Human connection is so fucking important. The human race as it is would not exist without the energetic exchange of ideas, solutions, touch, and challenges that we all enjoy. Then why does being human feel like such an isolating experience at times?
The other night I was at a party at a friends house. A nice party. The kind of party that everyone generally likes. Mid-sized intimate crowd with just the right number of new faces, great food, wine, and a mellow atmosphere. But somehow the equation didn't add up and I found myself feeling extremely exhausted, emotional, and disconnected from everyone around me, and wanting to flee, like. right. away. fast. So... I did. I guiltily made my way out the door in a not-quite-Irish goodbye, gasped for air, calibrated myself against the silence of the night, and thought, "what the fuck, Tory?"
After a few days of reflection I came to the conclusion that the reason I felt the need to flee the party stemmed from a deep sense of social disconnection from the people around me because I had fallen into a small talk rut.
The small talk rut...
This is what happens when you're having a conversation with someone, and, for one reason or another, neither of you can seem to move the conversation past the obligatory small talk stage. Maybe you don't quite know this person well enough to know what is important to them in life and you feel awkward asking. Maybe you are exhausted from work and just want to go home and watch Netflix and you're just putting in face time at a social event to be a good friend. Or maybe you have said every. singe. thing. that could possibly be uttered and you are just simply out of words.
I have yet to see that last example in reality, but it's really fucking boring to think about.
Why do we talk small? .
Everyone has their own communication style and I respect that., and small talk might be nourishing to some, but not to me. As an introvert I have finite reserves of energy dedicated to social interaction and small talk taps them out at double the speed with little return on the investment. Small talk is a utilitarian function of living in a tribal species, a necessary evil that serves the purpose of mentally extending a handshake. While I DO want to know that you made it through your midterm, and that your bathroom renovation is taking longer than you thought, I am essentially ticking those things off of a mental list to make sure those I care about have adequate shelter, food, and comfort before I want to move onto the larger topics. But then I am unsure. Society doesn't necessarily encourage asking hard questions in casual social settings.
How do you see yourself differently today than you did a year ago? When you feel down on yourself, what is your biggest fear? Why do you think women are subjugated across so many cultures? What technological advance are you excited to see in the next 10 years? What has been the biggest change you have made in your life? What is your largest failure? These questions are supposed to be reserved for your absolute closest of friends, your family, and your therapist. But these are the questions that make me feel like another human has seen my beacon in the night and thrown me a life raft as we bumble our way through this life together. These are the conversations that tether me to my species in an intimate understanding of mutual suffering, delight, struggle, and elation. These are the conversations that move us forward in empathy, technology, and art. These are the conversations that get to the core of our shared experience and explode the walls we create for ourselves out of fear of vulnerability.
I would like to strive to have the best quality conversation in my life the same way that I strive for the most fulfilling career, most energizing exercise, nourishing hobbies, healthy relationships, and overall balanced experience. I'm not going to pepper my barista with questions about her favorite bedtime story as a child, but I would like to endeavor to strengthen the connections I have by delving into the larger questions that we often avoid. I'm not one to try to impose my lifestyle choices on those around me, but consider this my open invitation, to anyone, and everyone, whom I may care about deeply, or just know peripherally, to challenge yourself to talk big with me. Ask me those hard questions and I will return the favor. I think we may both get a lot out of it.