Getting out there

Fantastic opportunities don’t show up out of nowhere. They show up at certain times and places, and we need to be there in those times and places. The more interactions we have with people, the more likely it is we will connect, and learn a thing or two about something that’s outside our comfort zone. As to say, it is only by getting out, talking to people, and challenging ourselves that we get opportunities.

That being said, it’s hard. Rates of Anxiety and Depression are soaring, partly influenced by the increased use of social media. By plain genetics, being introverted means that dealing with people for long amounts of time is draining, instead of being fulfilling for extroverts. There’s lots of opportunities online, so for those who look hard it enough, it may seem pointless to get out there physically. Yet, when we meet people in person, we have a stronger connection to them. Interacting with people in person is far more uncontrolled, but that also makes it more interesting and fulfilling when things turn out well.

Putting yourself out there also includes putting yourself out there physically. Traveling can be scary and confusing. Walking around outside genuinely isn’t as fun as scrolling through social media in most cases. But it’s healthy and good, even as we dread it. We make the idea of things blow up greater than they really are, when truly, it’s going to be okay. Lots of people are awkward, and only a few know what they’re doing socially. Overthinking is easy to fall into, but it’s a common phenomenon. However, the basics of communication are pretty clear, we just overcomplicate it. If you’re unsure, ask a question. If you’re angry, explain why. If you’re tired, say so. If you don’t know what to say, then literally say, “I’m not sure what to say right now”, and maybe talk a little about why, or ask a question so the other person can speak. Getting out and talking is hard, but it’s also far easier than you’ve been remembering it because we encode the bad instances far more than the neutral or good ones. You can do this.

people, peace, and painting

Life is like painting: it takes patience, practice, and just know that you’re going to mess up. Sometimes we sketch out our plans and outline them and everything, but the second we start to actually carry it out, we have doubts. We want to switch the painting around. And while we hate the idea of painting without that nice skeleton outline, we can make do with what we have.

Things won’t turn out exactly like you have them in your head. Even if all your dreams come true, the people populating them will be more different and varied that you can possibly account for. Being at peace seems like a joke in many ways. Life has conflicts! Life has people, and people are hard to deal with. However, without those people, life is miserable. The trick then, is learning how to be okay with people, how to be at peace with your relationships.

Communication sounds simple but it’s the hardest thing to do, because we don’t necessarily know the words or phrases to express exactly where we’re at. We have to trust every time we open our mouth that the person will be listening, and if they’re listening, that they will understand. It takes courage to say some things, and it’s okay if it’s difficult for you. Words are hard. However, pushing through our fear and expressing our feelings to those closest to us is the right thing to do. It keeps us honest and open. When we let other people idealize us, we do both people a disservice. You are human and you are flawed– so is everyone else. Aim for tact, but if worst comes to worst, just know that the most important thing is to get it out there. Tell people where you’re going, where you want to go, what you plan on eating, if you’re tired, if you want them to go away or stay; tell people because they won’t know otherwise. Life is like painting, it takes practice, and patience, but don’t be afraid to lay it all out.

finding the right words

We can say all the words we want, but communication requires something extra: the right words. If you don’t explain what you want to say in the language the other person understands, their understanding is going to be limited. By “language”, I mean the broad languages like English, Mandarin, French, etc., but also the smaller subgroupings within each of those.

Region could affect accent, the field of interest could affect terminology, the relationship the speakers have to each other could effect meaning and expression, but there’s even more than that! When we express ourselves, we need to be able to express an idea that they will be able to interpret as the same thing we mean. We need to speak clearly.

However, speaking clearly isn’t an easy skill to master. There’s a temptation to stick to the groups we know and are comfortable with because we are fluent in that group’s patois. In those settings, we know how to express ourselves and we know that when we are sarcastic, they’ll understand it as sarcasm. We can be funny, and they’ll understand the joke. But the problem with that is that people are different from each other. If we only stick to our little friendly groups, we deny oursleves. Talking to someone from a different culture is difficult. If you have similar cultures, or either of you are familiar with how to communicate, it becomes easier. It can range from semi-easy to incredibly difficult.

