Growing Up #7: The Merry-Go-Round of Life

I’ve listened to people talk about their lives as the words innocently sprung out of their mouths and crystallized into lines. A line or two at most, not an elaborate conversation, and yet I know I’ve been hit by circles of perspectives. I’ve listened not through ears, but through my heart. It is as though we are all in a merry-go-round of our lives as we come across others on the ride.
 
I’ve listened to an experienced elder doubt his life actions of living without concrete plans. I’ve listened to a professional admit how he thought this was it after he landed the job, but a change came along. I’ve listened to a senior share his career plans going sour. I’ve listened to another senior be brave about their catastrophic loss. 
 
As I listened, I realized it must all be a part of life. I saw them become more human. Perhaps the moments where I do not seem to find a way ahead is making me more human as well.

Jeff Goins writes in his book Real Artists Don’t Starve:

You’re never done becoming yourself.

The ride continues.

And here’s a wonderful piece by Joe Hisaishi, Merry Go Round of Life. 


I cannot believe I’ve made it to the 7th week and I have been writing this column every week on my blog. I’ve not had a hot chocolate for a while, but Saturday continues to be a reflective day.

Growing Up, a series on well, growing up, every Saturday. 

Hope and Prepare | A Conversation

‘How does one hope for the best and prepare for the worst, Lord Vayu?’ princess Valli asked the Guardian of the Wind.

‘I am not sure, but it is quite an impossible feat I must say.’

‘To be hopeful of the great and still be ready to face the worst, a sting of irony,’ the princess added.

Vayu nodded his head.

‘To be hopeful would mean to let the heart float among the clouds,’ he said as the sky danced in shades of pink. The sun was setting. They were atop a high hill that overlooked the entire valley. ‘And to prepare for the worst would mean to fall straight unto the ground from the clouds.’

‘How can one imagine the two together. To hope for one and to prepare for another?’ Valli questioned as the wind blew her scarf. ‘Doesn’t one prepare for what one hopes?’

‘Indeed,’ replied Vayu. ‘The human life is bogged with the eternal ironies, to have day and night, shadow and light. To have the wind to breathe and to have the same win uproot homes as hurricanes.’

‘Wouldn’t it be better to be able to fly like the birds instead? To soar in the clouds and not have to worry of falling?’ Valli added.

‘But even the birds fear the fall.’

‘Perhaps, they do. And we do too.’

The Magic Spell To Conversations

It pains me to know that while I was ardently taught the art of oration for years and years in school and university, the art of conversation was left way behind. Perhaps it was the omnipresence of the action, the idea that we conversed every day that made it too mundane to be considered a skill to be taught or most importantly a skill that can be learnt. Back in school I looked longingly at my friends who got on the podium to deliver magnificent speeches and today I longingly look at the ones who outmaneuver themselves in the art of conversing.

But maybe all isn’t lost, and for the ones who are a little awkward at conversations like myself, there’s still hope.

For me the most daunting task of starting a conversation is the the ice breaker.

What do I say?

“Hi, I’m Alfa. And I am fond of cats!”

Great.

Or maybe not so great. What if the other person is allergic to cats! or even worse what if a cat attacked her/his favorite pet mouse a long long time ago! Ah possibilities!

But if the other person also does love cats, then the conversation might be going somewhere. (Phew, thankfully!).

But well, not all conversations begin that way, and cats are not the second thing I blabber about right after my name. I read it somewhere that a conversation is like making a sandwich. You add an ingredient and then slide it over to the other person, the other then adds something and slides it back to you. As long as the sandwich keeps sliding, the conversation continues.

Leaving sandwiches aside, over the past few months, I have noticed an interesting pattern. And yes it has to do with Harry Potter (I’m known to spread the Harry Potter fandom at work, so well). After getting a little comfortable with people, I usually end up asking, “Have you read/watched Harry Potter?” Sometimes I get asked the same question.

You might have guessed, when the answer is a YES, conversing becomes a lot more easier, just like that. I can somehow take a breath of relief. I know I can add in a little Harry Potter reference to the sandwich to keep it sliding and hopefully the sandwich would come sliding back at me. And more often than not, the sandwich has come sliding back, and then forth.

One time I had to sit down next to a person who I barely knew. I wanted to speak and say more than Hi to settle the awkwardness in the air, but I didn’t know what to say. Out of the blue someone in the side chanted the magic words ‘Harry Potter’ and I immediately asked, ‘Do you like Harry Potter by any chance?’ I was really skeptic to be honest.

‘I’ve watched all the films 5 times,’ was the reply. Totally unexpected. Turns out the other person also liked cats, and we ended up talking about Minereva McGonagall and her transfiguration power. (Spoiler for muggles: McGonagall can transform herself into a cat.)

And just like that a difficult silence turned into an interesting evening of conversations.

Last week I met a few juniors at a program and we sat down after the event for dinner. Being the older one, it was on me to initiate the conversation. I asked them what they liked and three of them said books. Dan Brown was a favorite among them. One was reading Sapiens. We talked about The Da Vinci Code for a while and then I asked about Harry Potter. The girl who was sitting to my left happened to be a big fan. ‘I absolutely love Snape,’ she said. I could sense that she had resented this particular character for a long time before coming to realize his role in the books.

We even had a harmless giggle when we noticed someone in the crowd who we both thought resembled Draco Malfoy (a character from the books). (No harm intended to the person in the crowd!). (I myself was dressed in a long robe, looking like a witch!). The air was already relaxed and I could breathe and continue naturally.

A big chunk of ice breaker had been eased by a literary masterpiece. No wonder they call Harry Potter a work that has touched generations. I am well aware that this does not work all the time. But then again, there’s probably nothing that works all the time.

I have slowly been realizing that these snippets of conversations have been helping me become more confident at initiating and keeping conversations alive. I will eventually have to move out of my comfort zone and into the unknown filled with spontaneity and risk. I hope there will be a day when I will be able to spark a conversation with natural ease even when I do not have magic cues, till then I will have to keep trying to get the magic spell right.

Wingardium Leviosa!

The Stargazer 

‘Wouldn’t you agree that the night sky is much more interesting than the day?’

‘Why do you suppose so, Lord Vadin?’

‘There are plenty more characters at play under the starlight. There’s the cresent moon, and the constellation up there. While the mountains may be asleep and the cattles quiet, you get to see a different world, that one often sleeps through, without realizing how beautiful it is outside. That is what I think, princess.’

‘You sure are a stargazer my lord.’