Stop and listen

Trading the rush of life for a listening ear

The other day on my way from the Rock, I approached a friend from high school heading toward me.

As we met she said, “Hey! How are you?” I responded, as we both continued to walk our separate ways, “Fine, How about you?” She then answered the same. She hustled into the Rock and I continued down the path back to my dorm.

That brief moment of contact was like a whirlwind. There was no substance, no warmth and no authenticity in the encounter. We both had our lives to attend to, and so neither of us bothered slowing down. That’s the college life, right? Rush around, keep busy and do what you want, when you want.

What if my friend wasn’t fine? What if in that moment, in that pressure to be put together, to move on, she was actually crumbling inside? And what about me? Surely there were some things in the back of my mind that were making me less than fine. What if in that moment we stopped, asked that same question, but legitimately asked it? What if we sat down, took a breath, looked each other in the eyes, and asked each other “really, how are you?” I don’t know about her, but I know my answer would be different.

Our whole society is always moving. All technological advancements are geared toward doing things faster, more efficiently, and more automated. Do not get me wrong, it can be great. I support technological advancement for the greater good. Our human interactions, the one thing that separates us from machines, have grown to mimic the advances of our society. It’s as if our conversations are automated, cold, a replicate of the annoying operator that everyone hates when we would much rather just hear an actual human voice on the line.

The “conversation” I had with my friend that day is a perfect example. I cannot even began to count how many times in my life that I have had that same conversation with someone in that same hurried unengaged fashion. It was not until last year that I really felt the need to slow down, to step back from the rush of my life and take back my humanity. Instead of getting caught in the current of busyness that I often do, I would set aside time for what really matters in the end, people.

Next time you ask someone how they are, try really meaning it. Sit down with them, ask them to coffee or dinner, or invite them to your dorm or apartment. I know we are in college and that comes with some rigorous schedules, but there should always be time for the people in your life. Push away the distractions and truly consider which priority is greater: your schedule or the lives of the ones you love?

Do not be afraid to be honest yourself. If you are not okay, tell someone you care about it, especially if they ask you. Being honest with yourself and the way you are truly feeling is healthy, and who knows, maybe in your honesty, your friend will find courage to be open too.

College can be a great time of educational growth, but it can also be a place of relational and personal growth as well. Be remembered as the person who slowed down for others, not just the student who rushed through, got their degree and moved on with life. Be more than the operator, because she’s not very convincing to listen to, nor is she much of a listener. n