Yet if we push ourselves, talk to people we might be socially awkward around at first, we’ll get there. It might take months. It will probably take a lot of frustration for everyone involved. But that frustration will be worth it, because at the end of the day, you’ll be able to understand someone else just a little better. You’ll be able to see inside their head just a little easier, and that look may transform how you yourself see things. It’s difficult, but how many people could you learn from and have a wonderful time with, if you just put in a little more effort to understand them?

just talk to a dang person

As amazing and important as technology is, there is one queen bee we often forget about: socialization. Humans are social creatures! We organize in groups of kinship, then create groups of similar disposition. When we are afraid, we tend to recruit another human to go along with us. As a species, we have managed to create the most complex and dense structure of interaction to provide resources for not only ourselves and immediate family, but for virtually all families of our nation! There are of course many nuances, details, exceptions, and limitations to that concept, but just consider!

Take an individual who is living in a first world country. They live in homes constructed by people they’ve never met, filled with things that people have created machines to mass produce, have complex interactions with a variety of people who are potentially amazingly different than them! Even with violence and war, racism, sexism, and all those other isms, we manage to find massive conglomerates of people with our same beliefs! We are able to organize to the point of millions; that is absolutely crazy!! Humans are amazingly social, seeing faces in clouds and personifying things like toys.

Socialization is one of the key foundations of our psychological well-being. Loners might seem cool, but they also die faster and live miserably. To some extent, we likely adore loner figures in stories and fiction because of our innate drive to want to incorporate them into the group again. The “bad boy” stereotype is admired in part, not because he’s bad, but because of the hope that maybe he isn’t.

And yet! We stop physically interacting because of smart phones, opting for the easier option. Don’t get me wrong, technology is amazing and incredibly important! We could do so much with it, and do! However, there is a colossal problem with over using social media in a way that disrupts our naturally physically interactive social behaviors. You don’t have to chuck your phone, it would probably cause a huge mess because of all the responsibilities tied to it. However, what we can do is try to limit ourselves. Revel in being human! Sure, check out your feed, but then have a face to face conversation over dinner. Just talk to people, do something, don’t just scroll for hours on end! It sounds like unnecessary work, but it really isn’t– on the contrary, it is core to our physical and mental well being.

the hocus pocus of phonemes on your life

Language is incredible. Strictly speaking, it is the process of conveying ideas and information. It is ambiguous, changing, expressive, yet structured and adherent to basic blocks. Animals can communicate with each other, even plants communicate through neurotransmitters sent out through their bodies, yet humans have gone beyond other creatures with language. Within words and phrases, we can express entirely fascinating thoughts, in such nuanced ways! When humans grow attached to animals, it is often because they can understand how that creature is feeling or desiring. Not too many people care about lamps, but creatures such as dogs can display emotions that we relate to.

Furthermore, even when we don’t realize it, we judge people based upon their language use. Education and socioeconomic status have been so tightly knit together throughout history, we assume those who are rich are able to speak more effectively. One of my favorite movies as a child was My Fair Lady, with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn, in which a snobby misogynistic linguist trains a poor cockney flower girl to speak like a duchess to win a bet. By the end of the movie (spoiler alert), Hepburn’s character manages to convince a linguistic expert at some fancy ball that she is royalty from a foreign land. I loved it because the whole “experiment” showed that there was nothing defining the rich from the poor except how they held themselves, and the only reason they could hold themselves that way was because they had the time and resources to learn to do so. 

If we can communicate well, we are better adapted to succeed in our social connections, and can use those social connections to be better at our jobs. However, in order to become effective communicators, we need education. In order to receive high quality and quantity education, we need money. In order to get money, we need to have high paying jobs, ones that say, are dependent on knowing the right people and having the right social connections. There’s absolutely other factors involved, but language is one of the main dividing barriers between class. Beyond class issues, language can improve your cognitive ability to process complex issues. 
Don’t underestimate the power of language. Learn, read, try to expand your vocabulary! Knowledge is power. If you feel like you can’t express yourself, look through the dictionary until you can.  If you want to be better at life, learn how to communicate with the humans around you.