Becoming a young adult is, in my experience, a time of intense self-questioning, relentless reflection and constant doubt. Until around the age of 18, a human being’s time in most parts of the world is largely determined by the government through mandated education.
After this period, a level of autonomy is introduced that hasn’t been dealt with before, and with great power comes great responsibility, and with great responsibility comes a level of uncertainty as to how to best manage it. What parts of my life do I value and wish to prioritize? Which areas do I thrive in, and which areas have room for improvement? How will I make use of this newfound time and energy on a day-to-day basis?
In my case, one of the greatest difficulties in this transitory phase has been the fostering and maintenance of friendships. With more demands and the pressure to lay a solid foundation for the future as we are taught to do, every action or decision seems like it must directly link back to establishing success.
Something like spending time with a friend or reading a book can seem non-beneficial and potentially even a burden — my instinctive use of the word “maintenance” to help describe the role that friendships play in my life suggests that it acts more as a cog in a machine that needs to be regularly oiled, rather than a seed that, when fostered, can bloom into something beautiful and vibrant.
Even as someone who strongly believes in the value of deep relationships and community to creating a better world and addressing so many of our problems, I struggle to make time for others in my life. It’s an issue that potentially amplifies as one grows older and familial/professional responsibilities gently nudge friendships out of one’s scope of importance. And yet, while this may have its downsides, I believe there exists a silver lining: you’re forced to make sure the time you spend with others is being spent with the human beings you want to spend it with.
This may be a revelation that many human beings naturally stumble upon as they grow older, but there remains an element to this part of one’s life that requires a second and equally important round of refining: what matters is not only who you spend your time with, but what you talk about.
Society seems to be more obsessed than ever with shock value. Clickbait article titles, “BREAKING NEWS” updates every 10 minutes and ridiculous YouTube video thumbnails all reach for our attention, no matter how trivial or unimportant the topic. Even in our own “social circles”, social media serve us a 24/7, all-you-can-eat buffet of content on human beings’ lives.
With unlimited access to anything and everything that goes on around us, we certainly have more to talk about. Whether these issues and topics are of genuine substance in building our relationships with others is in an entirely different realm of consideration.
It’s clear that we face a couple of problems: we often have less time for human beings than we’d like, and even when we do have enough of it, we have too much to talk about. It requires a conscious filtering of not only relationships, but of content. As Eleanor Roosevelt said,
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
It’s amazing how this quote has stood the test of time, and, in fact, has become increasingly prevalent in the human species. Information overload and the commodification of our attention are issues that are all too real in our world. One of the most important questions we must ask ourselves is, how will we choose to spend our time with the human beings we care about the most?
I don’t mean to suggest that every comment or topic has to be of a life-altering or existential nature — some of the greatest moments in relationships come from laughing or arguing over the most ridiculous and mundane things. But I still believe there exists a case for becoming more conscious conversationalists — with our family, our friends and even our “enemies”. It carries the powerful potential of changing your firmly-grounded perspective on a topic, or adding to your understanding of an issue in the world. Each and every conversation has the ability to slightly tweak your understanding of other human beings and our world for the better.
The norm in our culture seems to be discussing superficial and relatively shallow topics, with a need to jokingly address when a conversation dives into a deeper part of the pool, suggesting this to be the exception. It’s interesting, because I find that my most meaningful conversations with other human beings are the ones that leave me the most energized and live in my memory for the longest.
It comes back to weighing instant gratification against long-term reward, and consciously deciding which one holds out. Would you rather relish in the moment speaking poorly about other human beings and pitting celebrities against each other, or truly connect with others through ideas that will build your relationships for years to come?
Of our time on this planet, we only spend so much of it having conversations. Coupled with the widespread belief that the role of relationships is one of the most important ones in determining the quality of our lives, it becomes essential to think twice about where our conversations take us.
Thank you so much for reading! I would genuinely love to hear your take on this idea of conscious conversation. If you’d like to see more about culture, relationships, technology and mindfulness and join me on my journey towards becoming a more conscious human being, feel free to follow me.
Originally published at medium.com