As a young child, one of my favorite things was meeting new people. At parties, my animated face lit up as I went around talking to guests old and young. I asked them question after question, and I honestly listened, without becoming engrossed in what I had to say next. As I grew up, like many others, I started to develop a sort of complex around meeting new people. Once I reached middle school, I found it more of a burden to start conversations or introduce myself to others. I became comfortable with the people I knew, and didn’t feel like I needed anyone else. But, developing this type of mindset at a young age can be extremely damaging, although much too common. At some point there comes a time when one has to make the decision to break out of their shell and re-learn how to simply communicate.
When I started high school was when I theoretically should have re-learned socializing and making friends. But, at the time I was scared to jump into this large, new school with people who already knew each other. It was a new chance to re-invent myself and introduce a girl who was fun and carefree and loud… very loud. Looking back, I wish I had been a bit more authentic and a bit more me. It irks me to think that I am known as overbearing and inane to some. People thought I was smart, but also wondered how, because of the way I portrayed myself. I guess it was necessary though to go through this difficult phase because now, I finally think I am figuring this people thing out.
Oddly enough, in the past three months I have met copious amounts of new people. I didn’t expect for this to happen, and I met these people in every kind of situation. From parties to clubs to seeing old friends. Those I came into contact with these last couple of months go to different schools than me and live in different places and lead totally different lives. In some ways, not being prepared to meet these new people allowed me to be more genuine with them. I was at ease with total strangers and I honestly had no clue why. Why, suddenly, did I find being myself so easy when I had spent years wondering who that person even was?
I have thought a lot about that question recently. If I could figure out the secret to releasing this long-held social awkwardness, I knew that I would have to share it. So, I came to an epiphany. People are nice. That is the big secret I can share with you. People are nice. It is such a simple statement, almost laughable. Yet, I find that most people look at the world as if everyone is out to get them. Sure, in a lot of ways this may not be wrong. The world is not always kind or just, but most of the time those you are so scared to approach, to merely talk to, are just as scared of you as you are of them. If the entire world stays closed off out of timidity and worry of judgement then we will never get anywhere. We need to let go of this idea that people care so much about our quirks and start looking for similarities.
Something that has really changed my outlook on talking to others, are the people I have recently met. So many of them are entirely different than those I have talked to in the past. Looking these people in the eye, I immediately felt intimidated. Still, the minute they cracked a smile or asked me a question about my life, I suddenly relaxed. In their small actions, the hand they reached towards me, I saw the little girl who went around curious of everyone around her. I remembered her, as she putzed through crowds, making videos interviewing random people. I remembered how to get out of my head and just look at the person in front of me not as a scary monster, but as someone just like me. Now, I strive to be like some of these people. The girl who told me that she reads my blog posts and gave me a hug. The boy who talked to me about music and said it was cool how I played instruments. The group who I assumed didn’t like me, but reached out and asked to hang out again over the weekend.
These are the kind of individuals who inspire me to leave my bubble and meet new people. Everyone is essentially looking for someone to reach out, but making that first step is hard. So, I can make it my mission to be that person. I know it’s scary, and for so long we have been conditioned to keep our head down and stick to what is safe. Especially as a teenager, being pushed to meet new people is the last thing you may want to do. Even so, I am here to remind you that there will come a day when you will want new experiences and insights and the best, easiest way to get this is through those around you. Reach out and be yourself, because people are nice, and everyone has something to add to your life, just as you have something to add to theirs.
“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” -Bill Nye
Featured image by Priscilla Du Preez Unsplash.com