I used to say I saw no value in small talk. I used to condemn it strictly for its shallow inquiries, and its tendency to encourage us to never actually open our bored ears. How's school? How's work? How are your parents or your kids? I can't remember what I answered or worse, what you said.
I don't hate it so much anymore though. To be honest, I think I shied away from it so vehemently because I was embarrassed of my answers. When my parents' friends or acquaintances strolled in to buy coffee at my work, I would begin to formulate half-true answers to all too typical questions. "I'm in online school", "I'm about to get promoted", "I'm trying to move out of town", or "I'm looking for another job"... struggling to justify my existence to practical strangers. I'm worried we do this in smaller ways all the time.
It turns out, though, there is more value in this kind of conversation than I ever imagined. So much fodder for what I think and write has stemmed from my discomfort at the assessments we make of each other based off of information that is entirely non-reflective of our cores. It is what we ask each other when we don't listen, the questions we ask rhetorically, assuming the answers are given, that point solely at what we have been taught and accept as the stipulations for a valuable life. Most of these conversations at my age, maybe at any age, boil down to an explanation of our never-ending movement, always ensuring each other that we are in the midst of a whirlwind of progress. "Trust me, please. Believe I'm working towards something better than where I am now."
We feel guilty at the audacity of the thought, embarrassed to admit, that maybe we're standing still.
And this is where remembering that I'm one of seven billion beautiful humans on this earth has changed me.
I make very close to minimum wage, sure. Still, the externals of my life on paper would make me look like a damn Beverly Hills socialite in comparison to millions of our suffering human brothers and sisters.
I've visited foreign countries with people I love.
I own a car.
I cook beautiful meals for my friends.
I drink clean water thoughtlessly.
I buy myself beer and makeup.
I go to concerts.
I'm surrounded by creative people who have the luxury of contemplating artistic pursuits.
And what if career and school wise I aspired to nothing more?
Do I want to better myself? Absolutely.
That sounds like constantly striving to love my friends and family better, to learn as much as I can about the world outside of myself, to absorb the words of poets and authors that ignite the fire of my own creativity.
I hope we can stop explaining our progress in terms of countable productivity, because it's not who we are. Let's tell each other what we've been reading or what makes us dance. Tell me what's bubbling out of your soul... because what we do might have nothing to do with who we are. I am content with where I am, no progress to speak of, but I promise you my soul is still moving.