It’s been a minute, hasn’t it?
The past month - actually, almost 2 months - have been a whirlwind. At the end of September, I went to Maine on vacation with my lovely friend Megan, where we explored Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. I could definitely see myself living there when I’m older. I loved the fresh air, disconnect from society, and open space. If you haven’t been, I’d highly recommend visiting.
After that, I enjoyed my last week in DC with those closest to me (and lots of packing in between seeing people). A little over a month ago, I left DC - and to be honest, it felt really great. I had no sad feelings about leaving, and the hardest part of leaving was saying goodbye to all of the amazing people I’d met while there. Shortly thereafter, I headed out for 10 days for a 3 legged trip: first to Denver for work, second to San Francisco for fun, then to Arizona for work again. Alt-travel was great because I was able to get free flights to San Francisco and was able to spend the weekend in Palo Alto/SF area, then had an easy flight to get to Phoenix for work. That being said, I have no desire to travel for 10 days in a row again any time soon unless I’m going international for personal travel (cough, cough; what I’m doing in about two weeks - insert eye roll at myself but also excitement at going to Europe). I was worn down by the end, and very grateful to have a bed of my own. I had a nice two-week break at home, followed by 24 hours in New York City and a truly, truly, wonderful weekend in DC.
I haven’t been writing a lot lately. It tends to ebb and flow, where I go through periods where I write like a mad woman and other times where I don’t touch my journal for days on end. One of the goals I set for 2018 was to write a book (just for fun), and I’m finally moving on that goal. I’ve since turned it into a system, where I spend 30-60 minutes each morning writing. As you may know by now, systems trump goals in my world. And this system has worked really well when I’m not traveling. I’m sure I’ll be more diligent about blog writing in a few months, but I’m going to crush this goal first.
Now that I’ve provided an update, let’s get to what I wanted to write about. When I was in Arizona for work, one night my team went to a restaurant for dinner that was about an hour from our hotel. We were having some good conversation in the car, which is highly valuable when your team works in a virtual environment. The bonus of this trip was that my friend Megan who I went to Maine with was there as a new member of my team. Our work anniversary was approaching, so I turned to her in our cramped Dodge Minivan and asked “What do you think you’ve learned in the last year about yourself from working?” Everyone else in the car laughed because we went from seemingly small talk to a “heavy hitter” question. Megan knows me quite well, and so these types of questions aren’t uncommon in our friendship. She joked to the group that this was our friendship in a nutshell (very true). This sparked a conversation in the car about what we’ve learned, and ultimately turned into a broader conversation among the group about more substantial things. If you’re wondering, I’ve learned that I am not as detail-oriented as I thought I was (and I’m very okay with that).
I don’t want to diss small talk, because I think it has its place and its value. That being said, I don’t consider myself to be a small talk person. I like big talk - to talk about things that are meaningful, grandiose, and exciting. Those are the conversations that excite me and keep me going. While it may be quirky that I just jump right in to things in conversations, I think there is beauty in it.
One of my favorite questions to ask as of lately, which I cannot take credit for myself and came from my boyfriend, is as simple as: “What are you looking forward to?” which is sometimes rephrased as, “What excites you?”
Sometimes this is one question all blended together, sometimes two, sometimes one or the other. Both nudge at the same thing: what in the future, on the horizon, makes your heart jump with joy? As a learned optimist, I am choosing to see a brighter future than today. Right now, I’m learning about stocks in an effort to become financially 'woke” as the kids say. To make a cringe-worthy analogy remnant of your high school ‘business’ classes (if you had them), although the stocks may fluctuate day-to-day, overall the market improves YoY. The same thing goes for happiness. Some days might be awful, some days might be amazing, but generally the days trend upward. At least, I like to think that way. Learned optimist, I tell you. I digress; to my main point here: I love this question because it implicitly assumes that there is something ahead that is exhilarating. And if there isn’t, then to me that’s a sign that something needs to be planned or I need to make a change to my current situation in order to have more thrill in my life.
I find that this is a fun question to ask people too, because it’s a good way of getting to know what fires someone up and what is important in their life. Next time you’re catching up with a friend or relative, try asking a big talk question. Below are some others I enjoy asking for some inspiration.
What’s something you’re proud of doing this year?
What are you learning right now?
What do you want to learn next?
What’s something really cool you did recently?
Why do you love XYZ? (asking why questions is a great way to dig deeper on topics with people)
What hobbies have you been into lately?
What is your favorite holiday tradition? (seasonally appropriate?)
It’s important to be tactful in asking these, i.e. not asking random strangers on the street, but if you’re comfortable with someone, test it out and let me know if you have a great conversation (or shitty one) because of it!