A funny thing happens to me anytime I’m doing something new: I want to leave. And I have to talk myself into staying, into seeing it through, into letting my excitement carry me further than my trepidation.
Sitting in a class among a group of strangers one Saturday, my feelings were no different. I was proud I got my butt there so early after a late night, but I wondered if maybe I’d dip out at lunch. Because what was I actually doing there? Trying something new, yes. But feeling out of place. Also yes.
It’s the voice that always shows up when I’m out of my comfort zone: girl, bail. And the louder it gets the more I shutdown and close off in the midst of people who have so much to share and teach me. My eye contact dips. Friendly chats with strangers don’t happen. And I close off.
As I was shutting down, a young kid came up to me and started asking me a million questions about the snippet he heard from my introduction, and suddenly I was back. Connecting, enjoying myself, feeling myself, and having a blast learning the thing I was there to learn with the people I was there to learn with.
Connection is always the antidote to discomfort. But that connection requires us to step back in and remember what we’re a part of. We all actually have more in common than we do things that divide us. It’s easy to forget this when we let the rage voice in our head win.
Whether you’re feeling out of place or not, you’ve got to work to pull those divisions down every day. Walls can only be built when we stop seeing each other and when we refuse to climb over our own emotional and fear-driven walls to see the human on the other side — the one who might feel out of place too, the one who’s looking to share something about themselves, the one who also has a story to tell and a motivation to be there. To be here.
Thankfully that kid was willing to ask me about myself and pull me out of my self-created shell, because he reminded me what I should be doing daily: pulling people out of theirs. So that we can come back together in a world that needs us holding hands rather than building barriers.
It’s so simple. It’s eye contact. It’s a friendly smile. It’s a inquisitive comment. A friendly question. It has an instant power to bring us back to ourselves. Back together. Back to human.