I’m the type of person who, when at dinner with someone, will ignore my companion in favor of listening to the conversations of other patrons. I find people fascinating, and since there’s a good chance I already know the person I’m at dinner with pretty well, I can concentrate my efforts on strangers. Usually my friends are similarly interested in strangers’ gossip, and we’ll sit in silence until a juicy topic comes up.

When I was a student last year, I spent lots of time alone in coffee shops–ripe grounds for an array of conversations. This year, I’m employed as a nearly invisible sales person and spend lots of my time at work skulking around behind customers listening to their conversations. It both surprises and comforts me to learn how similar people are across the board. 20-something girls always talk about their nights out and guys they’re interested in. Two moms will rag and brag on their kids and husbands competitively. Men usually talk about sports or drinking (this could be specific to Chicago).

On the other hand, I absolutely cannot grasp what it would be like to be anyone but me. I mean, I think about the people I know; even the people I know well and spend most of my time with have lives entirely outside of me. I can understand the way someone usually operates and talk to them about their thoughts and feelings, but they then go off and have parts of their lives that are entirely separate from me. This sounds selfish, maybe, but it’s something that has always gotten to me. I have my own complex thought life–thoughts and dreams that no one else knows. Each one of us has that same secret life, and it’s just amazing that in a crowded world of 7 billion people, every single one of us can remain in some aspect untouched.

 

*Unrelated: the title of the post is inspired by someone with whom I ended a relationship over the phone. He requested I meet him and do it again face-to-face because he was an “in-person person.” Awkward, hilarious and kind of how I roll too.