I envy people who knew, as children, exactly what they wanted to be when they grew up. People, who at the tender age of ten or twelve, knew without a doubt they were going to be a doctor, a deep-sea diver or a circus performer. Me, I didn’t have a clue. Well, I did until I came to understand that humans couldn’t actually grow up to be another species. I wanted to be a horse. Seemed logical to me at the time but when that option was no longer available to me I had no idea how to answer the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
And as I got older the answer to the question still eluded me. The only clues that I had to what my perfect career would be was the persistent image I had in my head of me working alone in a dimly lit space doing something. Although I had no idea what that something was. The best way I could articulate it was I wanted to make widgets in a cave. I know, a strange answer but I never said I was normal.
Recently, my two older sisters and I got together for a girl’s weekend and we were reminiscing about our teenage years. The conversation turned to the single time I got drunk. Amy quipped that the one time I left my bedroom I ended up sitting on a curb with my best friend looking for butterflies. I laughed but she was right. I preferred to spend my time reading or making up stories. Or hanging upside down and looking at the ceiling and imagining what it would be like if all the furniture was on the ceiling and we had to step over beams and around light fixtures to get around.
Did I mention I’m an introvert? Was I born this way or was it environmental? My best guess would be a little bit of both but that doesn’t really matter, what matters is that I was always seeking alone time, quiet secluded spaces which wasn’t easy growing up in a family of seven in a small three bedroom, one bath bungalow.
And to clarify, introversion does not mean I don’t like people or that I’m shy. What it means is that what an extrovert deems normal when it comes to environmental stimulus like crowds, bright lights, noise and even visual stimulation like shopping in a large department store is draining to me. It’s like being under constant attack by sounds, sights and smells. It makes me extremely tired and withdrawn and downright cranky.
And I’m not agoraphobic. I can and do leave the house several times a week, it’s just that my forays into the world are short and usually it’s to the library or the small shops in my village. I just don’t need the same about of interaction with the outside world as extroverts do.
This brings me back to feeling that my dream job was a vague desire to make something by myself in a quiet softly lit space. Making widgets in a cave.
It would take be thirty-six years to get some of this equation right. This was when I decided to write novels. It met most of my requirements, long hours working by myself usually in my bedroom, I was creating something that was uniquely my own but as far as paying the bills I was still required to take outside work. And I love writing, three novels later I still am enthralled with the craft but it requires patience and perseverance. Writing and publishing is a process that takes years. And I was a bit surprised to feel that this wasn’t quite what I was getting at when the cave analogy bubbled up from my subconscious.
And then a year ago, I found my vocation that thing that had been calling to me for decades. Within a span of two weeks, two of my friends mentioned whisper videos on YouTube. I have no recollection why this topic came up in conversation but when I asked what a whisper video was they both explained that people would watch videos of people talking or reading out loud in a soft whispery voice because they found it relaxing. Both my friends found this a bit weird but not me.
In that same time frame, one of my nieces was watching something on her computer with her headphones on. I glanced over at the screen and it looked like she was watching a young man re-pot a plant but he was moving slowly and seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time tapping against a terra-cotta planter.
When she’d finished watching the video I asked what it was. She replied matter-of-factly that she was watching an ASMR video.
“An ARSM what?” I asked, jumbling the unfamiliar letters.
“You know,” she said, “whispering videos where people do ordinary things or role-plays that create that tingly sensation on the top or your head and makes you sleepy and relaxed.”
When she explained this I knew exactly what she was referring to, I just didn’t know it had a name or that other people experienced the sensation. I remembered watching Bob Ross on our public TV station painting his happy little trees and being lulled by his soft voice and the sound of his brushes scratching on the canvas. (Little did I know that most ASMR viewers and creators call Bob Ross the grandfather of ASMR).
I would also get a tingly feeling on the top of my head followed by a pleasant drowsiness like the moments right before you fall asleep. I also liked to watch golf tournaments because of the quiet way the commentator spoke; it was my favourite way to fall asleep on a Sunday afternoon. I thought my reaction to these two TV programs was just another weird thing that I did, this time to calm myself or to relax. Turns out I’m not the only one.
So I turned on my computer and searched ASMR on YouTube and settle down to watch the queen of ASMR, Marie from Gentlewhispering. I think my first video was Maria folding towels. Just watching this everyday activity, done with slowness and care, while she talked in a quiet calming voice created a reaction just like when I watched Bob Ross. The top of my head tingled and I felt sleepy and relaxed.
It doesn’t take a lot of equipment to make these videos, just a camera, a fairly decent recorder or mic, basic video editing software, a computer and a YouTube account. Although it does take more time than you think to film, edit and upload the final product not to mention finding a time when it is quiet so that the audio isn’t full of outside noise.
It wasn’t long after discovering ASMR that I recorded my first video and I was hooked. Not only was I making widgets in a cave, it was the exact feeling I was trying to describe when I would say this. I love making these videos because of the creativity involved, the challenge of learning how to use all of the equipment and also the helping nature of these videos plays into my desire to nurture and help people (I’m a Reiki Master and certified Reflexologist and spent several years working in the wellness and spa industry).
Now the medical profession poo poos the possibility that these video can actually help people with insomnia, chronic pain or anxiety to find relief and sleep because there has been no scientific studies to back up these claims, but I was disagree (and so do the millions of people who watch ASMR videos). Even Dr. Oz showcased ASMR on his daytime show and supported the idea especially since it is non-addictive, drug free alternative. And I recently found an article on Oprah.com suggesting watching ASMR to get a good night sleep.
ASMR is still in its infancy and is still developing not just as an art form but as a healing tool so for now it may not have hit the mainstream acceptance but I also remember when I first started incorporating Reiki into my wellness practice. No one had really heard of it and one of my regular clients really wanted a treatment but she had to speak to her priest first to see if it would be okay and to reassure her that I wasn’t practicing some kind of devil worship. Her priest gave her the okay and she became a regular Reiki client. And now several years later, everyone has heard of Reiki and even western medicine has embraced the benefits of this healing tool.
For now, writing and making ASMR videos are my vocations rather than paying jobs but I am content for now because it is just as important to me to feel I am fulfilling a soul desire as it is to have them be my means of income. And the biggest lesson I’ve learned from becoming an ASMRtist is that your intuition will guide you to what you are here to do, the trick is to understand the difference between when you want it to show up and allowing Divine timing to unfold naturally. For me it took decades to find my cave and the widgets I needed to make because I needed to wait for YouTube to be invented, for the technology to be created that would allow everyday people the ability to create, edit and upload videos and for the ASMR community to be established.
So if you experience ASMR or you are just curious you can check out my YouTube channel, Wise Woman Whispers or if you wanted to explore other ASMRtist just type ASMR into the search box on YouTube. And remember to wear your headphones when listening.