Why do we tell stories? To relate to one another. To feel less alone. To educate. To inspire a scene. To avoid the discomfort of silence. To implore the comfort of mascara- stained girls in bathrooms adorned with too personal of insults. How did they know I’d be here? To remind ourselves of the good ol’ days. To forget the bad new ones. To rid us of the darkness within ourselves, or to shed our eco-efficient light on someone else. To escape the dreaded hand. To make that monay hunay. To guiltlessly gossip. Kylie Jenner 2020. Or, to remind ourselves that sometimes it’s time to listen. Say what?!
My father has given me three pieces of advice in my life, and consequently left me fumbling through unabridged darkness in all other moments. (JK dad. Luv u, meen it.) One of those times, was when I left for college and he curtly informed me that, “if you ever want to get to know a person, don’t talk. Just listen. They’ll tell you everything you need to know.” This lost pillar of ancient Chinese wisdom, called listening, has washed over the sands of my life in ways I never anticipated, in both forms bad and not so bad. It often manifests itself in making me appear shy in social settings, because what happens when you listen like a creepster with your hand to your ear and eyes wide to the floor, rather than talk, respond or act in any way that a normal human person would? In comedic settings, it makes me more hesitant in Improv scenes because I assume value of my scene partner’s ideas over mine. (Additional skills: extreme humility) But in more appropriate times, it guides and informs me in defining what kind of characters my friends, enemies, coworkers, classmates, strangers are. And to gain a quicker grasp on those people who are consequently that moment in my life’s, scene partner. Listening is an invaluable skill. Let’s Ted Talk here and imagine if you had gone your entire life without listening. You would have acquired no knowledge, obtained no experience, no musical or artistic delight, received no iPhone updates, no learned calculus that you’ll never have the chance to not use, no discouraging update on the financial gains of unskilled famous twenty year olds. What would you do without the humbling insults from your high school’s soccer team, or most importantly never been informed that the battle between man buns and rompers was all a government ploy to distract us from the real war going on. Skinny Jeans. (People don’t forget!)
This isn’t a message to never speak up, stand out, or communicate your own ideas. But more so, to respect and honor that others may have the same inclination. So next time you get that warm, bubbling sensation to speak over, “eh-hum” or flip off...just remember that listening has taught you everything you know. Just like it’s taught me everything I know. I’m just too busy listening to tell you about it.
Meili Chao is an improviser, stand-up comedian, and musician who lives in Denton with her cat, Miles Voldemort. She spends her spare time wearing off-the-shoulder tops in coffee shops "waiting to be discovered."