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When Reality Hits

September 19, 2014

It’s exactly 8 p.m., and my stomach is rumbling as I sit at this computer at one of the libraries at school. I’m waiting for AL to get off work, so we can go to dinner. One more hour… oh boy.

I’ve had a long day today. I woke up early to be at Union station during rush hour, so I could do my observation assignment for my research seminar. To get us into the researcher mode of being observant and critical, we were told to select a busy place, go there, and write down our observations.

I was so excited for today ever since we were assigned the task. I love people watching, and I love writing about people. In fact, I used to write what I called “Character Profiles.” I would go to a coffee shop, focus on someone I found interesting, and describe him/her as best as I could. Character Profiles were creative writing exercises that I assigned myself.

But weird story: This past summer, I was sitting in this one coffee shop I used to go to a lot a few summers back when I noticed a man sitting at the table next to me, who was reading a book. I looked at him and kept thinking to myself how familiar he looked. For the next while, I keep glancing over at him, trying to figure out where I had recognized him from. Then finally it hit me that I recognized him from one of my character “sketches,” and you want to know why it suddenly hit me that he was once a subject of a character profile? He had shifted in his seat, crossed one leg over the other, rested one of his elbows on the table, and with the same hand, covered his entire mouth as he peered through his black-metal rimmed glasses. That’s when I was suddenly transported back to two summers ago, when I noticed that he had a very distinct way of reading–a distinct reading posture and facial expression.

See, that’s what writing can do for you.

But anyway, let’s get back to today. So this morning, I did my observation exercise, and I really had a ball. It was right up my alley, and I just couldn’t believe that I was getting marks for something that I just loved to do–I mean, that’s practically free marks! Then immediately after, I rushed to my faculty library to meet LH, my friend and partner for research seminar. She will be with me at every step of my thesis by being my peer reviewer.

LH was meeting me at the faculty library because we were planning to spend the day studying together, but more than that, we had another assignment to do for our research seminar. This assignment was the “Interview, Transcription, and Reflection” assignment, which, again, was meant to help you get into researcher mode. We were required to interview our partners on any topic of choice,  transcribe the interview (word for word, of course), and then write a reflection on the interviewing process itself.

Now, I just finished transcribing the interview, which took 20 minutes to complete but almost two hours to transcribe, and you know what I noticed?

When I was listening to the interview over again, I sometimes found that I didn’t even remember her saying A, B, and C. Sometimes, I felt like LH was saying those words for the first time, which, of course, shocked me. Was I not paying attention during the interview? I’m sure I was. Usually, I’m well aware in the moment that I am zoning people out.

But if I was really paying attention… why did my mind fail to process what she was saying? Or did I just forget? In the span of some six hours after having talked to her, did I really forget that she said A, B, and C?

All of this shocked me. It really made me think of conversations we have in our everyday lives, and how much of it we really hear and really process. The things LH was talking about are things that we would hear in everyday circumstances–nothing complicated that my mind could have blocked out because I didn’t understand.

So how much do we really hear? How much of what is being said really makes it to our minds?

Listening to the recording, I noticed a ton of things that I hadn’t noticed during the talk. The way, I spoke, for example, when we were talking about something I was interested in. The way I talked, for example, when I was thinking through my words.

But beyond that, so much of what I remembered about the interview was different from what I heard from playing back the recording. My mind had over simplified everything. And just think, it was only six hours in between. Just think how much memory can deceive you.

That, my readers, is when reality hits.

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