Today, I restarted my 30 day challenge of talking to a different stranger every day. With a slight problem, I really don’t like small talk. I have little practice in this crafty art since I find it boring and useless. I want to talk about ideas, thoughts, or questions, something that fascinates and intrigues me. The weather, with its changing conditions, is just a respond, an unconscious reflect. Simply saying “I have nothing of significance to say” but in a polite way. The simple truth is that small talk is this fabricated convention that people use as filler for their nonstop moving mouths.
People have this obsession with talking like it’s the air that they breathe, dying if they ever stop. What other conclusion could I have made, through my observations, that people waste words, spewing out useless sounds that only pollute the world? I’m not saying that small talk doesn’t exist, or have its place, but I consider it pointless jibber jabber. It lives on a superficial level of worthless exchanges between people who aren’t actually saying anything or even listening to each other. Unconscious filler, for they fear silence may steal their voice.
Like the obsession with our reflection, we constantly hear ourselves. We become so accustom to our own voice that we ravish in hearing ourselves talk and talk. Save those words. Silently observe the world as it progressively moves forwards. Then find those moments when words are the only true way to fully express an experience. Sadly, I live in a reality that wants to talk, to blabber nonsense with no real implications.
Sometimes I feel like “The Little Prince” stuck in a world of domesticated adults searching for anyone who can understand my drawing. Testing everyone I meet to see if they can see the elephant in the snake. Few people pass as I realize people like their habits. They are fine with being domesticated by society, and for those people I must put the drawing away and chatter useless words with them. However, it is on those rare nights that a person shocks me. Passing my test, I skip the idle chitchat and go straight to the hard questions. I become amazed at the ability of words, to warp and alter my thoughts, as we both attempt to express ourselves in their limited, but powerful, use.
Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
A perk of my challenge is that I get to meet new people every day however strange they may turn out to be.
Although strange as this bad connotation, it is just something unfamiliar or hard to understand. Meeting someone new is a very unfamiliar situation, and they can say surprise things. Today, I met Esther on my lunch break, between classes. I decided I would just take the direct route and ask if I could sit next to him. He said sure, not having a clue, so I sat down in the chair next to him. We sat at one of those bar tables where people eating alone always sit (yeah, I have done it before).
I turned to him, again direct route, and said that I am doing this challenge where I talk to a new person every day. He laughed, a lot actually, and said that’s cool. What else would you do if some random person came up to you and asked to talk? I introduced myself and learned that his name was Esther. I check that mentally knowing I had to remember it. Then I proceeded to ask the small talk questions, what year are you, classes you taking, etc, to which I was surprised he was in my major.
My college is really small so it surprised me, but it made the conversation much easier. Later on, Esther turned slightly and said “ohh, they’re still talking about that” to which turned to see the news. I don’t watch the news, so when Esther told me about the shooting in Washington I was clueless. Esther remarked “I don’t care about a shooting in another state”. “Ohh” was all I could reply. “Like 9/11, I didn’t care when that happened because it was in New York. If it’s not in California, why should I care?” My eyes widened, in slight shock, to such a harsh statement. The tragedy in New York was horrible yet it need not bother Esther. That his choice but death should never be so carelessly forgotten.
Seeing the shock in my eyes, Esther revamped his previous statement adding some compassion to his story. On 9/11, Esther had heard that his father’s friend was in New York which concerned more than then anything. The conversation continued on, but I could not forget what he had said.
I said “Goodbye, Esther” and, for the first time, I could tell that someone forgot my name. Looking back, I probably should have said my name, but I just let it go. Later that afternoon, I saw Esther in one of my classes which again surprised me. I had never seen him before but it is a large class with around 80 students, large for my college. It shattered this bubble I seemed to have formed around me and my friends.
Sadly, it is human nature to care more about our kindred, our friends and family, than the faceless masses that are suffering every day. Fundraising companies have known this for years, so they always put a face to the organization, one person that can represent the entirety. People need to make that one-on-one connection otherwise they will not care. It may seem ridiculous that people would rather save one child than give money to save hundreds, but it is true. Esther is an example of a person who surprised me by his statement even though I know the rationale behind it. However, I do not commend or condemn his statement rather it brings up a valid question. Do you only care about your kindred?
