Before now, I wouldn’t have described myself as a social person. Generally speaking, I’m friendly and although I’m a borderline introvert, I’m definitely outgoing in the right situation. But I don’t know that “social” is a word that would necessarily would have described me up to this point in my life. I suppose a big part of that is the fact that being social in Jamaica means being a part of the party scene. And since I’m not a party girl and, in fact, don’t actually like them (more on that soon), I’ve never seen myself as a particularly “social” person.
Of course, parties aren’t the only way to be social; there are other things, like meeting friends for a meal or a hangout, or even a concert or show. Those types of social events are actually more my speed but even so, I don’t do them often. Case in point: for the entire eight months that I spent in Jamaica earlier this year, I had breakfast with different friends maybe six times, lunch with those same various friends another couple of times and dinner with a couple of them four or five times. Oh, and coffee once or twice. I also took my dad to see a play and I hit up the opera once with my mom (I won’t count the other times that I went alone).
If I exclude the week in June when I escaped to New York then took on Chicago with Emma, I had no more than twenty social engagements in the thirty or so weeks that I was in Jamaica. That’s less than a date a week.
If I leave out my first two weeks, when I was going to museums and other local attractions every other day, I can honestly say that I’ve been out with other people at least once every week. That’s a fact; I checked it. Given my brief social butterfly phase in Indonesia, this may not be surprising. But bear in mind that my social butterfly stint there lasted for only about four days and that there were many invitations that I received but turned down from the time I arrived in Jakarta to when I left there eight months later.
I remember when I lived in California during my time at graduate school. There were many evenings and weekends when other students were going out and I was invited but I opted instead to go home and read a book instead. Many! I preferred the company of my books to that of other people, save a very few.
Here in Yakutsk, I’ve accepted almost every single social invitation that I’ve received. Surprised the heck outta me when I realised that, in fact, I’ve only turned down two invitations. One was a dinner invitation that came late on a Friday night when I was already in bed. The other was a Saturday night hangout invitation that came after a long day of work followed by a work party; I only turned it down because it had been a long and intense week that had included another party the night before and a 2 am bedtime, so I wanted only to go home.
What has surprised me even more than my willing acceptance of invitations is the fact that I’ve been initiating some of them. That’s huge for me! I’m usually the one to accept or reject date suggestions, not make them. I find myself inviting people to lunch or for a coffee date or a walk. I know it’s not because I’m particularly craving company or am afraid to be on my own. I’m not and I don’t. It’s been proven a thousand times over by now that I’m extremely comfortable being alone. So I had to dig deep to try and figure where this is a side of me – that I’ve never met before, by the way – has suddenly come from.
I’ve come to the conclusion that it boils down to personal growth. It looks like I’ve had a growth spurt. Because a big part of the attraction of these social interactions for me is the conversations that I have with people. I find it fascinating to learn about their lives and experiences. These conversations energise me because I learn new things, and they challenge me to think of issues and situations in new ways. Accepting these invitations opens me up to new experiences, some of which I’ll tell you about soon – not just the phenomenal things that I experience in nature but simple everyday things too.
This. This is why I go far and wide and flee from what I’ve always known. This is it. This is why. I grow, I change, I become more. It’s like a drug and I’m not giving it up. So I’ll continue to accept and instigate dates with these ordinary and fascinating people who expose me to ordinary and fascinating things.
Growth. I like how it looks on me.