On Being Interesting

Near Temple Meads

Over a working lunch with a friend last week, I mentioned that I’ve forgotten how to be interesting during the twelve week term. “Same here,” she replied.  How did that happen?  How did the pair of us feel like we’d been drained of personality?

Final year occupied me, piles of medical books, her.  University and personality had merged, leaving precariously little difference between what we were reading for class and what we did on our own time.

It’s a funny statement, “I’ve forgotten how to be interesting,” but perhaps the funniest part is how true it feels.  I’ve been feeling dull these past weeks.  Discussing the composition of cities is fine, as is the representation of women in Boccaccio, but plunk me down in a situation with normal conversation and all that leaves my mouth is a string of stutters and stammers.  Much like Cavalcanti in the face of his woman, come to think of it.

At the beginning of the year, one of my professors mentioned that the best way to do well in a class was to be interested in the work.  Be interested!  Easy say and, in theory, simple to act out.  You like what you’re doing — whether it is a job or a university course — but there is a sea of difference between what you enjoy and what appears fascinating.  I’m interested in Italian food, how it’s marketed abroad and what that says about identity.  How desire operates in love poetry only seems intriguing.

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These words brought a malaise to both of us.  Was this it?  Were we doomed to forget permanently how to be an interesting person?  Looking at the books to read and the essays to write, the prognosis didn’t feel promising.  It didn’t feel promising, but I refuse to believe that I will live the rest of my life as a shell of once-interested person.  I’ve remembered before and I’ll remember again, whether I do so in January or July.

Last year in Italy, I needed to forget some fun bits of my life in England to make the challenges palatable.  When in student housing, I need to forget how nice it is to have a clean kitchen and decent bathroom.  We’re constantly in the process of forgetting and remembering, everything from being interesting to the taste of sunbutter.  The thing is, we’re able to remember or, at the very least, re-learn.

They say you never forget how to ride a bike.  I’d like to add that you never forget how to be interesting.  Things come up in your life, they mix your brain around and refocus your priorities for a while.  Then life settles down and you can breathe again.  It might be a new type of breath, but it gives you new opportunities to get interested again.  At the beginning of 2013, who knew I would become interested in Scandinavia, eating fish or reading Monocle Magazine?  Yet all of those have interested me in the past year.

I, and every other final year student, may have forgotten how to be interesting during the past twelve weeks, but I feel confident that we will, in time, become our own human beings once again. It may happen a little bit in January or we may have to wait to don our hood in July, but it will happen.  And if it doesn’t, well, look what happened to Cavalcanti; he wrote some pretty famous poetry.

Have you ever felt as if you forgot how to be interesting?

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