Sisters, Friends, and Study Abroad

I think I made what is to be one of my favorite college memories last night. It was one of those moments when you can step out of yourself and say “This. This is what I’m living for. And I don’t want it to end.” Of course it does, but now you have a snapshot of that one particular moment with that one particular set of feelings and that one particular smile of pure contentment playing on your lips.

Before I tell you what it was that had me loving life, I should probably give you some context before you think all I do is cook and partake in other house-wifey duties. I should also mention that this relates to my future plans for next year.

I know I’ve written that I have a sister, Curran, but I don’t think you know much more other than there’s 13 years between us and she is now raising a beautiful family with her husband Tim in Massachusetts. I didn’t get to visit her very frequently during high school, and I get to even less now that I’m in Maryland. However, since starting college, I’ve begun the practice of visiting her for about a week in the summer and winter. Those visits are truly a change of scene that I wouldn’t give up for the world.

In the winter we sit in front of a crackling fire and sip hot cider while reading books after the kids have gone to bed. In the summer we go to children’s museums in the day and concerts in the park at night. But no matter the season we always cook together. Curran has her own garden and a farm share to supply fresh vegetables and herbs; I swear it tastes different from what you buy in the store. When we start a recipe from her arsenal of cookbooks, I always end up learning something new about the art of cooking. From a faster way to chop onions to the proper order of making pesto, she makes these lessons family memories.

This is due in part to the conversations we have and the music we listen to, but the best thing we share during these bonding sessions is Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. Yes, I know, I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s something that has become a family past time. As we mince garlic and wash lettuce, we try to guess the Listener Limerick and always have a good laugh when Paula Poundstone is on the show.

And as of last night, I was able to share this experience with my roommate Erin. After an exhausting week we wanted to keep our Friday night relaxing, so I made homemade spaghetti sauce with fettuccine for dinner. Instead of playing my usual cooking playlist and dancing along, or Erin watching Doctor Who in our bedroom, we enjoyed each others’ company in the kitchen. And listened to Wait Wait.

As I stirred the sauce, I looked over to see Erin laughing at Peter Sagal’s commentary while playing her 3DS, the warm light creating a comforting glow, and our future dinner filling the room with a tantalizing aroma. That’s when it happened. That moment of happiness: a sense of belonging based on the trust of friendship and the sharing of interests.

Now, as to how this could possibly have anything to do with my future plans, well…next semester Erin and I are embarking on an adventure. We’ll be leaving family and friends (though I’m sure we’ll make some new ones) to study abroad in Cork, Ireland! We’ve agreed not to be direct roommates for that time, but it’s reassuring to know she’ll still be there with me. To say I’m excited to share new experiences and make new memories would be the biggest understatement of the year. I am beyond excited.

I am impassioned, thrilled, wild, ecstatic; basically every possible adjective that could express happiness at this wonderful opportunity to learn about a new culture and make some amazing memories with one of my good friends.

Midnight Inquisitons and Afternoon Examinations

My roommate has taken to asking me questions before bed, but they aren’t the kind of questions you’d expect. Nothing mundane like “How was your day?” or “What do you have coming up this week?” (She already knows those answers, anyway.)

No. She goes for the obscure, strange, and surprisingly morally probing questions:

  • “Would you rather have to live with a smudge on your glasses for the rest of your life, or have a constant ringing sound in your ears?”
  • “If you could go inside the belly of a whale, would you do it?”
  • “Which would you rather wake up and have under you in bed, a rat or a snake?”
  • “Would you rather save 5 people that you knew (not intimately) or 100 complete strangers?”

I usually stare at some of my postcards as I contemplate the answers.

postcardsmore postcards

Sometimes the answers take a while to think of, sometimes I refuse to answer, and sometimes I respond with my own questions like, “How did the rat or snake get there in the first place?”

Yeah, these questions are really weird, but I think they give a fairly accurate representation of my relationship with my roommate:

Really weird but adorable at the same time (aaaawww, she just came over to give me a hug!)

Now, I’ve gotten used to these random once-a-month inquisitions, but imagine my surprise when a group of friends (those folks I talked with about authenticity) started a meeting with similar questions. Well, they didn’t include any weird animals, but they got pretty deep.

Would you rather be able to speak every language or play every instrument in the world?

Well … I used to sing in a choir (homeschool choir, actually), and I’m not a big fan of singing solos, or drawing unnecessary attention to myself (I have horrible stage fright), so I would have to say I’d rather be able to speak every language. I love learning from others and about different cultural experiences, and I think the best way for me to go about that would be through listening and talking to others. Some people in the group said music is a universal language, which I won’t deny, but I don’t know if I’d ever be comfortable using it in front of others.

Another question from our meeting that had me stumped:

If you were a member of the opposite sex (or whichever leaning you prefer), would you date yourself?

I don’t know if I want to say “Yes” because I hope there’s someone out there who wants to date me, or if I truly think I could put up with myself. I’m starting to think it’s the former. Because let’s face it, if I heard the excuses I come up with about being too busy and not being able to give enough of my time to the other person, I wouldn’t want to date me either.

Here’s the question that revealed more about ourselves indirectly than any other I heard at that meeting:

What is one belief, value, or priority that you will pass on to your own children someday?

Although I never see myself having children, or getting married for that matter (a topic I’m not about to get into), there are three things I want to impart to my nephews as they grow up:

  1. Acceptance of yourself and of others, for all your differences and similarities.
  2. The ability to celebrate those differences and at the same time understand people even if you don’t agree with them (empathy).
  3. Curiosity in the world around you and a love of learning for the sake of learning

There were so many different values shared; everyone had a different answer. Somehow by talking about what we wanted to teach others, we explained more about ourselves than we ever could have in a year of knowing each other.

Asking questions of each other is so crucial to building relationships, and it is so often overlooked. No matter how strange or intimate the Q&A process is, I think we all get something unique out of it.

So surprise each other. Ask a question next time you’re with a friend, or new acquaintance, or me.

I’ll try to answer as best I can.