In 250 Words: On Health, Spirituality, Past Experiences, and The Meaning of it All

In the 250 Words series, the RU Student Life writers are posed a question, and in 250 words they each offer their insights. Read them all here.

Question 22: What question do you wish people asked you more (and were willing to listen?)

Maxine: What’s it all mean anyway?

I wish people asked me about my perspective on life because while I have a lot to say, I have even more to learn. I wish that I could have an open dialogue about why we’re here and what it all means without certain connotations. We tend to put thoughts of life and death on the back burner in favour of our daily pursuits. I’m not saying that’s wrong – we need to think about our daily lives because those are the things that keep us going. It is difficult to fathom such heavy topics and when you do, the results aren’t always pleasant. Although, at a certain point, we all have to consider what it means to be alive. What are we all doing? Sometimes I feel like I’m sleepwalking, going through the motions and occupying my time with all these trivial matters when there is so much more at stake. But I don’t even know what’s at stake. Most of the time, I try to push these thoughts out of my head because I don’t know how to make sense of them. I think that if more people were comfortable talking about the things that don’t make sense, the things we’re all afraid of, we might be better off.

Jessica: Let’s Talk Spirituality

I wished more people asked me about my beliefs without shutting down my thought process or infringing their own beliefs onto me. I’m probably the most spiritual I’ve ever been and it’s not in the traditional sense of what most people think being ‘spiritual’ and ‘religious’ means. I think those words hold pre-formulated connotations in people’s mind, so I often avoid getting into long discussions on the topic unless I know the listener is willing to hear me out.

My mom is a Buddhist and my dad is mostly Agnostic. My parent’s beliefs obviously influenced my views of the world, but they are decently open-minded individuals (at least as far as Chinese parents go). My parents even allowed me to attend a Christian church as a child because they thought it was important for me to learn about other religions. I am very fortunate that I grew up encouraged to decide for myself what I wanted to indoctrinate into my own beliefs.

People are quick to laugh when I start talking about conspiracy theories, extraterrestrials, politics, and even God, but I think there’s a little truth to every “fiction”. I wish more people would just sit down with me and entertain these ideas as opposed to shutting it down. I never grew up religious or spiritual, and yet here I am: someone who often thinks about life, death, and everything in-between and beyond more than I get to talk about. I wish more people felt comfortable engaging in these heavy topics with me without it leading to a debate. Nothing fills my heart more than being able to exchange knowledge and stories in an un-bias and judgment-free place.

Danielle: How Are You Really?

I wish someone would ask me if I was okay, and truly be willing to listen. There’s nothing that annoys me more than when someone asks how you’re doing simply because it’s the polite thing to do or an obligation to get out of the way. There have been so many times where I’ve answered that I’m doing fine, but have been ready to break on the inside.

I know that I am at fault for asking people the obligatory question too; it has become a habit in everyday conversation. Only, there is a difference between asking someone how they are doing versus actually caring. I know the few people in my life who will ask me and I know I can answer them honestly, but for the most part it just feels like a question to fill a void when there is nothing else to say.

When you are having a bad day, sometimes the best thing to do it talk about how you’re doing. Except, I recognize that there is a fear in thinking that you will only be a bother or a nuisance to anyone you divulge your problems to. I think that we all have to realize that we’re human; we have our good days and we have our bad days and at the end of the day we have to make sure that we’re there for each other.

Next time, when you run into a friend you haven’t seen in a while, or a colleague who looks a little frazzled, ask them how they’re doing and mean it. You can always tell when someone truly cares to know that answer and sometimes that can make the world of a difference.

Sunita: The Person You Once Were

A question that I love to ask other people and one that I wish I was asked more, is about past experiences. I think the best way to get to know someone as they are now is to learn about how they became that way. Things like the first movie that made them cry. The name of their childhood best friend. The days they wish they could relive. The mistakes they want to erase.

I have formed deep, everlasting friendships during my time at university, and sometimes I find it staggering that the people who have become a part of my life in my twenties who know me so well, will never know me fully. They don’t know why I switched elementary schools. They don’t know the names of the friends I grew out of. They don’t know exactly what I was like in high school. They don’t know the book I read as a teenager that changed my life. And that’s because I haven’t told them, but it’s also because they haven’t asked. These are things that I love to learn about other people, because then it helps me understand their strengths and weaknesses, their sensitivities and deepest secrets. When you learn about someone’s upbringing it’s always going to make you see a person in a new light. To share those experiences also gives a deeper connection to a friendship, and brings purpose to your mistakes and your past.