When I was 33 I lived in a small rural mining town with my husband, worked full time, and had two small children, and a baby on the way.
I was a worker. I was a wife. I was a mum.
I had absolutely nothing to talk about except those three things.
Our town was so small that a quick dash to get a loaf of bread from Woolies would often turn into a 30-minute round trip because without a doubt you would run into someone you knew. Maybe a work colleague, a gf, the husband of a friend, even an acquaintance you didn’t know too well would stop for a quick chat. You could tell from a mile away who didn’t have time to stop because it would be eyes to the ground.
This was one of the beauties of the town; friendly faces and a good ole chat wherever you went. Until one day I went to do the shopping and saw my good friend out grabbing a quick lunch. We hugged as I moved towards the trolley bay and she asked me how I was. The same friendly happy normal thing a person asks another person when they see each other. ‘Hi, how are you? What’s going on?’ On this occasion, I froze. I couldn’t think of anything to say.
How was I going? Fine, I guess.
What was going on? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I had nothing to report, nothing to say.
And that’s exactly what I said.
‘I have absolutely no news. I have nothing to say. Work, parent, wife. I honestly can’t think of anything to offer you in way of conversation.’ It was honest, but it was unexpected.
We laughed. She nodded in understanding. She went her way I went mine. But I wasn’t laughing anymore. I was distressed. Did I seriously have absolutely nothing going on in my life? Work was work. It wasn’t my passion. It was how I made money. It was not a fun job to talk about and if I ever did talk about it, it was usually to whinge about it.
Wife life was wife life, nothing to report. My husband and I were doing the groundhog stuff of working and parenting, drinking wine on the weekends and binge watching Vikings and Game of thrones as soon as the kids went to sleep.
Mum life was relentless and ruthless and sweetness on repeat. And let’s be honest, there is a polite amount that you can talk about your children to other people. Because nobody cares about what your kids do, as much as you do.
Groceries blurred in my peripherals as I considered the realisation that I don’t have anything to talk about. Am I not interesting. Am I not fun? What did I used to talk about? Does my brain still work?
It occurred to me that people often talk about current events, but since my husband and I decided years ago to stop watching the news and “reality” tv, and had absolutely no desire to start, I didn’t have the latest data on war torn countries, world hunger, temporary prime ministers, or Kim Kardashians ass measurements to fill my conversation tank. #sorrynotsorry
I didn’t have a hobby. Why didn’t I have a hobby? Did I used to have a hobby? Holy shit, I’ve been running on a mouse wheel of life for so long that I’ve forgotten how to live. #spiralling
I went onto the local Facebook group to see if there were any Book Clubs operating in the town. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it sooner. I couldn’t believe I had forgotten the one thing that saved me 4 years prior when I became a mum and my brain died.
Within minutes of pressing send, asking the township of any active book clubs in the area, I had comments flowing in of women putting their hand up saying how keen they would be to join a book club. Somewhere along the line the original post had become misunderstood and it was being perceived that I was starting a book club. Turns out I wasn’t the only women in town who was feeling a little lost for words, who needed more socialisation, who needed quality conversation.
So, I started a book club.
I started making time to read all the books I had piled on my shelves. My brain firing up again with all the various topics each book provided. The end of month social event on my calendar gave me something to look forward to. When the day finally came, once the Hello’s and introductions were out of the way, we spilled experiences, shared stories, laughed and lamented. When we spoke of our children or partners or work, it was because they were intertwined in anecdotes that stemmed from bigger topics.
Some members read the book, some read half, some didn’t read any of the books at all. Some drank wine, some drank tea. Some talked more than others, some didn’t talk at all. We were all there for different reasons.
I wasn’t just in need of having more to talk about or share, I needed quality conversations offering differing opinions, teaching me new things, and forcing me to use parts of my brain and personality and facial expressions that had been dormant.
I used my love of books to reconnect with myself, and others.
We all need a hobby; that thing we do for joy.
We all need a little less small talk, and a lot more BIG talk.