by Katie Chang
Hi everyone! My name is Katie and this is my first post on the StudyGate Blog!
The other week, I awoke to the terrible news of another school shooting, this time in Texas.
Immediately, I ran to my roommate’s bedroom, wanting to talk about this tragedy. My roommate is incredible, but unfortunately she couldn’t talk that morning. She was writing a report before going to work, and frankly, she didn’t want to think about what had happened. There were too many other things to deal with that day. I understood. I know how important her work is to her. But it truly solidified for me how we have become so accustomed to shoving these big issues down, not dealing with them, as there are too many other things to do.
I graduated from college last June and I’ve spent the better part of this past year working in New York City as an actress and writer. Settling in to post-grad life was an adjustment to say the least, and one of the things I found missing from my new normal were the types of conversations cultivated in a university environment. At school, whether it was in class or with my friends, it always felt like we were critically examining something, having productive and meaningful conversations, and gaining new insights from each other’s opinions.
I sat with my roommate for another few minutes while she finished her report. We discussed our plans for the day:
A new face mask she was going to try.
Maybe I would go to a yoga class later?
Does she think Ocean’s 8 is actually going to be a good movie?
And…that was it. Just small talk. But small talk that seemed to be in the place of a meaningful conversation. Small talk as a means to an end. Small talk as pleasantry, without deep thinking. Though still filled with deep love for my roommate, I felt like this small talk needed to be addressed, at least in my own life.
How do we do this now, in the real world, where monotony, complacency and other responsibilities seem to infiltrate life before we can even blink?
So, this week, I decided to get creative. My wonderful friend Kalina started an initiative a few years ago called Big Talk. Her philosophy is to cut small talk and pleasantries to get down to the nitty-gritty in conversations. Through her initiative, Kalina makes Big Talk cards. Think something similar to Cards Against Humanity but with inspiring questions, instead of jokes and innuendos.
I’ve had some of Kalina’s Big Talk cards for a while, and I thought why not use them since I’ve found myself wanting more meaningful interactions lately?
I started at dinner with my friend Geoff,
an uber-talented orchestrator and pianist who works in musical theater. Over chips and guacamole, I presented my Big Talk cards and pulled the first one off the stack. “What makes you really feel alive?” I asked Geoff. He then let out a big laugh. Us New Yorkers aren’t used to answering these types of questions. With a sheepish grin, Geoff replied:
“That moment, when the house lights in the theater go down, and it’s the quietest it’s going to be for two hours. And then the conductor signals, and we start the show. I love that moment. The anticipation. The joy I get from knowing I’m about to do the thing I love the most for two whole hours.”
His answer astounded me. I’ve known Geoff for two years now, and I know he loves music and his work, but I did not consider the deep connection he has to what he does, that it truly makes him feel alive. His answer was similar to what I would’ve said – although my response would be in the context of filmmaking as opposed to musicals (I cannot carry a tune to save my life or play the guitar). I know that moment before, that quiet, the anticipation of starting a thing that fills you with such happiness and peace you might explode. My moments are when the first assistant director calls: “Quiet on set!” and “Rolling!” These are my cues to take a deep breath, to prepare, and then to let myself go into my character. It is a freeing and cathartic experience, every single time, and I find myself craving when I finish a film and before I start the next one.
By simply asking Geoff this question,
I learned a new way that we are connected as humans and as artists. It made me feel closer to him, and reminded me that small talk isn’t inevitable. I can ask myself and those around me for more, especially if I feel I need more. And the result? Deeper human connection. Finding common ground. Isn’t that what we all want in life? Even in my first Big Talk foray, I learned something new about an old friend. I’m carrying these cards around with me now at least for the rest of the weekend. Who knows who I’ll meet and what I’ll learn about or from them? I want to ask them so many questions.
Some of my favorites: What do you fight for? What is the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done? What was the most impactful event in your life? I can’t wait to hear their answers.
I want to talk about art.
About success and failure and everything in between.
I think what I’m getting at here is that I wish people discussed more the things that frighten them or make them deliriously happy. Somehow, we live our lives smack dab in the middle, AKA in averageness. I don’t want average anymore. I want Big Talk. Off I go, into the world, to make big talk! I hope you do too.
Katie Chang is an actor, writer, and StudyGate tutor that specializes in literature, reading, film, theater, and so much more. If you need homework help, study tips, or one-on-one tutoring, click the button below!Visit StudyGate.com