I interviewed people across the United States at random. The twist? Everyone answered the same set of 10 questions PLUS one question from the previous person. I answered the question from the last interview to complete the circle. 

 

Dustin

 

When did you last sing to yourself or to someone else and what song?

Driving in the west with an ambitious schedule means I’ve spent up to 11 hours behind the wheel in a day. I sang myself hoarse on day one. So among the most recents: Maroon 5, “Sugar”; The Forecast, “If I’m Not Mistaken”; The Format, “Dog Problems.”

 

What is your favorite journey?

Right now, it’s the one I’m on. Historically and more abstract, it’s the progression of the end of the school year into summer. I love both, and I always anticipated the mixture of the two — school’s almost out, summer’s almost here.

 

What characteristics do you value most in your friends?

Listening skills, because good conversations are important, and athleticism, using that term loosely, because I want to know that my friends are healthy — running, hiking, rowing, ballet, yoga — whatever they do to move. And so we can go on adventures together.

 

What’s the biggest problem in your life?

I’m trying to figure out how to balance the long travel days with what I want to do outside the car: running, writing, reading, submitting short stories to journals, and working on projects associated with this trip.

 

What is the secret to lasting relationships?

Laughter. Always. And communication — saying everything and not assuming the other person has interpreted your brain waves.

 

When and where are / were you happiest?

This one is the toughest. I love any situation where my social circles overlap in a big way: weddings, parties, school or family reunions, races — seeing connections happen across a diverse set of my friends and family is the best. 

 

What do you fear most?

Ok maybe even more difficult to answer. I could go several ways with this one, but most recently I have this growing fear of not allowing myself to settle and instead constantly searching (running) for whatever could be around the corner -- next job, next city, next adventure.

 

Would your childhood self be proud of you right now?

I think my childhood self would be surprised I’m doing something like this just from the standpoint of me at age 7 not even being able to comprehend what a trip like this involves. But little Dustin would also be pretty excited about the plans.

 

What’s the key to life?

Happiness. Whether that’s your friends and family or your job or something else, you have to be happy. Nobody who wakes up every day dreading what’s ahead has a fulfilling life.

 

What’s going to be your greatest accomplishment in the next five years?

I’m going to publish my first fiction book.

 

Why aren’t we over there fighting ISIS?

Because our enemies don't just line up and shoot from across the field anymore. The short answer involves all the complexities of a modern, interconnected global society. 

 

What should I ask the next person?

I borrowed this one from a really cool project called Ask Roulette: You’re going to live to age 90, and you get to have either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life. Which do you want and why?


Jenna

 

When did you last sing to yourself or to someone else and what song?

Yesterday. “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman.

 

What is your favorite journey?

I went to Greece last summer.

 

What characteristics do you value most in your friends?

Thoughtfulness.

 

What’s the biggest problem in your life?

Money. [laughs] I’m going to be an AmeriCorps VISTA starting next month in North Minneapolis.

 

What is the secret to lasting relationships?

Honesty.

 

When and where are / were you happiest?

That’s a hard one. Where was I happiest? I don’t know. I guess when I’m with my family when we’re all together, so like once a week for dinner.

 

What do you fear most?

Not getting into grad school.

 

Would your childhood self be proud of you and how you’re living your life?

Yes.

 

What’s the key to life?

People — being with people, taking care of people.

 

What’s going to be your greatest accomplishment in the next five years?

Graduating grad school with a degree in urban planning.

 

You’re going to live to age 90, and you get to have either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life. Which do you want and why?

Oh God. Does the rest of it deteriorate at the normal pace? Ok, mind. Because Alzheimer’s is the scariest thing ever.

 

What should I ask the next person?

What is one thing about their city that they would like to have that they don’t.


Gretchen

 

When did you last sing to yourself or to someone else and what song?

Last night, as a matter of fact. I’ve got a guitalele in there, and we sing. When we’re traveling we do that quite a bit. What was the last song we sang? “Goodnight Irene”? Or it might have been “My Old Kentucky Home.” 

 

What is your favorite journey?

Well, I would say — can it be a fantasy journey? I have always wanted to ride across the country on horseback or like the Pacific Crest Trail, some long journey. Probably not going to happen in this lifetime. I’ve lost my opportunities I think.

 

What characteristics do you value most in your friends?

Authenticity. 

 

What’s the biggest problem in your life?

Growing old. [laughs] No question. 

 

What is the secret to lasting relationships?

Oh gosh. Wow. I don’t know. I think probably respect. 

 

When and where are / were you happiest?

I would say probably when I was in my 20s, when we lived in Arizona on a ranch. Wickenburg. We ran a horse operation there. That was probably my best years.

 

What do you fear most?

Not being able to do the things I like to do because I’m getting old. I love to hike and ride, and I like to be outdoors. It gets a little harder every year to keep up with all that.

 

Would your childhood self be proud of you now?

In some ways yes, in some ways no. Mostly, I think. I think so, yeah.

 

What’s the key to life?

[laughs] If I knew the answer to that, I wouldn’t be sitting here. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. That’s all I know. That’s about the only thing I can say.

 

What will be your greatest accomplishment in the next five years?

Have to think about this for a minute. Accepting old age. Can you see a theme here? [laughs] I’d say accepting old age — gracefully. Probably won’t do it. That’s probably my biggest challenge.

 

What do you wish your town had that it doesn’t right now?

