Years ago, as I was just beginning to study Spanish, my teacher, being a Spaniard, pointed out that no language can be learned without understanding the cultural nuances.
As we learn to reply to “Hola! Como estas? ”Hello! How do you do?” we need to pay attention to certain differences.
As a Romanian, I might tend to be abruptly real and pessimistic in my reply. “How are you?” invites me to really state my complaints with anything from the weather, the sleep last night, the busy day ahead, to something that just happened and messed up my day.
This is unconceivable for a Spanish person, who’s reply would be at the other extreme, somewhere in the lines of “so happy with life”, “happy for the weather”, “amazing day”.
As a contrast in the US, where I live now, the expression “Hi, How are you?” is not really a question. It’s just a form of salutation. It only requires a “Hi” as a reply.
Sometimes just replying “Good” will make the listener nod, smile, and keep walking as if they’re thinking, “I actually don’t want to know anything about you.” Replying to “how are you?” could be a test for cultural assimilation in the future.
Staying on the surface is much more comfortable. We feel relieved if we don’t have to share how we really feel or what we mean.
But I’m wondering, do we make the time and have the space to share how we really feel?
What is the cost of not sharing our feelings?
The Cost of Disconnection
The reality is that no one’s getting better if we all keep saying we’re “good” when someone asks us how we’re doing.
What we’re avoiding is the thing that hurts us the most, actually feeling our feelings.
It takes time and courage to stop and look at how we really feel. But if not now, when?
Issues, unlike wine, don’t get better with age.
In the US, more than 1 in 3 young adults aged 18-25 experience mental illness.
Our young adults today will become tomorrow’s adults that suffer in silence. And only 14% of adults declare they are happy.
We live in constant comparison with others. Our social media feeds are filled with exciting moments and beautiful family photos, but deep inside we know that life can’t be captured in an Instagram feed.
Disappointment and suffering are part of human existence, and being vulnerable is what creates deeper connection.
In 2018 when I moved to the US with my family, the hardest challenge for me was to find opportunities for deeper connections, where I could share my thoughts and feelings without feeling judged.
I discovered that it’s not only hard for a middle-aged woman to create a context for connection, but it’s becoming increasingly hard for young adults too.
Covid didn’t help, but somehow it made it easier to really understand who your friends are. Someone said to me, “The pandemic really showed the true colors in people”.
The conversations in our head can take a serious toll on our mental health and overall well-being. We need the space and opportunity to make those conversations live, and be part of our social interactions.
Ways to Create Deeper Conversations and Connection
The silver lining of these times we live in is that we all can find our tribe.
That doesn’t only mean those that share the same views, but also your network of support, and those that are willing to listen despite having a difference of opinions.
The ability to listen to someone with a different point of view comes with a sense of humility, the acknowledgement that no one holds the absolute truth, and a sense of curiosity.
“Humility is not a matter of having low self-confidence…It’s about being grounded, recognizing that we are flawed and fallible.” Adam Grant- Think Again
What if we see having conversations as a way of “becoming together?”
The origin of the word conversation comes from the French “manner of conducting yourself into the world.”
Through conversations we not only conduct ourselves, we create ourselves.
Our identity becomes a matter of holding each other’s ideas and thoughts while allowing our own reflections to come to life.
What if the question of “How are you?” in the right context creates an opportunity for us to bring forward our care in the world?
If we don’t talk about our care, we will only have conversations about weather or just believe we’re “good.”
We need to be having conversations that connect us more deeply with our truth.
The Challenges of a Young Adult
Our young adults spend more time online than offline.
Bombarded by the need to look outside for validation of their own thoughts and opinions, they haven’t spent enough time on their own with the important questions to understand themselves.
As they move from the comfort of their homes, the known friends from high school, the familiar teachers and settings of their own towns, it’s becoming increasingly important for young adults to find deeper connections.
As much as we want them to be independent, our students need to spend time understanding what they care about, and feel that they can talk about it without being judged or labeled.
Moving from teenage years to adulthood, young adults might feel alone and uncomfortable in an unknown territory ,their confidence starts to shake. Self-doubt creeps in, manifesting in the internal, self-deprecating conversations.
Students at Parzival Academy understand that we address the important questions of care individually and as a group.
They become aware of the internal conversations that are holding them back, and with support they begin to feel comfortable in the discomfort of not having the answers or the ability yet to change the conversations.
A Different Vision for Young Adults
Parents and mentors at Parzival Academy aim for our young adults to be happy with who they are.
Their sense of wellbeing comes from a deeper awareness, not from having a certain college degree. That’s what we call confidence.
We hold the vision for our young adults to have the courage to take care of their care and fail, knowing that that’s a powerful and valid way to learn.
It takes practice to unlearn the tendency to look for answers immediately, to “fix” or treat just the symptoms.
We believe that to address the skyrocketing depression and anxiety in young adults, we must bring in real medicine, which is in addressing the inner layers of our being and truly understanding who we are.
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
The Road Not Taken- Robert Frost