The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others. ~ Albert Schweitzer
I want to write about how today I talked to another stranger and pushed past my fears, but I didn’t. Any of the thousand excuses, running through my mind, could be chosen as my redeemer, but I won’t. The only truth is that I just couldn’t do it, too nervous, so I failed. The thought of going over to my neighbors and saying hi freaked me out inside. The whole situation just sounded awful inside my head. I kept trying figure out what I would say, even telling the truth sounded weird. If a stranger came over to talk with me, because of some challenge, I would be confused. More lame excuses, I was just too scared to talk to someone.
My roommate told me I should go over to a friend’s house and meet his roommates. This sounded like a feasible idea and at least I would know someone. My roommate also came with me as moral support too. The first problem was that we had no idea which apartment he lives in. They have an with an upper and lower apartment, so we randomly chose the upper. I knocked on the door, still not knowing what to say, and a stranger opened the door. I say stranger because I should have just tried talking to this guy, but sadly I didn’t. We guessed wrong because my friend did not live there. Actually, my friend happened to be out of town for the weekend, so I was again strangerless. I remained this way for the rest of the night.
Today did not go as I had planned, and I have to remind myself that I am human, an imperfect being. I still have lots to learn about conquering my fears and getting back up from failure. As there will be times when I fail, like today, and I have to choose to learn from it and try harder next time. As Albert Einstein would say, “you never fail until you stop trying” because true failure comes from giving up. It looks like I am going to have to take this challenge one step at a time, learning from every experience. Since I go to college, there will be more opportunities for me to talk to someone during the weekdays. Hopefully, I can build up some confidence before the next weekend.
My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure. ~ Abraham Lincoln
Using the wall, I continued trying to do a handstand and I did it three times today. Mostly, I need to improve my shoulder strength and balance. My arms just get way too tired after holding myself up for a minute.
My challenge for the next 30 days is to have the courage to talk to a stranger every day. This is definitely out of my normal comfort zone and I will have to get over my anxiety of meeting new people. I will also being challenging myself to learn how to do a handstand walk which I have always thought of as impossible. We’ll see how far I can get in the next 30 days.
Ahh… snap, why did I have to start this challenge on a weekend, and where the heck am I going to find a stranger? These were my first thoughts this morning as I realized that I had a new challenge. I don’t normally go around talking to strangers so finding them is going to be one of the hardest parts about this challenge, especially on the weekends. Today, I decided that I need a haircut, a slight phobia (not even joking, its like heights for me), so I thought I would talk to the barber. Normally, I just sit quietly watching in horror because I am confused on how my hair will ever look good again.
Anyways, I go into my local Supercuts, college poor here, and sign up for a time. As I head over to sit down, I keep thinking “I got this, I am confident!”, but a lady calls my name before I can plan what I want to say. I just had to wing it. She introduced herself as Sharon which I forgot immediately because I was already nervous. I said my name and we continued to talk. She asked me how my day was going and I said busy. I kept thinking if I should just talk about my challenge so eventually I did.
I told her I trying to talk to a stranger every day for 30 days, because I wanted to get over my fear. She couldn’t believe it because she would never have thought I was scared, since we were talking more than anyone around us. I couldn’t help but laugh inside because my right leg would not stop shaking. We then chatted about my past challenges, cold showers, and she said might give one a try. She asked about lukewarm, I laughed, and told her that most people ask that. My challenge however was to learn something about a stranger, not just talk about myself.
I learned that she has two older boys, both don’t like getting their hair cut, and a daughter which she make sure has a nice hair cut. She can’t be a hairstylist and have her daughter having messy hair, not good for business. One of her sons also had the same haircut phobia as me when he was younger however she helped him out it. She received her hairstylist certification this past June but has been cutting hair for years. She also loves her job because she gets to do the exact thing that scares me, talk to strangers all day. Overall, it was a nice conversation and I wish I hadn’t been so nervous.
She gave me her business card and name so now I can actually call ahead next time. It definitely made my day since I have always want to build a relationship with a barber or hairstylist, like in the movies. As I left, she said she can’t wait to hear more about my challenges next time.
As for the handstand, I could hold myself up against the wall for a little over a minute, got tired quickly, and balance was pretty difficult.
Smile at strangers and you just might change a life. ~ Steve Maraboli