The Process of Processing
By Katie Glickman, Queens College
I have often struggled with reconciling my work as a David Project Intern with my interest in biology, and long-term goal of becoming a nurse practitioner. During job interviews, meetings with academic advisors, and conversations with professors, mentors, and peers, I flounder. Typically, I draw upon the obvious. “Relationship building skills that we develop as David Project interns are invaluable no matter what profession.” I can hear myself saying these words over and over. This answer has always proved sufficient, but I have often wondered if I could more adequately describe the intense, profound impact that the David Project internship has had on me. This week, while sitting in microbiology lecture, another similarity struck me.
Here’s the background. Some cells have the unique ability to synthesize all of their necessary materials from just one nutrient source. This means that they are able to take one small substance, and convert it into many other types of substances. Humans behave similarly when it comes to information. People will take one piece of an article, an interview, a speech, and so on, and present it in many contexts and situations. This can be a successful mechanism for dispelling information. It also, however, can prove to be an insidious practice. In humans, like in cells, if materials are not processed correctly, the impact can be detrimental.
Processing is often overlooked, and is undermined by the importance of listening. We are encouraged to listen, and if we actually listen carefully; we are told by parents and teachers, we will understand. Don’t get me wrong, listening is one of the most fundamentally important skills that anyone can have. One of the first things that we learned in intern-training, in fact, was the term active listening, which calls for listeners to take an active role in a conversation. Rather than simply standing there, active listeners are supposed to give nods of encouragement, ask questions based on certain points, and truly emphasize that they are, in fact, listening.
The first time I ever participated in a processing session was on Israel Uncovered. We were encouraged to write down our thoughts from the day, to discuss, and to question the things we had heard, seen, and experienced. Being asked to actually sit and reflect was something I had never done before.
Even with impeccable active listening skills, people remember what they want to remember. Every experience touches us in a different way, and therefore our takeaways are always different. This is where my microbiology metaphor comes into play. Cells can digest their nutrients differently depending on their needs, or incorrectly, which could lead to mutation or death. In the same way, any issues come about from simple misquotes or forgetting a few details.
What if we could prevent this? The key is in these processing sessions. These issues and misunderstandings could easily be remedied by discussion and clarification, and can be prevented from spreading further. I have seen people up in arms because of what they thought they heard time and again. It is time that we all focus on working together to fight the problematic things that we really do hear. It is time we process together, learn together, and make sure that we are all actually on the same page – or petri dish, I guess. This encapsulates what I have learned from the David Project. Next time you are listening to a speaker or presentation, don’t just listen. Think about it. Ask questions about it. Process it.