“Tell me more about yourself.”

If you’re above 18 and have never been asked that, mail me and tell me what kind of life you’re living. That question is the safe starting point for interviews, first dates, or when you just want to get rid of awkward silences but skip the small talk. It’s crucial information to give people context on who you are and what make a list of appropriate topics to converse on. It’s that small bit of info you put at the top of a resume or you say in class on the first day with a new teacher.

And you, dear reader. Yes, you. How would you answer?

Common answers would include age, gender, place of birth/origin/current residence, where you go to work/education, hobbies.

Seriously, is that the best thing you can tell about yourself?

What about that one song you always play when you’re down? What about your life’s biggest achievement, or dream, or come back after a failure when the world felt like it was about to end? What about that one spot where you’re ticklish but no one knows, or that one thing you’re dying to try but afraid of the social repercussions?

You’re a human being, a unique compilation of selected social patterns that society has sculpted combined with your own individual traits. Don’t tell me that yellow is your favorite color or you’re the first child of three. Tell me what’s the most uncertain thing about the future that terrifies you, or your first memory. If it has to be something about color, tell me the color that you see when you first gain consciousness—the first seconds before you open your eyes to snooze the alarm clock (for the third time before a relative finally drags you out of bed).

I find it so heartbreaking when a friend tells me about their problems or just monologs on about their thoughts and then apologizes for making me listen to them. Did you read that right? They’re apologizing for thinking that their life struggles are unworthy of being listened to. They’re apologizing for expressing themselves.

Tell me more about yourself, darn it. Tell me what sparks your passion—that twinkle in your eyes when you talk, that slight stutter because you have so much to say about that one thing or person you love most. Who hurt you and made you think the mind is big enough to hold your thoughts but the universe isn’t? Who so excruciatingly cut your soul into little thin strips of hope you keep to yourself? Who made you believe you shouldn’t show others the causes you’re fighting for because it might just jinx all the efforts you’ve put into it, and that embarrassment of failure is a roadblock from starting again?

You’re a human being, a unique compilation of stories from selected experiences society forces you to undergo combined with your own individual choices. Don’t tell me who’s the first person you fell in love with or what you wore on your first day of something. I want to know how you figured out “Oh my gosh, this is it, this is love!” and how you calmed your nerves enough to tell that special someone.

This may make you uncomfortable. That’s okay. You’ve been conditioned to keep private information like that to yourself. That, or you’re an introvert, which is also okay. Or you’re more invested in the other person’s story, which is—surprise, surprise—okay as well.

I don’t have a point to tell from all of this. I just want to let you know that people like me exist in your life. That nice people who greets everyone passing by, the barista at your favourite café, the stranger you made eye contact with and gives that smile, expecting a conversation to start. We’re all around you, or maybe you’re one of us. In that case, you’re a story collector like me, and probably dying to tell some of the inspirational things you’ve learned about people and life.

So when you meet one of us and get that question, surprise us. Tell us your favourite cheesy joke, or that one time you felt accomplished. And even in formal occasions like interviews, pause before you answer. Think about this:

Seriously, is that the best thing you can tell about yourself?

 

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