My semester project led me to meaningful conversations with a few fellow Manhattanville College students. The first two were published in the Touchstone newspaper on campus. I have found much insight between my three subjects, whom I enjoyed talking to. I didn’t view the process as a series of interviews, but a collection of meaningful conversation. Here are their stories:
What do you like about that book?
“I don’t know I just started it; I’m only on page 17. But it looked good from the reviews on Good Reads and so it was on my TBR list—to be read… This girl who’s lonely becomes friends with the first black kid in school. It’s the 1960’s. I kind of like it.”
Do you relate to that at all?
“I felt lonely when I was a lot younger… I spent a lot of my time reading. I found solace in books… but now I have more friends. I have to make time for books.”
“Here, would you like my last two strawberries? Take them.”
Does the background noise and music help you focus?
“Yeah, I’ll put on YouTube stuff or listen to stories and zone out; it’s a lot of fun… I’ve been doing this for a long time; since I got the tablet I’ve ben teaching myself how to draw digitally. It’s been 8 years … I’ll use what I learn traditionally and change up the brushes. See, I’ll add texture here… and dusting over here…My favorite thing to draw is a mix of people and memes or other combined imagery.”
“They have this on mobile now. I’m planning for Christmas on buying it for myself… maybe invest in an iPad. So if I got a job in the city I can draw during my commute.”
Is that where you want to end up, in the city?
“Yeah. Never a dull day.”
When did you first get into music?
“I started singing in church choir when I was five. I don’t like my voice though. I think its weird. I remember singing for a chorus at my high school. I sucked. I knew I sucked. But there was something about being on stage. I loved it. I started writing rap music…
Just the fact that people come out to see me perform is a landmark. I could just be making music in my room.”
What do you hope to be?
“I hope to be hope. My mentor from my freshman year of high school, he was so big on poetry, went to poetry slams every weekend. He’s my homie, my big brother. ‘So you want to be a poet,’ I said. He said ‘Nah, I don’t want to be a poet.’ I was like ‘what do you mean?! Of course you want to be a poet!’ But he said ‘I want to be hope. I want to bring hope to people who listen to me. Poetry is just my tool.’
I could write about all that I’ve been through in my life, but… no, I want to tell people to keep going and stay hopeful.
I want to make people smile.”
I was excited to be able to see my peers open up to me in small ways that gave me a glimpse at the meaning they find in their lives.
I plan on continuing this project next semester, as well as expanding my subjects to professors and staff. I would also like for Humans of Manhattanville to take a digital form, as Touchstone is planning on continuing its publishing online. The way I have approached people for this project varied between my approaching a person at random and a person approaching me, already aware of my project. I plan to continue to seek out subjects and experiment with different ways of asking for one’s photograph and time to hold a conversation. The informality of this process has fueled its creativity in that there are no expectations for myself or my subjects. I plan to continue fostering this atmosphere to keep those I talk to as comfortable as possible.
As more stories emerge from this project, my hope is that this lighthearted form of empathy spreads across campus as an enjoyable source of story-sharing.