Here’s the scene: on a Friday morning, only a few weeks ago, I got into a conversation with a few friends. We were at a coffee shop in Holland, and it was busy. All the fun things were a part of this Friday morning coffee-shop-in-Holland experience: two friends reading the Bible quietly, two friends talking about the Bible very loudly, a group of friends slamming their hands on the table repeatedly for no reason, people doing homework with headphones in, and approximately two to six people standing, sipping their drinks, waiting for a table to open up.
My friends and I were playing the roles of people talking about other people in the coffee shop. I brought us into this conversational space, probably because I saw something funny and wanted to laugh about it with someone else. In any case, we were pointing out that many folks in coffee shops have an apparent “thing.” That guy has tattoos, that girl has pink streaks in her hair, that guy tucks his shirt in, that man wears cargo pants, that woman reads one book while stacking a pile of more books next to her, that person breaks into song, that one gives high-fives.
If you’re thinking, wow, those are all snap judgments, you’re right, they are. These things do not necessarily define these people, but they do draw attention.
That led us each to this question: what’s my thing? If other people were playing the game we were playing, what might they say about me?
Let me pause for a moment and admit something. I like to pretend that I don’t care about the answers to those questions, that I can float through the day-to-day oblivious to the opinion of other people. This is, at best, delusional. In reality, I prepare myself for public appearance. Not to simply show off a thing, and not just in the way I dress or walk or eat, but even in the way I think about the day or try to anticipate social interactions. When I stumble unprepared into an uncomfortable social moment, I can feel my body hitch, as if to signal some small malfunction. So I ready myself every morning, mentally. I run through my day. Anxiety lumps in my throat. I swallow it down.
All this to say: here’s to people and their things. Here’s to not liking sports and to nose piercings, to back tattoos and bro tanks, to longboards, to reading the newspaper each morning with a cup of coffee. Here’s to still having a flip phone, to wearing cowboy boots, to dreadlocks, to showing your friends hilarious memes. Here’s to journaling in public, to playing someone a song through phone speakers, to walking barefoot on campus, and to quiet looks that say “everything will be alright.”
Brad Zwiers (’12) graduated from Calvin College in 2012 and Western Theological Seminary in 2015. He will not be graduating from any more schools. He often stares at books he wishes he could read but knows he will not finish and goes for long walks with his wife, Gwyn. Sometimes he plays basketball and always he follows the greatest sporting club in the world, Liverpool F.C.