One of the most common greeting we are presented with is in the form of a question, “Hi, how are you doing?” I have worked in customer service long enough to know that about five percent of the population genuinely cares about what your answer is. I don’t blame the people (all the time.) It is a habit we are taught and never really taught to follow-through with once the other gives us an answer. I recognize that most people ask about our lives to be sincere and show common courtesy. I suggest that there are other ways to show common courtesy than to bluff our empathy towards one another. When you see someone, instead try making an observation, then continuing on with a question you are interested and prepared to actively listen to that person’s response. For example, “Hi David, I haven’t seen you in a few days. Hope everything is going well with you.” or “Hi David, It’s been some time since we’ve seen each other. What have you been up to since we last spoke?” Both are ways to greet someone with and without asking about details that went on in their lives.
The reason I bring this up is because I’ve been asked this both by good friends, and friends from high school who wish to re-acquaint with me. Some of them fall into the ninety five percent category and to them, I refer them to the paragraph above. for the others who would like to listen to me, they (and the shift in seasons) have sparked a recent need to evaluate what is circulating in my life. People love to say they’re doing good, which then dilutes the strength behind the word. This to me holds less merit in my mind due to the word’s repetition. Now that I have reached an enjoyable point in my life, I find it more difficult to summarize it in single words. When people ask what have I been up to, the first things that come to mind are stories to tell, instead of generic words that try and capture mixed feelings of the passed week, or passed summer. I try to tell people I am enjoying myself both in and out of the work setting. Then I try to share what typically goes on with me during the weekend. This closing weekend is a perfect example of how my summer has been going:
Friday was spent mostly driving and running errands once work was cut short. Once the sun started to go down, I began to relax and reflect. I met up with a good friend for dinner and drinks. We shared what was going on in our lives, past experiences, and how they have shaped what is important to us today. Saturday was spent riding bikes in the morning with fellow teammates. Talking to more mature riders and sharing advice and opinions about topics related and not related to cycling. It’s times like these that are so difficult to describe to others that don’t ride. The combination of the endorphins going through the body, with the sense of connectedness with your friends through talks and the fact you’re both pedaling a bike miles upon miles for fun, all tied together by the beautiful days southern California has to share all year around. It’s moments like these that have me in a state of zen. Once the ride is over, I spend the rest of the day relaxing and continuing to reflect on all that has been said. Sunday was spent with another good friend going out for coffee near the beach, to the ocean for scenic views and sharing inner thoughts, then more coffee while just existing in the moment. Today was a beautiful day and when the mood is just right, nothing else needs to be said about it.
People want to hear details upon details with what is going on with each other. I used to feel bad when I didn’t have the details they were longing for. Now I realize that I would be making things up if I had such details. The truth is I don’t live my life that way. On Friday I mentioned that I want to travel, but one of my goals in going to new places is to exist amongst different cultures with people from different locations. To pretty much do the same thing I am doing now, in a different geographic setting. I am not very skilled at planning things too far in advance. I used to think this was a negative quality I needed to change, but now I embrace this as a part of who I am. I don’t have the same details to share as other people; They’re more of experiences that can mainly be felt and not defined with words.
I’ve noticed new people at work have a hard time summarizing the type of person I am when they hear about me from others. When they begin to describe what they’ve heard, I as the listener want detailed adjectives that describe me in a nutshell. Then the more and more I think about it, and the more I see that person try and find the right words, it becomes very clear that I am more than just details.
Tying this all together, I seem to be conflicted with defining myself to others because I am trying to define myself in someone elses format. Maybe it takes more than one word to describe how some people are doing. Maybe things are more colorful than “good” and “bad.” Perhaps words cannot fully grasp what is going on in someone’s life. I am having fun and enjoying this exciting time to be alive, worrying less and communicating with more than just words; that’s how I’m doing.