I have always been more than happy to be on my own.
Even as a child, I could be by myself for hours and still find ways to occupy myself. My sister needed interaction and people to be with. I was very content to be alone.
And yet, as I was growing, I also missed these same interactions. I missed being part of a group of friends. I missed creating bonds and connecting.
The thing is, I am very much of an introvert and social interactions do not come naturally to me. Moreover as a child and teenager, like most introverts, I was very, very, very (did I say very) shy. That didn’t help!
Even years later, as an adult married woman, I found myself feeling so uncomfortable at this huge party one day that when a friend asked how I was, I heard myself reply: “Not well! There’s way too many people I don’t know here!”
I look at people for whom it comes easily. You know those you can just throw in the arena and who will thrive off it and shine, and I’m in awe.
For a long time I felt like there had to be something wrong with me, there might be something missing somewhere, like I should be able to fit in better.
Throughout the years though, I did meet a few great people and developed wonderful friendships along the way, some of which still hold today. One-on-one interaction was okay. It felt safe enough for me to venture and connect.
Group interactions: a whole other dimension that was still very complicated and required me to navigate with caution.
However, at some point, things started to shift, even though I didn’t know they were.
I was so not conscious about it that I remember being completely taken by surprise one day, a few months after starting my first year of university, when my floor coordinator said to me “Your first day at the residence when I met you in the dining hall, you were so comfortable and had adapted so easily, nothing like me!” I literally did a double take in my head thinking “Wait! WHAT?! Is she talking about me… That can’t be me… I was so completely feeling SO uncomfortable and not fitting in at all! How can she even say that!”
And yet I was.
And this was when I realized that ‘ I ‘ was very much a part of the equation here and that fitting in and making connections was not only about people allowing you into their circles, it also had much to do with us being able to find our way there too.
And slowly but surely I added more tools to my belt to be able to fit in and to create connections. I made loads of mistakes too (I still do today!), but I guess that’s part of the process.
But the wonderful thing is that as I was doing so, I realized that the more I opened up, the more people would let me in, and the more comfortable I would get.
Let’s face it, I’m still quite content when I am on my own and I will never be an extrovert. I still have to step out of my comfort zone around people I don’t know well (even if it gets easier every time!). I need my ‘me’ time more than most people. Throw me into the arena unprepared and I’ll totally panic!
But today, I can also say that I love people and thrive on connecting with them, no matter how, no matter when and no matter where.
I don’t need a thousand friends whom I know nothing about. I love having a few close friends with whom I can have deep meaningful relationships. But now, I also don’t mind getting to know new people along the way, having a few nice acquaintances and be part of social gatherings and interactions. Bonus!
P.S. And I just wanted to add how grateful I am to all the people in my life who make it what it is today. So if you are part of my life, or have been – even in the tiniest way, just know that I love it that you’re there.