I wish that it had mountains.

 

What should I ask the next person?

If you could live your life over again knowing what you know now, how would you do it different? That’ll keep somebody thinking.


Justin

 

When did you last sing to yourself or to someone else and what song?

What did we sing? Oh, we sang a ceremonial song for a guy in need of healing, a Native American ceremonial song. “Have Pity On Me.” 

 

What is your favorite journey?

My favorite journey — living on a res. It’s a journey itself. The obstacles, the trials, the tribulations, the struggles, the ups and downs, the highs and lows. That’s a journey itself — life, life on the res. That’s a journey. I’ve been across the seas. I’ve been all over. Nothing like on the res. I went to Italy. Amsterdam. I do ceremonies. I’m a spiritual leader in this community.

 

What characteristics do you value most in your friends?

Trust is the biggest key. A lot about trust. They have to trust you. You have to trust them.

 

What’s the biggest problem in your life?

Beating cancer. Not watching my grandma be able to walk. We can heal others, but we can’t heal ourselves. That’s the biggest obstacle in my life right now. A rare colon cancer for my age — it’s hereditary. Grandpa had it. He died of it. I got it a couple months ago.

 

What is the secret to lasting relationships?

Communication and trust. Everything’s about trust, especially on the reservation. You got to communicate with them. You have to have the trust. I’ve been married for a while now, and it’s all about trust. I’ve seen there’s no trust in some of these relations here — it’s not there. That love, that respect. 

 

When and where are / were you happiest?

I’m happy around my grandma, my kids, my wife. Basically my family, my immediate family. And when I get to help heal somebody.

 

What do you fear most?

When you live on a res, you don’t fear a lot. You don’t fear death. When you’re spiritual, you don’t fear nothing. I’m afraid to lose my grandma. I’m afraid to lose my kids. Otherwise, I don’t have no fear. I’m not afraid to die. You live to die. You die to live. It’s what you make your name for in life. But I’m not afraid of nothing except losing my kids and my grandma. I don’t want to see those days come.

 

Would your childhood self be proud of you now?

Oh yeah. Of course. I come from no moms, no dad. My grandma raised me. She had her alcohol problems, but she was a single, hard-working mother in my eyes. Living on a reservation, you have alcohol problems, but she overcome that. It’s better for us. I turned to spirituality. I don’t do drugs. I don’t drink alcohol. So of course I’m happy.

 

What’s the key to life?

Happiness. [laughs] You got to be happy. Forgiveness. The key to life is forgiveness. Make every day happy. You can’t walk with anger all your life. Expect the unexpected in life. You have to embrace it, challenge it, and move on. Conquer it. Curveballs come at you when you’re up and it humbles you down. Pick your ass back up and go again.

 

What will be your greatest accomplishment in the next five years?

The next five years? Watching my kids. Staying alive and trying to watch my kids, and hoping my grandma is still here. 

 

If you could live your life over again knowing what you know now, how would you do it different? 

I wouldn’t want to relive my life. I’m happy with my life. I would go to the doctor more, you know? Lack of healthcare around here. You would go to the doctor more, and get more check-ups to better your life. That’s what I would do.

 

What should I ask the next person?

How can we end racism?


Crystal

 

When did you last sing to yourself or to someone else and what song?

This morning, my little son and I sang “Animals,” by Maroon 5. That’s his favorite song to wake up to.

 

What is your favorite journey?

I guess just getting to know new people and their lives and their experiences. That happens anywhere. I guess I just have that face where I can go into a store and the person next to me just kind of tells me all about themselves. It’s hit and miss. It can be at WalMart or walking around a park. You get used to it after a while.

 

What characteristics do you value most in your friends?

Honesty. Loyalty. They always have your back. When things are stressful, they’re not gonna run and hide from a problem. They’re going to help you try to get through it.

 

What’s the biggest problem in your life?

Gosh, I don’t know. Probably my son’s father. He’s always working, so he’s never around. He’s gone probably 90 percent of the month, and so he doesn’t really get to know his son a whole lot, which is kind of sad. I think his son needs his father, and his father’s not around.

 

What is the secret to lasting relationships?

Having a connection and being able to act silly instead of always being serious. Just like, being able to go to a park and play, no matter at what age. Not taking life too seriously.

 

When and where are / were you happiest?

I’m probably happiest in my car, driving around with my son just listening to music. Relaxing. Stress-free. You can ignore the world and the problems you’re trying to work on.

 

What do you fear most?

Spiders. [laughs] They are gross, and they can hide in the smallest places.

 

Would your childhood self be proud of you now?

I think so, yeah. I’ve grown up a lot since I was child. I’ve overcome a lot of obstacles that I don’t think I would have imagined trying to come over.

 

What’s the key to life?

Happiness. Find something that makes you happy, and stick with it, and don’t give it up no matter what. Hold on to it.

 

What will be your greatest accomplishment in the next five years?

Being a single mom to a toddler and watching him grow since we’re getting ready to enroll him in preschool today. It’s scary and exciting. Watching him grow and become an individual and have his own personality.

 

How can we end racism?

That’s a good question. I think we just have to educate people. There’s a lot of intolerance. I think what you don’t know, you’re afraid of. And so until they can actually be in someone’s shoes, I don’t think they’re ever going to accept people for who they are.

 

What should I ask the next person?

How do they think they can end world hunger?