I had this idea, and I’m going to do it. Actually, I’m already doing it.
I live in a fairly big city with over 2.5million other people. I go out in this city pretty much every single day, and see some of these people, but I rarely speak to any of them, and when I do, our interactions are transactional. It’s all Tall skim latte, please and Would you like anything else?
Well, as a matter of fact, I would like something else. I’d like to talk to someone. I’d like to connect. Is that crazy? Why don’t people talk to each other anymore? Did they ever? Maybe they do elsewhere, but not in Toronto. Or maybe people in Toronto do talk to each other, but no one talks to me.
Someone told me a long time ago – someone who was very easy with people in a way I found fascinating and irritating all at the same time – that I was “cold and unapproachable”. We’d go out, and he’d be chatting up a storm with everyone and make friends so easily. Strangers would talk to him everywhere, but things like that didn’t happen to me. And when I wondered aloud what the difference was between us, that was what he said. Because I was “cold and unapproachable.”
But I wasn’t cold. I was scared. I was shy. I didn’t want my ego to get bruised, so instead I hid behind it, and a big wall of books, and didn’t seek out people. I didn’t seek out connections. And I’m sure it’s not just me. I think we live in a world where everyone is craving connections but scared to make them because they’re afraid of being rejected. I see that woman walking across the street, pushing her baby in a stroller the way I’m pushing mine. She’s checking something on her phone, and maybe, like me, she’s hoping her baby will just SLEEP ALREADY. Or maybe not. I’d love to know. I’d love to know – in that moment, watching that other mother – that I’m not alone. Because despite what everyone says, it sure does feel that way sometimes.
These days, I crave connection. Maybe it’s because I spend so much of my day talking to someone who likes to scream the words CAR and BABY in my face all day long. I love her to the moon and back, but she’s not a great conversationalist. And I talk to Stu, and a few other people, but I know them. I’ve been craving new interactions – no, I’ve been craving new connections – with people. And that’s how this all came about.
I decided last week that I was just going to do it. A little experiment, running from May 1 – May 30. Because the thing is, I’m out there, around new people, every day. And so every day for the month of May, I am going to connect with someone new. Not just say “Hi”, not smile from across the room, but talk to them. Find out a bit about them. Maybe share a bit about myself. Be honest and open, with my heart on my sleeve, even though it’s so much easier to break when it’s exposed like that. But I need a little of that. A little risk with my heart. It’s okay if it gets a little broken. It’s okay if people don’t respond. This is as much about me being open as it is about making connections. And so if my heart gets a little bruised, it’s okay. It will heal. And really, it’s not my heart that will get hurt too bad. It’s my ego. And I can handle a bruised ego. Lord knows it won’t be the first time. Or the 17th. Or the 349th. I can take it.
Yesterday was May 1st. Day 1. Stu and I were on the subway on our way out to dinner, and we noticed a young man standing near us wearing those weird shoe/sock thingys.
So I asked him about them. Right there on the subway, I said, “Excuse me, may I ask you about your shoes?” He smiled, and said “Sure” and a conversation began. A really lovely conversation where Stu and I learned a lot about the shoes, about yoga, about breathing and mediation, and where we also learned that the lovely young lady standing next to this guy was not his friend, as we had assumed, but a girl he had just picked up on the subway. When I found that out I worried that I had used up all the time they had to get to know each other chatting with him about posture and weird shoe sock thingys. But I didn’t have to worry. He told me he already had her number.
We all had such a lovely conversation, and it made our time on the subway really really enjoyable. The shoe guy noted partway through our conversation how nice it was that a stranger would speak to another on the subway. How unusual it was for Toronto, and how it was much more “European.” I think we could all use a little more European around here.
It was such a lovely experience that I did it again an hour or so later. A young couple walked into the restaurant where Stu and I were eating, holding a copy of the Lonely Planet for Canada. I stopped at their table about a half hour later to ask them about it, and it turns out they were from Belgium, had been in Canada for all of three hours, and are travelling through Canada for 10 days. We chatted for several minutes, where I may have been a bit pushy in my insistence that they visit the Cabot Trail, but I don’t think they minded. The guy thanked me for stopping to chat with them, and said that we “Canadians are so nice!”
Yes we are, Belgian dude. And that’s exactly what I’m going to be. Nice and open and brave, with someone new every day.
Okay, really. Am I crazy? Are you also craving to make connections with people? Or is it something you do naturally?