Opinions, Column

Conversation Partners: Oh, La La!

Contrary to most students, I love icebreakers. Admittedly, I am competitive in group discussion settings. I try to have the most creative response to the prompt. One of my professors recently prompted our class: “Who is your favorite conversation partner, and what do you discuss with that person?” 

Conversation partners are a cornerstone of Jesuit tradition, as these balanced relationships help us become our more realized selves. Through discussions with conversation partners, we can learn free from judgment. These conversations and relationships aid our ability to discern. I have several conversation partners in different contexts at Boston College and maintained relationships with high school teachers, coaches, and friends. My most noteworthy conversation partners, however, are family members. 

“There is always room at the end of my bed,” my mom often says when she senses I have something on my mind. As I’ve grown, the physical space my mom offers me has become much less important than the emotional support she extends through conversation. Through the stories I’ve told, the questions I’ve asked, and the laughter we’ve shared, I have come to depend on my mom to guide me through all of my growing pains. Our conversations are free exchanges where I can express my fears, curiosity, and questions. 

One of our favorite things to talk about is the lessons we’ve learned from our favorite movies, books, and TV shows—I’ve always felt special connections to fictional characters. Jane O’Connor’s Fancy Nancy series is arguably the most impactful literature in my life. Through conversations with my mom, I’ve come to realize just how much I try to mirror Fancy Nancy. 

Whether dashing off to the spa, French lessons, or glamorous sleepovers, Nancy and her fabulousness inspired me. I tried everything to emulate her fantastic zeal. For example, because Nancy and I share matching red hair, I subscribed to her philosophy that a bow would fix all of my issues. In second grade, I donned multiple outfits throughout the day and sought out clothing and accessories that sparkled. Of course, I also resonated with Nancy because her mom was by her side through all the adventures.

Jane O’Connor’s stories highlight Nancy’s ability to navigate any situation with a unique flair. Reading these books with my mother daily solidified that I could lead my life by the aura of Nancy. 

Both Nancy and my mother sort through problems with a positive bend. Often, I notice peers resorting to negativity when addressing academics, social life, and future endeavors. I look to my mother for advice when addressing problems, and she pushes me to lead by example. She frequently asks, “Who are you when no one else is around?” I try to incorporate the power of positive thinking into each day, pushing myself to abide by the mindset of “how you do anything is how you do everything.” 

Confidence is something that I work to embody—something Nancy excelled at, my mom and I have concurred. Staying scheduled and busy provided her with experiences to be her best self. In my own life, I believe being idle is a recipe for interpersonal catastrophe. Whether it’s joining a new club, attending a speaker event, or asking to sit down with a new friend in the dining hall, I’ve found that growth occurs when you listen and act upon your unique interests. 

My favorite sentiment from Fancy Nancy is cultivating and caring for your inner sparkle. I find myself sparkling when I embrace individuality. My mom reminds me that everyone puts their pants on the same way. I love this saying because it begs the question: Why should I not be my fabulous self? Her outfits, attitude, and outings were 100 percent her own. It’s taken time, but I try to take ownership of both my internal and external sparkle. 

If I never picked up Fancy Nancy, my life would have undoubtedly been drastically different. If Nancy stepped out of the pages of her book, she would be unable to cite fashion faux-pas as I adorn myself with sparkles, patterns, and color. She would marvel at my dorm room covered in collages, garlands, and heart decals. Nancy’s lessons have translated into my love for intentional celebrations, holiday-themed functions, and incorporating enthusiasm into all relationships.   

I love getting lost in comfortable conversation by my mom’s side. Discussions about random topics like Fancy Nancy empower me to always ask questions. When discussing small things, I have the most profound realizations. While I am no longer Nancy’s protégé, her books will always line a shelf in my bookcase. 

Conversation partners help us realize unexpected things about ourselves. When my mom and I finish our conversations—even the difficult ones—I feel uplifted. My mom doesn’t try to solve my problems, she listens and allows me to formulate my own answers. I always walk away from our conversations with a sense of clarity, renewed confidence, and most importantly, a better sense of who I am.

April 28, 2024