un-interest it: saying what you mean in college (or any) discussions

One sentence. One sentence, has obfuscated almost every college level discussion I have had. Four years, eight semesters, five classes a semester—that’s going to be forty classes, except I haven’t taken my last five yet (so maybe there is still time to fix this grave, grave misfortune). One sentence that everyone, at this point, is numb to. No one mirrors my tiny corner-of-the-mouth frown when they hear this same word recycled over and over again, mouth to mouth, in an hour span. I keep wanting to count the number of times I hear it, but I find (this is four years of this, remember) that I always forget to count until I have heard it at least five times—about the time acute annoyance sets in. And then I feel as though I have to wait until my next class so that I don’t botch the count, because I am fairly certain that the actual number would be staggering.

“I think it is interesting that…”

No matter what the student is about to say, this prompt, this stutter in their brain-to-speech process appears over and over again. I want to say: I hope. I hope what you are about to say is interesting. Genuinely, I do, or else I would rather not hear it. And usually, the declaration of interesting is followed by something insightful but not necessarily related to the word interesting at all. Ready for the dictionary definition? I know; it pains me that we have come to this point, too. I’ll go to the OED, because I’m a Boston College student with full access, and I have heard rumors about Dictionary.com (the free dictionary!) hoards your information upon each click.

“Interesting: adapted to excite interest; having the qualities which rouse curiosity, engage attention, or appeal to the emotions; of interest.”

This is very vague. This describes (I hope) the whole college experience. We gather together to discuss things that should rouse our curiosity, engage our attention, and make us emotional. Great, I’m glad we are all glad to be here. So why the constant profession of it?

Clearly, I have spent a long time stewing about this miraculous redundancy; I have a theory. It has three parts:

  1. We have trouble pinpointing the value in what we are saying.
  2. We are not listening to each other.
  3. We have been allowed to speak this way.

The first point. Before we raise our hand, we have not found the thesis in our thought. Everyone has a thought they say out loud that goes off the rails at some point (“Oh wow. I don’t know if that made sense”). This is not what I mean. Rather, I am talking about the fact that we are not sure what we are saying is important. So we (well I guess not me, I have been enlightened) feel the need to qualify what we say. Instead, we could lead with the actual thought, the sparking thing exploding at our forehead—a thing we have just discovered and are sure no one else has discovered about this text, about history, about that painting.

“The women in Jekyl and Hyde are surrounded by light imagery. There aren’t that many women in the book, but they appear significant.”

Hey, someone in the class says, I never thought of that. That is so much better than: “I think it is interesting that women in Jekyl and Hyde appear with light imagery.”

To be frank, no one cares if you think it is interesting. They care if the thought is a good one. I’m actually not interested in Medieval Literature at all, but when I took a class on it, I did not say “I don’t think it is interesting that Sir Gawain has this adventure. But the language used to describe his armor mean xyz.” But people do care if you can discover something valuable in the work.

The second: Not. Listening. I am shocked that after the first “I think it is interesting” no one decides to switch up their tactical game. I mean, in sixth grade we were all sent running to the thesaurus to deliver us from the sins of awesome and great. Why not interesting? Because we have tuned it out and that makes it easier to tune more things out. Think of the way you introduce your thought in class like a hook in a good story. You are legitimately gambling for your classmates’ attention spans if you raise your hand. Especially where face-hiding laptop screens are concerned. Make them listen.

Also, we have been allowed to speak this way. Personally, I don’t think the professors are so much at fault here. Some of us are 21 years old, legally old enough to drink and serve in the military. You would think we could trim our sentences a little. Say a coherent thought. But I haven’t seen one Professor stop the madness. It is a habit, now, it is a habit everywhere. And I wish it would have been beaten out of us freshman year so that by the time we got to be supposedly articulate seniors, we could say what we mean.

That’s what it is really abou, saying what you mean. Someone else might try to pitch you some inspirational fiction about job marketability. How much employers care about your vocabulary. Don’t say the word interesting, and you too shall be employed! This is not what I mean. What I mean is say what you mean. Say the thought in your brain, turn on someone else’s thought machine, and go somewhere outside the broken tape loop of interesting. You only get so many sentences. The opportunity to speak and get someone’s attention is a privilege—is the greatest privilege. Live up to the hype.

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