"We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."
Martin Luther King, Jr.
It is so easy to make "I will never" lists based off of one's experiences with the actions of others. I made a few recently. And while I'm sure when I get to where they are currently standing, my feet will get stuck in the same mud. But in the meantime, I'm going to write in my journal why I want to do something different. I'm going to tell a few people around me who I think will be honest with me in 5 years when I start doing the same. But then, after I've written it down, vented and prompted and hoped to safeguard myself from the inevitable "someday" - it's time to look at how I'm measuring up today.
A similar process had lead me to evaluate how I converse. I used to think I was a pretty good conversationalist. You could drop me on a couch next to a drunk gay man by the end, we'd be friends. Equally entertained. Equally respected. Friends. You could bring me to a house party where I knew 3 people and I'd have new jokes and drinks and phone numbers as I closed the door goodnight.
But either I was wrong then, or I've just fallen into the comfort of talking about myself too much, for too long. It's easy when you have exciting stuff happening - first, everyone is asking over and over and over again, "You just graduated?! What are you going to do next?" Then it's about your first job, your broken dreams, broken hearts, new dreams, new starts. You get used to the same questions. The same answers. The same conversations over and over. And it's easy - you can ask many of these questions from most friends and strangers alike. Soon, you forget how to be a conversationalist. You lose the skill of interesting questions. You might even lose the habit of asking questions all together, as I have.
It's not that I mean to. I don't think I'm self-obsessed. I'm genuinely curious about people and their lives. I know some of the most exciting young adults - running their own businesses, chasing dreams, traveling, having hilarious and amazing first dates and freak accidents. But, I just forget to ask them now. Other people ask, them, or me. I listen when they talk. I answer when they ask.
But I'm sick of the same conversations.
I'm sick of walking away realizing, "I didn't ask them how their day was."
And while I know Martin Luther King Jr had a lot more in mind when he penned those words and the danger of perishing together as fools - I'd hate to never learn to really live well with others and perish as a fool, repeating the same conversations over and over, never learning how to draw change and inspiration out of the ones I love.
One of the most incredible feelings is an exhilarating conversation with a like-minded person who sees it all differently - where neither try too hard to drive or stuff the creature into some pre-conceived and pre-desired destination. Co-creating a conversation, two people dropping in all the unique items they brought along and grabbing out what catches their fancy. Together shaping something unexpected, discovering right there on the spot, watching it arrive and take form. Trying to keep up, not with each other, but with this third thing that's feeding off of their minds. Dear God - that feeling makes me feel the blood in my toes!
I'm going to work on conversing. I will have something worthwhile to say and I will seek better answers with better questions. I'll have an answer for the hope that lies within me, and a question for the inspiration hiding with you.
“With how many things are we on the brink of becoming acquainted, if cowardice or carelessness did not restrain our inquiries.”
― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein