A college campus gives students many ways to connect, but do these opportunities always work? Despite the possibilities, we regularly have the same inane conversations without truth or sincerity.
Many of us acknowledge our emptiness and longing for connection, calling out the fact that we give false answers to questions just to make it through the day. And yet we do not take steps to break the string of loneliness that weaves through us like a thread through a quilt.
Think about it. When was the last time someone asked you a real question? No doubt you have been asked things like, “How are you?,” “How is school going?,” “How do you think the test went?” and many other questions in this same lane. These are “real” questions, I suppose, but I mean real in the sense that it has some meaning behind it.
The question “How are you?” should hold weight. However, it has become so perfunctory in everyday life that the answer has become equally so. “I’m fine.” “I’m tired.” “I’m stressed about the presentation I have next week.” All those statements may be true, but what do they really reveal about the speaker? We are college students. Everyone knows we are tired and stressed about assignments.
Ask someone how they are in a way that is specific to them. Instead of “How are you?” ask someone if they’ve slept enough lately or had anything to eat today or taken time for themselves this week.
Instead of “What’s up?” ask them if they have done something they love lately. Have you been to a thrift store? Have you watched a sunset? Have you been to get bubble tea? (Well, have you?)
Find ways to create more meaning, even in simple questions. I often feel there is no room for honesty in our answers because there is no truth in our questions. And sometimes solitude is preferable over trying to explain your soul to someone who is not listening. However, that solitude has its consequences. If we do not allow honesty in our conversations, we will pull into ourselves so far that no one can reach us.
Students often form true, deep friendships, but I think if we let more honesty and sincerity into our daily interactions, it might lead to those connections more often. A person you might enjoy knowing, especially for introverts like me, is often hidden behind all the casual remarks sometimes substituted for real conversation.
The moments I have loved people most, been proud of them or felt most connected to them have all been in those moments where they are speaking truth. The conversations you keep going back to because they were so refreshing are often appealing because of the honesty apparent in them.
As people called to truth, I think we must try to open ourselves up more and make room for connection in an increasingly disconnected world. Listen to your people. Try to understand what it means when they say they are fine but avoid making eye contact. Learn to read the individual signs in your friends and be a safe space for them.
Allow your interactions to hold space for real answers and connections. When you only make room for perfunctory questions, you receive empty answers. For myself, when people ask me mundane questions, unless I know them very well, I give them mundane answers. A script with some truth in it, yes, but no depth or revelation of my mind.
Making connections requires courage. So, be the first to text someone, even if you think you are not brave enough. Reach out, even when you are second-guessing people’s feelings. We are all in our separate corners, waiting for someone to approach, but maybe you should make the first move for once. You are not alone in your loneliness.
We cannot make true connection without the effort of both parties. So please, ask someone something real this week. Anything real.