I hate small talk.
Not all small talk. Just the small talk that’s mostly about ego competition, one-upping each other, attempting to cling to tribal groups and figure out who to exclude. I find it meaningless and exhausting.
But who am I to decide what is meaningful and meaningless?
Many things that I find meaningful are completely useless to many other people. Why does my opinion matter than someone else’s?
So if personally value only things I currently deem to be “deep and meaningful, ” and thus devalue watercooler gossip and other stuff normal people do, then that officially makes me an a**hole, going around thinking I am better than people. Being judgy, like I don’t want to be.
I try to remind myself that value, in terms of ideas or communication, doesn’t work like money. It doesn’t run out. I can just keep valuing some interactions more without devaluing others. Can’t I?
I can respect people’s choices without wanting to make them myself. We can all find joy in different things without judging each other, right?
But then I SHOULD pass judgment on people’s behavior that is hurting others. I am a creature who is very sensitive to volume and tone. How do I tell when people trading insults in a humorous tone are actually having fun, or if they are just having a crass power battle couched in jocularity? How do I know that their register isn’t just different from mine? Do I wait til they start hitting each other?
Do I try to isolate myself from folks who interact primarily by judging and ridiculing, trying to slot people in their proper power order?
Do I just lighten up?
As a teacher, how much am I supposed to intervene? When kids are trading annoying but innocuous barbs, jockeying like little alpha and beta dogs, when does “let them work it out themselves” end and my responsibility to squash their interaction begin?
I love teaching. I love kids. But I hate spending most of my waking hours telling people constantly what they cannot do. I want to help them develop some sort of inner voice that they can trust. But they can’t get there until they are in a place where they aren’t constantly defending their social position.
Some kids are are so used to their behavior being restricted that they don’t want to do what they are told, even if it benefits them. Even though they simultaneously (subconsciously) crave direction and normalcy.
The social scene for many kids involves trying to get others in trouble, for amusement purposes. They love to see the adults get mad; it’s funny. And it is also funny to throw their enemies and frenemies under the bus. It’s like prey escaping from predators.
I have students who spend much of their time reenacting their traumas, interacting in the only ways they know how. Kids who will hug you one minute and cuss you out the next, with no warning.
I don’t know how to navigate all this. I shut down and it takes all the energy I have to keep from bursting into tears at my ineffectiveness.
Me and my ADD brain have always had a hard time deciding which details were relevant and which ones weren’t. I lack pruning skills. I carry all this irrelevant information I might need some day, like I carry 10 books in my backpack at once, in case I need one and I don’t know which one. Other people can tell which information is socially relevant.
Choosing is so hard.
I hate choosing. I hate judging.
Why can’t I hold it all in my head and value it all the same, through the golden light of love? Why can’t I somehow know what to do in a situation with 500 variables, only 300 of which I can see?
Why can’t I stop overanalyzing small talk?