probablytom

A library of thoughts and things worth sharing.

Third Things

I’ve begun to separate the interactions I can have with people into three distinct categories:

First things

These are pretty simple: things like the time, or directions to a restaurant, or what the weather forecast is for tomorrow.

The key trait here is that first things are completely impersonal. When we share them, we don’t share any part of ourselves.

Second things

Second things span the gamut of all of the things we share with people which do relate to us in some way. Examples might be whether we enjoyed a certain coffeeshop or whether we’re excited for a film coming out, right through to our experience of death or the most romantic night we ever shared.

These can obviously be pretty different in some cases. What’s key is that there’s something personal we’re trying to convey; we’re offering a part of ourselves when we offer a second thing.

Third things

Third things are the things we often want to share with people, but that can’t ever be properly verbalised. They’re things that we wish other people could just understand, but there’s no way to share with them that bit of us that’s locked away in our heads.

It’s a shame that we can’t share third things with people, but there’s a kind of solution to the problem. Instead of sharing those experiential parts of us, if we share enough second things, people can begin to get a feel for the third things we can’t tell them properly.

A person who understands those third things is one of my favourite characteristics of love. It’s a person who’s stuck around long enough, and listened hard enough, that they can understand the bits of us that are too deep to actually communicate, and being known in that way is wonderful. It’s great to “have a person”.