All of my adult life, I have been the introvert type. I’m not even sure if that is the best way to describe it, as that introversion overwhelmingly ties ONLY to socializing, especially in new or unfamiliar situations. It does not, for example, apply to my work (where I am assertive and a “mover and shaker,” as one of my co-workers put it). It does not apply to those relationships in my life that are already more solid; my friends would be hard-pressed to describe me as “shy.”
But the truth is, when I find myself in a situation that requires meeting new people in a setting other than work, I experience something like a mild social phobia. It’s nothing crippling, nothing that could even be perceived by others (who probably just think I am the quiet type). It’s more like an internal discomfort that I continually have to stifle, to go against. So, in a setting like this, I do engage in conversation with people. I smile, I ask questions. I interact – but doing so requires a conscious, very deliberate effort on my part. Inevitably, this ends up draining my energies. Frankly, it’s exhausting.
Why, then, do I have this goal?
Well, I have been doing a lot of thinking as of late… Part of these reflections have involved asking myself the question: “What am I doing NOW that is helping me build the life I envision?”
This question begs another fundamental question: “What IS the life I envision for myself?” And here the answers branch out in many different directions, but undoubtedly, one of the recurring ones is “I want to connect with people.” And by this I mean, I really, truly yearn for having more meaningful relationships in my life. Just admitting this to myself has been no small feat. I feel that I am – and for a long time have been perceived as – self-sufficient, strong, independent. And I guess in a way I have always tended to associate those traits with not needing other people. I am aware of how off-putting and arrogant this sounds. It is. But, like I said, this has been a long process, and it has yielded a number of realizations about myself that are not necessarily pleasant. That, along with the fact that I genuinely enjoy solitude and doing things on my own, has resulted in the situation that I find myself in now: I have very few friends. For a long time, I didn’t mind, but lately it’s starting to feel lonely.
In all fairness, I’ll say that I care for and value immensely those few relationships that I DO have. The problem is, there are SO FEW of those… and not only that, but the friends that I have are all either on the other side of the ocean or on the opposite end of the country. And as much as those friendships are important to me (and I know it’s mutual), the truth is that often weeks, or in some cases months, will go by without any sort of contact that goes beyond the occasional text or email. And that as much as those little things are necessary and can often be a bright spot in a day, I have come to realize that they are just not enough, that the face to face meetings are spaced way too far, and that (of course), there is no way around this, due to the geographical constraints…
The bottom line is, I don’t want to go through life feeling so alone. I want to have more friends, I want to have MORE people in my life that I genuinely feel like spending time with, like having long conversations with about topics other than the day to day mundane stuff. I want more people who truly SEE me. And I want to be able to do the same…
And therein the difficulty lies. Again and again, what I have found is that most people are friendly and polite – “nice.” And perhaps I myself come across in the exact same way. But what I want more than anything, is to make connections that go beyond that. And I am not at all sure HOW this will happen. But I know that it will NOT happen if I keep doing what I have been doing so far, which is nothing.
So I’m starting by setting up this goal, and really working on it. Because I harbor no self-delusions- this WILL be work. It will require determination and focus and courage to put myself out there and say yes, when the easiest thing to do for me would be to continue on the path of least resistance. But maybe after a while, it will become easier – just like heavy lifting becomes easier and physical endurance is built by exercising and training our muscles.
So I’m putting myself out there. Socializing. Stepping out of my comfort zone, and hoping that, in time, meeting new people will evolve into knowing them and fostering true connections…