The truth (if the truth is what you are looking for) is that there is nothing to write about anymore. It’s all been taken. I found this out when I logged in to Facebook and already knew what I was going to see without even looking. There someone asking for recommendations for a restaurant in place they were visiting, “Good atmosphere but not too pricey! Lol.” And then another person would ask for advice on how to make themselves go to the gym when they didn’t want to go the gym, and they would receive comments like this, “Just go anyway haha!” That’s very lazy and very prevalent advice. I would rather hang out at the DMV than receive advice that mundane, but everyone wants to be part of the conversation, and everyone gets to be, so here we are.
And before you tell me I should not look for original words and thoughts on Facebook, you are right, so I turned to the place that often inspires creativity: eavesdropping. But lately, even my eavesdropping has been letting me down. It’s the puns mostly, talking about how Steph Curry should open an Indian restaurant or Trump combover jokes without any real insight or intent. They’re boring. I’m all for predictability on flights and Uber’s and dentist appointments, but not with my headphones in and my music off so I can listen to strangers talk. I want ingenuity when I listen to other’s private conversations, damn it.
Wanting this depth truly isn’t fair from Facebook or a stranger. But fair or not, it’s what I wish all the same. Perhaps it’s how connected we are, how tuned into each other we stay, that we all start to sound the same, all start to use the same words and repeat the same jokes or advice over and over until we feel like we have read (or heard) it all. Or maybe it’s the fear of saying something strange or unpopular in our socially heated world. As the token “Phoebe” within my group of friends, I understand the shame of the eyeroll or the look disgust when someone doesn’t understand my joke or comment or extended metaphor. Humans like things they can relate to instantly, without having to take time to think or process or try and understand. Hell, why do you think the racism and sexism and all the other “isms” in our world exist? It’s easier to repeat what others have said instead of thinking things through from a complex perspective. It’s easier to write “Just go to the gym anyway,” say you participated, and call it a day.
That is exactly why I started asking new questions on car rides and in the Starbucks line and in group text messages. People say you should write what you want to read, and really, I just want to read something I have never heard of or thought of before, so that is the exact question I began to ask to really anyone who would pause their podcast for me. I anticipated the furrowed brow eye-roll (which I most definitely received), but I woman’d up and asked anyway, “What’s something you think or you know that you don’t think anyone else thinks or knows?” And after I maintained an uncomfortable amount of non-blinking eye contact, I began to get some good answers. Good being defined as something that I had never heard of before, or made me think. Good not necessarily meaning I agree whole heartedly or went back and fact checked. I wasn’t trying to solve anything here. It was a chance to hear something new.
I got some very factual answers, like the first answer I received: “Adult koalas are mean.” This was great because it was 1. useful and 2. Brings up a lot of follow up questions.
Then, I learned that it takes two quarters for bad news on a stock to wear off, and was instantly launched into a conversation of how many quarters it takes other types of bad news to wear off: four for a torn ACL. Six for a stolen laptop. Nine for a heartbreak.
Someone told me people die more frequently the day after Christmas or the day after their birthday, then at any other time during the year. This is because our bodies and minds are so interconnected, that our minds can will our bodies to stay alive just a little bit longer: through one more milestone or holiday before saying goodbye.
There are three generations contained within a pregnant mother if her unborn child is female. This is because the eggs within an unborn baby girl are already developed, so when a mother is caring for her unborn daughter, she is caring for the generation after that, too.
The best way to save money at your wedding is to forgo the rental chairs and have everyone stand at the reception. The second-best way is to forgo the utensils.
The mother of a grade school student shared with me her son’s progressive religious beliefs: God has two children: Jesus and Mother Nature. We should love them both equally. God is also married. To Father Time.
And the man at the coffee shop who sat down across from me to tell me this: people often say, “It is written,” when referencing something that fate led them to, like falling in love for stumbling into the perfect job. But, what if we have it backwards? What if we are supposed to write down our dreams and prayers that we want to become a reality, and once it is written, only then will it come true? It doesn’t have to be written by God or in the stars. It just needs to be written!
I received a lot of answers, and to be completely honest, there was not one answer that really swayed me or shook me to my core or made me reevaluate life. I didn’t receive some piece of earth-shattering advice that allowed me to understand people or politics or the electoral college. Instead, my realization was this: in a world where originality feels painfully rare and hidden, it exists. In the corners of every person you pass, with their traditional Converse and the generic coffee order are ideas you have never heard or dreamt about. And the next time the conversations lulls or you feel your eyes grow heavy in anticipation of the mundane, “Yes, I’m fine, I can’t wait for Friday, too,” I challenge you, with that unbreaking eye contact to ask, “What is something you don’t think many people know about?”