The sun was shining, the air was warming up again, and I was eager to get out. Not to say that I wasn’t doing that already, but I wanted to experience what many in the city called hashtag Summertime Chi (or at least the parts of it that were for pure joy and not only for the sake of looking good on Instagram). Boats, rooftop parties, and white claws aren’t bad in and of themselves, but I didn’t want to be in a bubble.
And out of the bubble I got.
Networking Events. Open Mics (one which I performed at). Comedy Shows. Outdoor Movies. Concerts. And I had no shame in just going to a bar or restaurant completely by myself, so if I wasn’t meeting friends, I had no problem making them. My favorite occasion was when I was waiting for a seat to open up at a well-known football spot, and got to talking with both a Green Bay Packers fan, as well as another who was rooting for the Minnesota Vikings. It turns out that not only did they attend the same University and were part of the same fraternity (albeit different generations), but the older one knew the younger one’s Dad from when they had attended college together.
You’re a ray of sunshine in a dark basement! One of the oddest compliments I’ve ever received, yet incredibly sweet and genuine. I was grateful that I went against my initial urge to leave and go home, as what usually happens when the anxious part of me starts wondering if the people around me think I’m weird.
But it got me thinking about the beauty of organic, face-to-face human interaction. That was a repeating theme of the conversation taking place that day. People are incredibly afraid to approach and get to know one another, due to feeling like anyone who does must have an agenda. We hem and haw over how to merely say hello or introduce ourselves without coming across as awkward, or heaven forbid, creepy, thinking that we have some control over the outcome by doing/saying the right things at the right time.
Having been in unsafe situations (particularly with men), I wouldn’t say that I’m naive to what can and does happen when engaging with strangers. Not everyone has the best of intentions, and I cannot overemphasize how important it is to pay attention and trust your instincts. I’m fortunate to have cultivated a strong intuition, and that additionally allows me to read social cues and respond accordingly. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying your own company in public, and it’s perfectly okay to do things simply because you want to.
After regaling one of my earlier adventures involving a meet-cute at the train station, I was asked if I was “out of my mind.” I get defensive when anyone questions my extroversion and romanticism with the guise of not wanting me to be disappointed or hurt, especially if they’re aware of just how stuck in my shell I was during high school and college. One of my biggest regrets is over analyzing most situations, to the point where I felt like I couldn’t fully connect or be seen for who I was. Thankfully there was grace and understanding in terms of those relationships, but I wish I hadn’t carried all that weight around. It wasn’t my responsibility then, and it certainly isn’t now.
So yes, I’m out of my head, and that’s a good thing. I have to live my life on a different level than most people, and the reality is that sometimes even’t my closest friends and family can’t understand it.
I’m still learning, but here’s what I know right now:
Rejection and disappointment hurt, but they are not the end of the world.
Love your present more than you hate your past.
Focus on the experience, not the outcome.