I like to joke that typical dinner conversation at my house delves into the Big Questions, discussing Life, The Universe, and Everything. It’s true that what Bird and I consider normal mealtime chat includes the stigma on mental illness, the treatment of women throughout history, the state of the education system in the US, and so on. I never knew this kind of thing wasn’t necessarily typical until I began having dinner at friends’ houses and learned that when they talked about their day, they stopped there. They literally just talked about their day, and maybe what they had planned for the next day, or the weekend, and maybe a funny story from last summer when they all went inner tubing and the youngest dropped her sunglasses and cried. I mean, we had those conversations too. (Believe me, there are plenty of stories we love to bring up at the slightest provocation. Remind me to tell you about the time Dad got a speeding ticket.)
But we also enjoyed going off on extended tangents about abstractions and Important Concepts while our dinners cooled in front of us.
And I am so grateful for that.
My family’s tendency to engage in abnormally esoteric dialogue gave me a foundation for extracting themes from the literature I read in All the English Classes Ever. It gave me a vocabulary for identifying abstract concepts. It gave me practice for listening to others and having a Real Discussion as opposed to a shouting match. And it gave me the mindset that led me to the Writing Center.
My university’s Writing Center became my haven during a semester when things were pretty rough for me. I found an affirmative place where like-minded people weren’t afraid to have conversations about their enthusiasm for language. Even though the required job trainings take chunks of valuable
Netflix time out of my evenings, I love them. I love getting to talk about the importance of body language while working with a student and our desire to change the campus perception of us as a personification of spell check. It almost feels like spending an evening at home again.
The environment that encourages these conversations is slowly helping me figure out what I want to do with my life. Not the answer to the perpetual question of What I Want To Do, as in a job, but the values I believe the world needs to see more often and how those should influence my own choices. If I never talked with anyone about these things, I would probably be facing those looming Life Decisions with even more paralyzing terror than I currently have. As it is, I am buoyed by the knowledge that somewhere out there are other people who like to have conversations about conversation.