Platts: Trading up
As of late, I’ve been very bored with my small talk abilities.
At parties, an acquaintance asks “how are you?” or “what’s new?”
I provide the usual anecdotes: “Just working a lot and trying to get out on the mountain as much as I can.”
I’ve been trying to come up with more enticing details to share. Perhaps about a dream I had fighting hoards of ninjas or my desire to take up juggling exotic fruits (neither of which are currently true, but would certainly garner an interested audience).
But, regardless of the precise message, I always try and communicate that my quality of life is good to great and that I’m satiating my desire for adventure. After all, if those two things aren’t true, then why would I live here?
When I return the question, the acquaintance usually answers in a similar way: first sharing briefly about work and then getting to more important matters like how we need more snow or why they can’t wait for their weekend trip to Telluride. We are all a similar breed in these parts.
Going over the play by play of my cocktail hour conversations, I started thinking about the meaning of these trivial exchanges in a larger scope. How does this transfer of information show what we value? As young Aspenites, what is our cultural currency?
Steve Kerho, the chief strategy officer at MXM, a content marketing agency, recently wrote on FastCompany.com that the cultural sensibilities for millennials revolve around three pillars: fun, discovery and community. He defines these in the context of the Burning Man Festival, but he still does bring up a solid point.
We millennials love to have fun; our Instagram feed is smeared with “proof” of it. We are eager to discover by learning whether by a Google search or a new outdoor adventure. And we crave a sense of community, whether that be through Facebook friends or a tangible support system.
In Aspen, those three pillars are easy to spot. There are endless opportunities for fun, plenty of new trails to discover and a community where there can’t possibly be more than three degrees of separation between any two people. We are lucky to have opportunities for these three things so easily when other communities may not be so lucky.
When I attended Emerson College in Boston, I had more trouble locating the three pillars. Fun was not as necessary as working hard. Discovery was available through academia, but rarely through actual adventure. And community, while present, was harder to appreciate because it was so vast. Talking to friends who live in Los Angeles, I hear similar problems. People are less focused on community and more focused on who they know, the impressiveness of their job and how much money they make. In the Midwest, it seems like the community is there but discovery, and possibly even fun, are lacking. Particularly in the small towns like the one I was born in.
Everyone has their own personal experiences in any place they live. While some love Boston and have no qualms with staying there for the rest of their lives, others, like myself, prefer a different kind of community. Though it did take me a while to realize it, I’ve found that community in Aspen, where my personal cultural currency pillars are standing tall and proud.
I’m not sure if that will help at all with my small talk banter, but at least it gives me a bit more to go off of.
Barbara Platts may not be the best small talk conversationalist, but she is more than willing to attend any party to improve. Send her an invitation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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