Knowing I have only a month in a beautiful place has infected me with carpe-diem-itis.
I am by nature a gradual person. I dip a toe in the water, watching the ripples to make sure nothing creepy lurks at the bottom before I dive in. It extends back to my preschool years (as do nearly all psychological things, says Freud) : I watch before I leap. Apparently, when I was three and four years old, I’d sit and watch the other kids doing all the activities for ages. Then, I’d get the confidence up to go in and try it myself — and I knew how to do it.
My osmotic observation techniques have served me well since then. I’ve stayed out of trouble, I’ve avoided unnecessary risks. But, as I began my whirlwind life in Toulouse, I found myself adopting an attitude of Reckless Abandon.
This doesn’t mean I’m suddenly jumping off cliffs, crossing the street when oncoming traffic is racing toward me, or taking all the dark back alleys to get home at 3 in the morning (like I did once in Paris, oops). It means I am qualm-less about Opening Up.
Here’s what I’ve learned from numerous moments of alone-ness : strangers are only strangers until you say something to them.
That’s all it takes. You just have to say something.
After this saying of the something, I instantly know :
— if they’re interested in saying something back
That’s all it takes to make a friend. It shatters the illusion of aloneness instantaneously, in a burst of “interaction.” It pulls me out of the reality of Anne’s Head and into the reality of this other person, this new universe of human, this stranger who is suddenly less strange. There’s a constellation of life experiences and perspectives and feelings, of thoughts and opinions and fears and dreams and countless quirky weird things, just there to be discovered.
And, even more importantly: if I show them mine, they show me theirs.
Aren’t my best friends only best because they’ve seen all the weirds in my universe and not run away? Didn’t I have to show them my weirds as a test, to see whether or not they would run away? Aren’t they most comfortable around me when I’ve been weird, because it means they can be weird too?
In less interrogative language: If I open up to the world, I find the worlds who open up back. I find the worlds who appreciate my own constellation of life experiences and perspectives and feelings, of thoughts and opinions and fears and dreams and countless quirky weird things, and who want to discover me back.
Through this friend-making, opening up, and discovering new worlds… I’ve learned the secret to a happy life. That’s right, I discovered it.
It is thus:
Only let people into your world who think the world of you.
My new rule for continuing to be friends with someone is based entirely on how they make me feel. If they make me feel like I’m not a world worth discovering, goodbye. If they make me feel like my world is flat and uncomplicated, wrong, or inferior to theirs, they’re out. Basically, if they don’t respect me as a super cool other universe, then, even if I think they’re a super cool other universe, I should run away. Friendship needs to be reciprocal.
Opening Up takes a lot of courage. Once you show someone some part of your personal constellation, it’s out there, entirely at the mercy of their response. When they don’t respond with interest or respect, it hurts. But, if I don’t show it to them, I never know how they’d respond.
I’m learning: friendship should be selfish. I listened to a podcast the other day in which they talked about friendship, and how friendship is the only relationship in our lives which is entirely voluntary. There is no contract, there is no hidden agenda of sex or marriage, there is no legal obligation to terminate if all goes wrong. There is only what we choose to put in, and what we want to get out. I want to get out as much as I put in, and from here on out, I’m striving for balance in all of my friendships.
This means being as open and honest as possible. Right from the very beginning. If I’m not the real me, how will they get to know the real me? How will I get to know the real them?
So, for this month in Toulouse, I have one goal: BE ME, with reckless abandon. And see how many new friends I make.