Remember the magic of college? Thousands of people of the same age, in the same place, at the same time, with availability and limited responsibility? The conversations where you sat around for hours philosophizing and waxing poetic, getting to the heart of who these future life-long friends around you really were?

I was reminded of these conversations this weekend, as I made up for lost time and went out, not once, but twice, with different groups from different times in my life. The first, a group of friends and fellow teachers, who know and can sympathize with the “now me-” busy with work, parenting, relationship, hobbies, etc. The second was with a group of high school classmates, with whom I didn’t even share a class, but with whom I somehow felt a resonance at our recent 25th high school reunion. (Yes, 25th reunion…I know! I’m that old…) This was the hours long conversation like in the “days of old.” We might have had some knowledge of the 17-year-old versions of each other, but we were finding out what had really been going on in each other’s high school brains, and who we morphed into all these years later because of, or in spite of, our experiences.

Maybe it was because we experienced a lot in our post-high school years, so we had a lot to talk about. Maybe it was because our similar experiences had us jumping from one person’s story into the next one’s. But I think the real tinder for these satisfying conversations is having that person who knows how to bring others out- that makes the group feel safe and validated enough to share what they are thinking. That asks the questions that keeps the conversation going. The one that has the self-deprecating sense of humor maybe, or the sincerity to listen to what you have to say after they ask the question. Whether it is learned or natural, these people make you feel connected, and fulfilled from one conversation and make the world so much brighter.

As my daughter heads off to college in the fall, my hope for her (well, one of them at least!) is that technology doesn’t deprive her of dormroom deep dives into all topics- nothing taboo. That she is as lucky as I have been to find myself in groups that include the interesting, the kind, the hilarious, the inquisitive, and the skilled conversationalists- so she can learn from them and feel heard by them and live in a world that is that much brighter. -A


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