Discussion Questions for Alexandra Petri: Awkward
1. Alexandra collects experiences the way some people collect old coins or commemorative stamps. When you reflect on your own life, what type of experiences have you been collecting? What experiences would you like to collect more intentionally moving forward?
2. Alexandra thinks that when one is earnest in their efforts and then flops or fails, they are close to bravery. Share an experience of failure and whether or not you consider it brave. How else does failure affect you or make you feel?
3. Kate says, “People need to begin by accepting that the preconditions of life are that you will be truly made a fool of, and that most of the fun things are ridiculous anyway.” Does this resonate with your experience? Why or why not? Would you add anything else as a precondition of life?
4. Kate and Alexandra spend some time discussing the ways in which sick individuals often make healthy people feel awkward. In this scenario, are you the one causing the awkwardness or being made to feel awkward? If the former is true (and if you feel comfortable), share with the group how this affects you. If you identify with the latter, what do you think it is about illness that makes you feel this way?
5. Humor can be used as means to grapple with something painful or important. How have you used humor to cope with painful situations? Can you remember a time when someone else, even a movie or tv show, alleviated your own pain through humor?
6. Kate and Alexandra note the adverse side effects humor can have when it is used to avoid the reality of a situation or circumstance someone may be facing. When have you used or experienced someone else using humor as a way to avoid reality?
7. Sometimes we can fail those who are hurting by not showing up. Alexandra has regrets about not initiating or stepping up for people in her own life. Is there anyone in your life who may be hurting but you have not been there for? Think of this person and discuss one way you can be a helpful and not a harmful presence.
8. During her diagnosis and treatment, Kate had to “bump people out of the script” for her own health and wellbeing. Have you had an experience that showed you who to keep in your own life script and who to “bump out”? Share what this was like.
9. Kate notes that learning how to be sick in the world has been one of the most awkward things she has had to do. What awkwardness have you had to learn to live with in your own life? How did you learn to cope with it over time?
10. Alexandra’s ability to accept the weird in others has made her a better friend. Think of a friend who accepts your weirdness and thank them for accepting you as you are.
Discussion Questions written by Kilpy Singer (firstname.lastname@example.org).