Here, I could leave dinner with friends determined to take a class in feminist theology, and at breakfast the next day our conversation could convince me to study abroad in Barcelona. Walking around campus, I had this ever-present feeling that I was just about to hear something that would change my whole life forever, simply by piquing my interest. Here, it’s understood that collaboration doesn’t mean study buddies and class participation. It means sharing knowledge in the hopes that what you learn will change the lives of others, not just your own.
Let your life speak
My parents square dance on Sunday nights. Stop laughing.
Yes, they are part of what is ever-so-cleverly called “the square dance group” – five couples that met in the 70’s (when, let’s not forget, square dancing still wasn’t cool) and have been Right and Left Grand-ing ever since. They’ve all had children, who became known as – you guessed it - the square dance kids, though let’s just keep that between you and me.
Since I was born I’ve known the comforting thud of a Right-Hand Star on our hardwood floor like I knew my own heartbeat. I’ve known how to Dosado since before I realized what it was, which come to think of it is probably why I let my dad teach it to me. Let me emphasize that I was raised in the northeast, where square dancing was taught in exactly one day of gym class and never spoken of again, if you knew what was good for you. And I’ll admit this wasn’t an intense square dance group… there were no cowboy boots or strict rules, and it mostly served as an excuse for good company and a whole lot of laughing. My parents may not even be more embarrassing than yours, in fact. But it was a strange reason for friends to get together nonetheless, and it has taught me quite a bit.
The square dance group may be the reason I embrace offbeat opportunities, or the reason I easily laugh at myself. It probably taught me about old friends, and having fun, and trying new things with the people we meet along the way. But that’s not really the point of this essay. What I’m actually trying to tell you is that I know how to Left-Hand Allemande, and I could teach you how if you want me to.
What makes you happy?
Games make me happy. Every Christmas Eve, my family and our guests gather around the tree for charades instead of presents, a tradition older than I am. I could play Scattergories for full afternoons if my opponents were up for it, and my sister and I used to play Spit until my hands were red. I’ll even admit that I carry a deck of cards around in my purse in the hopes that I’ll find myself in a group of four with nothing to do (“Hearts!” I’ll yell, if that situation ever arises).
My proclivity to organized fun began early. Growing up, days at the beach meant rounds of Cornhole, car rides were for the license plate game, and trips long enough for suitcases were also long enough for 1,000 piece puzzles. Some people say games have no real substance or purpose, that they’re mindless. Those people never win Taboo. I’d argue that games allow our minds to get up and stretch – to strategize and hypothesize and thesaurusize (look it up in the Balderdash dictionary). Games require quick reflexes, quick wit, and quick bathroom breaks, and there’s nothing mindless about them. For me, though, games have always been more about the players. I owe my close relationship with my college roommate to the game of Cribbage, for example, and my favorite memories of all time are the ones that start with my friends cramming onto a tiny couch to decide teams.
Give games a shot. There are few better ways of getting to know someone than trying to make them guess the word “elephant” without saying “animal”, “circus”, or “Dumbo”. And there are few things in this world more fulfilling than pulling a piece of paper from a hat and feeling totally confident that those on the guessing end know you well enough to absolutely dominate this rapid fire round.