I got to see a friend this morning that I hadn’t seen in awhile. I was feeling a little anxious about how to begin our visit. We’ve been friends since preschooler days. We’d weathered story time volunteering, parenting dilemmas, quilting projects, caregiving, loss. How was the best way to reconnect?
We greeted each other with a hug and I handed her something I’d brought – some chocolate and copies of my books.
“Oh cool, thanks. You know I’ve been wanting to ask you what you are into learning now.”
I took a minute to think.
And I really appreciated being asked about what I was learning. What I was into learning now, no assumptions about what I’d been doing or into the last time we’d seen each other.
I felt like she gave me a chance to reflect, and also made space for me to change.
I also really appreciated that her first question was about me rather than my family, work, roles, or other relationships. So often we can get pigeon-holed based on the circumstances of how someone met us, or a particular thing or event someone associates with us.
For years, after becoming a wife and mom, I felt like I only got asked about my hubby and child, as if my existence had narrowed to those roles. I still wanted to be all of me, even if it was hard to find the time and energy to keep doing all the things I wanted to. It doesn’t help when the norm is to ask about roles and jobs.
When I wasn’t employed, it was hard to meet new people and have their first question be “What do you do?” I knew they were looking for a career or job related answer. Oh how I would have rather been asked, “What are you into learning now?”
I could have always had an answer, answers that might have been expected or totally surprising. Answers that lead easily into further conversation and getting to know people more deeply.
When I turned the question back on my friend, her answer completely surprised me.
I volleyed the ball back to her court, “Wow, really? How are you doing that? What got you interested in that?”
I learned a piece of her history I’d never heard before. I also got some ideas for new interests and how to pursue them.
And, I thought, I need to remember to use this opening question.
So, what are you into learning these days?