Have you ever interviewed someone really close to you? Back in college, I interviewed three people about falling in love: my dad, one of my best friends, and another friend's boyfriend. It was part of a writing assignment, and I was asked to conduct the interviews, edit their responses into three separate monologues, and then perform the monologues "in character," channeling each person.
I'd never been quite as excited (or as frightened) by an assignment.
Here's the thing: I already do a lot of asking. Of friends and family and almost-friends and sort-of acquaintances, I tend to ask a lot of questions: simple ones, random ones, deep ones. I ask the questions because, yes, there are plenty of fears that I face, but one of the biggest is the fear of not asking. Not asking means not knowing, and I want to learn from the people I love. I want to know what they have to share and what they have to say, and I want to carry that with me.
Still, despite the many things I'd asked this group, the actual interviews felt very, very different. I'd expected the process to feel forced and strange, maybe even a bit stiff. Instead, though, each interview felt almost sacred. I didn't expect to be surprised; hadn't I talked to them about love a million times before? Hadn't we shared our thoughts and our dreams and our stories?
We had, of course, and we hadn't. Because until then, our talks weren't interviews — they were conversations. A back-and-forth. And people are different when they have the floor, so to speak. They sit differently and move differently and consider their thoughts in a way that's far more heightened.
Each interview lasted five minutes, maybe seven, and I learned more in those three hundred seconds with each person than I had in years and years of seeing and talking to them almost every day.
I'm bringing this up because I can't stop listening to old StoryCorps interviews. I've mentioned the organization before, but if you aren't familiar with it, StoryCorps is a nonprofit and project that's collected thousands of interviews over the years. There are interviews between best friends, parents and children, spouses, teachers and students, and sometimes ex-strangers who connected over odd or sad or beautiful circumstances. Now there's a podcast, one that I listen to on my commute, and recently, they came out with an app to encourage people to conduct their own interviews with people they care about. Whether or not I do it through StoryCorps, I've decided to do just that, because there's something to be said for asking, listening, not responding, and then asking again.
In some form, I encourage you to do the same. You just never know what somebody might say — what golden, shiny marble of wisdom they may toss into your collection.