It’s May. Halfway through May, actually.
By some wizardry or some something else we’re already partway through the fifth month of a twelve-month year.
(This is where you insert a mental image of me, eyes unnaturally wide and hair sleepily disheveled, marveling about how it got to be so late into the year without my noticing it.)
The weather is being all summery here in California, and I’ve been here in California for a week and a half now, and my summer is in full swing.
No more sophomore year!
People keep asking me how college is, and I waffle between hemming and hawing my way around the question and just straight up telling them that it sucks. Usually I settle for something along the lines of, “Sophomore year is over and I never have to do that again. Hallelujah.” And then I get asked what was so hard about this year, and I don’t really know.
How do you explain that you just felt like crap for the majority of a semester no matter how brightly the sun shone some days and that you really weren’t entirely sure that you’d make it to May without dropping out and that you still pretty much feel like you’re going through the motions of going to college because it’s what you expect of yourself and what everybody else expects of you and you have no idea what you’d be doing if you weren’t in school? So I kinda shrug my shoulders and say, “I dunno exactly. It was just really, really hard. And I’m really glad it’s over.”
Nobody’s satisfied with that answer. Least of all me. But I go with it because church people actually don’t usually care about your deepest thoughts. We ask, “How are you?!” as we walk in opposite directions down the sidewalk.
I freaking hate that custom: ‘How are you?’ as synonymous with ‘Hello! Nice to see you!’ Because the response is either the general (and often dishonest [and also totally grammatically incorrect]) ‘I’m good. You?’ or it’s being obnoxiously honest and making someone uncomfortable by giving them an ‘I’m kind of struggling right now’ when all they expected was for you to mindlessly acknowledge their greeting and keep walking.
I know, part of this indignation is my really straightforward personality talking. Because if it were up to me, we’d strip all the pointless small talk away and only talk to each other when we needed to accomplish something or wanted to discuss the really relevant stuff that fills our headspace and is key to who we are.
But at the same time, why do we say this one thing when we actually mean something entirely different? Language is fluid; why has it moved to perpetrate a sham in our everyday speech?
Even on the days when I’m doing fine, I hate answering people’s greetings of ‘How are you?’ Whenever possible to politely do so, I will just smile in a friendly sort of way and keep walking (because that’s what the other person’s doing) and maybe that’s kind of rude, but…I dunno. I feel worse about it when I’m distracted and I unintentionally buy into that, “Great; you?” nonsense.
I’m sure that the classy response is to respond to this not-actual-question with a friendly, ‘Hi! Good to see you!’ or something like it. (But when am I classy?)
How are you today? Like, actually? Where’s your heart along the scale of Great to Breaking?
What if we made sure that ‘How are you?’ communicated something closer to ‘I see you—not just for your face, but for your humanity’?
I’ve stayed home for the last two days, trying to recover from a pretty decent-sized case of social exhaustion. Because small talk is hard and social cues are hard and being me sometimes feels like it needs extensive surgeries to be acceptable. I still don’t know that I’m ready to face the big, big world beyond my front door.
But social exhaustion is not all that there is to this sentiment.
This is a big deal because this is how we lie to each other and this is how the church makes the world think we think we’re perfect while they watch our lives come down in shambles around our ears.
I don’t know. I’m not an activist. I don’t jump in to get my hands dirty to get things done. I talk about change and then curl up in my room and think about it until the idea has died and nothing has come of it. At most I start a personal crusade and then occasionally get on a soapbox about what I think—AKA this blog post.
I don’t pretend that this little blog will take the world by storm. But I do know that if the few of us here would be conscious of meaning it when we said ‘How are you?’ that maybe we could make a difference in the lives of the few people around us.
And that should be our goal, right? To be as positive an influence on our tiny slice of the world as possible.
It’s my goal.
Or, at least, it’s the goal I pull myself back to when my heart quails at the impossibility of changing all the things I see wrong in the world at large.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go find some food. Because if you were to ask me, right now, how I am, the answer would be that I am ravenous. And that would be an exaggeration, but that’s okay.
If We’re Honest by Francesca Battistelli