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Why We Ask About Joy

When I was a college orientation leader, I became immediately aware of the boxes we put ourselves into. When I sat on the quad with my group of incoming first year students, the familiar questions were posed:

  • What’s your major?

  • Where are you from?

  • How many people went to your high school?

  • What activities did you do in high school?

It was almost as if by gathering this information, I could paint a picture of who the person was. In years since, I’ve been thinking a lot about these questions. What if rather than asking what someone’s major was, I asked what they were passionate about? They could tell me English. Or they could say that they’ve always wanted to be a writer and they spend most of their free time reading books.

And couldn’t that sometimes lead me to my first question? “That’s why I came to this school to study English.”

One feels like fact gathering. Like I’m checking boxes and completing a sheet of information that will help me categorize the person in front of me. Theatre person. Jock. Nerd. Stoner. Isn’t it easy to throw stereotypes around?

While nobody has asked me my college major in years, I find this same pattern playing out as I meet other adults stumbling through the world. This time, it’s framed as “what do you do?” And while this always implies “for work” I find myself pulled to respond with whimsy.

What do I do? I wake up early because I like the way it feels to run on a quiet sidewalk or tiptoe around a sleeping home. I bake a lot and most recently made a shortbread cherry brownie dessert for my friend’s birthday. I always listen to my Discover Weekly and Release Radar playlists on Spotify and I’m prone to dancing in the middle of the day. I often read next to a cup of herbal tea and in winter I drink way too much hot chocolate. I make eye contact with dogs on the street and am quite particular about not having “outdoor clothes” on my bed.

I aim to live in a way where my major, my job, my high school clique, becomes the least interesting thing about me.

So now, when I sit in a space with new people, soon to be friends, I am pulled to ask questions I truly want to hear the answers to:

  • What’s the best meal you’ve had this week?

  • Are you reading anything interesting these days?

  • If you could travel anywhere for a weekend, a week, a month, and a year, where would you go?

  • What are you looking forward to in the next month?

What is bringing you joy right now?


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