Yesterday, whilst waiting for my mum to pick me up from the train station, I took a seat on a 4 person bench where a guy was seated at the other side. He had his earphones plugged in and nervously looked at me once or twice. I was struggling with eating an icy-pole given that it was so hot outside, and trying to keep my cool as my frosty fruit dribbled down my arm. A few times I almost went to start a conversation, but I didn’t… I held back and focused all my attention to slurping at my icy pole, that thinking back on it, even if I did start a conversation, he would’ve thought I was strange and completely incompetent of eating an ice cream.
Which led me to thinking… have I lost my ability to talk to strangers? By the time his mate came and picked him up and Mr (pretty cute) bench guy was driving away, I felt like I had lost more by not starting a conversation, than if I had talked to him and made a fool of myself.
I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t. I’m not exactly a shy person, and when I was overseas travelling, I would talk to anyone and everyone. My conscience tells me it was because I was too focused on eating my ice cream, but I think deep down, it was because I was slipping into my ‘routine’ life where I stay neatly in my comfort zone and can sit at a bench with strangers in silence and be OK with that. I also think another part of me was nervous. I remember a thought crossing my mind ‘what if he thinks I’m strange/boring/weird/any adjective.’ He had his earphones in, and his head buried in his phone, where I then reached for my phone and started aimlessly scrolling through my newsfeed so that the silence wouldn’t be awkward. We automatically created a barrier (being on another planet with our phones) that we completely blocked the potential of engaging in simple conversation.
By the time my mum had picked me up, I had already began to beat my self up for not starting a conversation with him, or even just saying hello. Because at the end of the day, the odds are we were never going to see eachother again, he wouldn’t think I was crazy or a psycho, and who knows, we could’ve had a really lovely conversation… (and then added eachother on Facebook, see eachother at the same station a week later, exchanged numbers, had a dinner date, get married, have kids and live happily ever after….) Haha OK so that only happens in movies.
Regardless, striking up a conversation with a stranger was something that I really liked about myself when I was travelling the world. And I met the most incredible people because of it. But I feel like I’ve fallen back into that state of mind where ‘all strangers are serial killers, trying to rob you or rape you.’ And the truth is that there are some truly remarkable people in our every day lives that we just haven’t had the opportunity of meeting yet. And starting off with a simple ‘hello, how are you?’ is a way of doing that.
This random bench guy probably hasn’t given this whole slightly awkward encounter another thought, but my not talking regret has sparked something in me that I’m determined to change. I don’t want to miss any opportunity in life. Whether it be the chance to travel someplace new, go camping, learn an instrument or even talk to a guy on a bench, and I feel that starting with a small ‘hello’ can lead to bigger and better things.
Challenge – So for the next month, I’m going to break my cosy little comfort zone and meet someone new/new people. Why? Because even if they turn out to be a bit psycho… I’ll know that I’m not crazy for not starting a little conversation.