A Memorial University graduate field school documenting the fishery in Keels, Newfoundland
Saturday, 15 September 2012
"Hi, how are you? Hello."
Despite my best aspirations to 'break the ice' with a stranger on a level equal to the most proficient of arctic icebreakers, I still worry of clumsily navigating into an awkward silence. Well, as I've learned over the last week, silence is inevitable. There will be pauses in the conversation. The anxiety of 'running out of something to say' (which some might say I never seem to) persists, but does not paralyze to the point of my shying away from a conversation. As we have been emphasizing in our class sessions, fieldwork is all about doing. Sometimes, you just have to deal with anxiety, and move forward. Once I find myself actually in that social situation, I find myself wondering: Why the worry? What was I afraid of?
(Photo: Edward Millar)
All ethnographic fieldwork seems to boil down to introductory exchanges: "Hi, how are you? Hello." These basic gestures have been echoing in my head for the last couple days; due partly both to their association with Daniel Johnston's song "Grievances" and some personal experiences of walking around Keels. Dialog is that wooden plank in the bridge which traverses unfamiliarity. Each interaction establishes a new connection moving forward, and removes layer upon layer (upon layer) of social anxiety.
This is not to say that I am some conversation connoisseur: I am very much still just a nervous kid from Jersey (NJ). Perhaps if I was braver, I would have been able to engage more people more often over the past few days. Lately, I have noticed myself opening up, and stopping to chat with more people. Moving forward as I become increasingly comfortable and familiar with Keels, I know I will learn valuable information which I could never have dreamed of in my anxiety-ridden state.
At the end of the day, everyone has something to teach me.
All I have to do is remember to say "Hi, how are you? Hello."