As I sit in here inside a local cafe, I cannot help but overhear a conversation between whom seems like a regular customer and an barista. It is one of those “what are you going to do with your life” sort of questions. And this being posed to a high school senior is an especially daunting question (as if later on it is ever “less daunting” I am not too sure). However, I noticed or at least thought this exchange was rather peculiar. I mean, it was typical in the sense of talking about schools to a college bound high school senior, but something struck me this time. I do not know exactly why, or what it was per say, but this conversation made me think about hos it is so taboo in American culture to really talk about your life. And I mean in an honest, frank sense.
How often do people reply to the question “how are you?” with how they truly feel? In my experience, not very often. I mean, if so, why is everybody always “good” yet they look absolutely miserable? In other words, many a time it is quite obvious someone is feeling some type of way other than the standard “good” that they hope to portray? There is like some unwritten law that mandates everyone is always “good,” always happy and smiling, and so forth and so on. Well, this is bullshit – excuse my “French.”
To perhaps tie this together here, let me offer an example within the discussion that just occurred. In America, or at least where I live in America, pretty much everybody goes to college – so this question is typical if not over asked to every high schooler in the area countless times. But I feel as though the question of where do you want to go to college is a guise. By asking this question, or at least with this gentleman asking the barista, there is this sense that the question is much deeper than simply where do “you” want to to attend school next year.
This question is a disguise, if asked at all genuinely. For, in this culture, where you attend college and what you study somehow equates to forecast for the rest of your life, which is of course once again, largely bullshit. This brings me to the question of why is college so important anyways? Alternatively, if someone is truly interested in a young persons ambitions, or life, why not just ask such a question directly? Why not give “how are you” some meaning behind it?
I just find it odd but also accurate, to say that people are not all that interested in each other these days. That is, truly interested and vested into conversing with one another about real life. Perhaps this is, at least partly, why society is what it is today?
Back to the barista and the question asked to him, I think the customer meant well, but resided to small talk about vastly important issues. I mean, the “rest of your life” is a pretty big issue!
This one instance, for me, reflected largely upon American society as a whole. Americans, myself included, are distracted – not by mistake – to worship capitalism and consumerism, video games and tv shows yet neglect such things as mental and emotional well being, health. politics and so forth in the everyday public discourses. I wonder if this the way it is in other countries as well. Something tells me the answer is no – at least somewhere out there – where maybe I would rather be living, too.
I just hope people can gain genuine interest in each other again. I do not wish to picture the alternative…