Mundane Interactions, Mundane Life

Student 1: “Hey, how are you?”

Student 2: “Good, how are you?”

Student 1: “Good! Catching class. I’ll see you later!”

You may have engaged in this type of conversation while at Duke. Super fast, super typical, and super Duke. We know the “good” is usually just lies. We see it in their faces as they speed walk to their next class, with notes in their hand trying to study for the exam that they are heading towards. We see it in their nervous laughs when they say “good” because we know they are not well deep down inside. We see it in their droopy eyes as they walk slowly to Perkins.

I wouldn’t even call this a conversation. It’s a formality issue; you can’t ignore someone you know when they walk past you – after all, it may come off as rude. So instead, you just ask “How are you” to fill the awkward gap of possible silence. And maybe both parties are indeed rushing to class and don’t have time for a more insightful conversation. But why do we answer “good”, even if sometimes we are struggling? Why can’t we be genuine in our answers all the time? Is it because we don’t have time for a conversation, so we instead try to keep things simple and positive? After all, “good” is not terrible.

But “good” is also not the equivalent of great. We need to find a new way to engage in conversation, one that actually formulates deeper and meaningful relationships. If we see ourselves encountering superficial interactions, then we need to take initiative to follow up on that conversation. Message that person to get dinner together, and not for networking, but to get to know one another on a deeper, personal level. It may be hard to get someone to be vulnerable the first time around, but staying close to that friend will eventually lead both of you to open up. Do not just finish a day with merely mundane interactions that lead to nothing.

Obviously, Duke is more than just the institution. There are the students who make up the school, and these students have lives that are beyond their premed, STEM, or humanities classes. They have a personal life, they have passions (some of which may have not yet been found), and they, too, have an innate desire to know one another on a deep, meaningful level. We have let the craziness of school work boggle us down, and we are continuing to lose this battle against the craziness of college. But we will always have the time, as long as we have the intention to create it.

It would be hard to graduate from a place knowing that the main outcome was only the degree. These four years of our life are critical for our development, the expansion of our worldviews, and the formations of relationships that can affect our lifetime experiences.  So, the next time we pass by a person and all they say is “good”, and we are okay with that response and decide to move on, we need to remember that we are losing the opportunity for greater intelligence and insight into the perspectives and life story of another world.