism has brought me to a philosophical realization that while I couldn’t control the two kids’ zoomies every night, I did have the power to plug in my Airpods and listen to a bed-time playlist that I saved on my Spotify or put in my earplugs to quiet external noises. My nights ever since then were super chill, and free of restlessness. Besides, it’s just two kids being kids, there are many people that face greater challenges, and I know I was going to be just fine.

Created by : Aysha Rahma

Aysha is a final year International Relations student at Universitas Udayana who loves to revise her thesis at the beach every afternoon because she thinks if she can’t get a ten, at least she can get a tan. She is currently obsessed with hitting the gym and listening to gastronomical podcasts in Norwegian, and she insists they are essential for her character development.

References

Bayati, H. (2020, June 30). Letter 13 of 124 from Seneca to lucilius, on groundless fear! . Letters from a stoic. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from https://medium.com/@hughbayati1/letter-13-of-124-from-seneca-to-lucilius-on-groundless-fear-letters-from-a-stoic-e9c5d9492202

Burchill, J. (2020, May 5). Stoicism is on the rise – and it’s why some come out of this pandemic happier than they were before. The Telegraph. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/stoicism-rise-come-pandemic-happier/

FIdeler, D. (2021, May 22). Seneca’s death and the transformation of adversity. Stoic Insights. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from https://www.stoicinsights.com/senecas-death-and-the-transformation-of-adversity/

Young, M. (2021, December 28). Better living through stoicism, from Seneca to modern interpreters. Books. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/28/books/stoicism-books.html

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