This is for Hayleigh, and Will, and Kari, and everyone else I wish I hadn’t left on “read.”
Isolation is the worst self-fulfilling prophecy.
Something drives me to separate myself from others and then, when I attempt to break the isolation streak, I discover a wider chasm than before because I’ve sucked up even further into my own head. If the interaction goes poorly, it reinforces the idea that interacting with people doesn’t feel good and lessens the likelihood I will reach out again.
But I know everyone else is really weird and lonely too.
If someone sends you this column, please kindly view it as a low-stakes invitation to connect. Loosely inspired by that New York Times bit about “The 36 Questions That Lead To Love,” these are some questions to ask your friends and loved ones if you (like me) fear you’ve run out of things to talk about and have become redundant as a human being.
Don’t feel obligated to answer anything that feels intrusive, but try to take someone who sends you this at face value, okay? They want to know you. They want you to know them.
Feel free to swap answers over a series of slow, thoughtful texts or have one long FaceTime or throw the whole Phoenix in the recycle bin, if you want. It’s up to you.
What did you dream you would grow up to be when you were small?
How does your current life compare to the one you wanted when you were a kid?
Whose life would you most like to live for a day? A week? A year?
What’s one thing about the way you interact with people you wish you could change?
If you had control of someone you love’s body for one day, what would you do differently? Why?
What stands between you and what you want most?
If you could dream up a perfect version of yourself, what would they be like?
What are you most afraid of?
Can you tell me about a time when you felt alone?
Can you tell me about a time when you felt very connected to others?
Can you tell me about a time when you learned something important about yourself?
What, if anything, do you miss most about the world before COVID?
What do you remember about the world before mass surveillance?
What do you remember about the world before social media?
What do you remember about the world before the Internet?
What’s one area of your life you wish you had more of an opportunity to explore?
What’s holding you back?
Can you tell me about something that embarrasses you?
Can you tell me about something you fear might impact the way we see one another?
What’s your relationship to the term “best friend”?
What kinds of behavior make you feel loved and cared for in a romantic relationship? Do you show your love in the same ways?
Would you describe yourself as trusting? Why or why not?
What kinds of behavior make you feel loved and cared for in a friendship?
If you were to talk with someone who sees the world very differently from you, what would you want them to understand about your life?
If you were to talk with someone who sees the world very differently from you, what would you want to learn about their life?
Can you tell me what makes you feel nervous or mistrustful of a person or situation?
Can you tell me about a time where you thought a relationship couldn’t survive, but you patched it up? If not, can you tell me about a time you wish you had?
What kinds of situations make you feel safe to express yourself fully?
How would you describe the core value that drives your actions in the world?
How do you feel while answering questions like this?
Try to remember everyone else is also probably clenching their ass and trying really hard to look like it’s not physically painful because they’re desperate for closeness with others, but too afraid of rejection to say how they really feel.
Sometimes I try to connect with people and it doesn’t work and that’s okay too. Being kind and authentic is more valuable to me than being right or cool. If we just admit that it fucking hurts and sometimes it’s just gonna feel awkward? Finding a way back from isolation gets easier from there.
Bre Kidman is an artist, activist, and attorney (in that order), and the first openly non-binary person in history to run for the U.S. Senate. They would be delighted to hear your thoughts on the political industrial complex at [email protected].