It took me a while to choose just what I wanted to share as my first post since my absence on this blog. I wanted to give you all a recap of what I’ve been doing since I’ve last written, but it hit me that this all can be wrapped up in one big lesson I have learned recently.
I remember when I graduated high school, I told myself I wasn’t going to college to make friends or meet people. I was so content in my small town lifestyle with my circle of friends that I felt I didn’t need to branch out. As I wrap up my sophomore year of college, I realize how wrong I was to go into school with this mindset. Making connections with people is one of life’s greatest treasures.
When I say connections, I don’t mean business or career related, although sometimes that is part of the experience. What I mean is meeting new people and listening to them, learning about their life, and growing or getting to know a person. It can be as simple as saying hi to a passerby or as big as sitting next to someone in a class and making conversation that overtime develops into a friendship.
I used to use shy as an excuse to avoid confrontation. Sometimes, I still do. (Just ask my uncle, who had to coach me into making an important phone call not too long ago.) But “shy” made me miss out on experiencing lives aside from my own. People were put on this earth to connect and interact with each other. We aren’t here to make it on our own. We need each other to survive.
In fact, I’ve learned so much about myself by connecting with others. Staying connected with other people and building companionship’s has made me a more confident individual. It has given me the courage to approach people, to say hi to a passerby, or good morning to my neighbor before I hit the road.
When I began this blog, I wrote a lot about coping with anxiety. I know for many people, situations that involve interacting with others are rather nerve-racking. I have been that person who hesitated to order food, or chose to work independently for a group-optional assignment simply because I feared it. I think there’s always this voice in our head holding us back from speaking up because it tells us that we’re going to embarrass ourselves or that we won’t be liked or accepted. Over the years, I’ve realized that there’s absolutely no way to know whether this voice is true (and it isn’t) if we don’t try. Part of coping with anxiety is to accept your negative thoughts and say “no thanks, I think I’ll live my life today. I think I’ll speak, I think I’ll smile, I think I’ll interact.”
I have to thank Theatre for the connections I’ve made. It’s so easy to offer a smile, or a few words of encouragement, or simply a “hello, how was your day?” to a cast mate. The next thing you know, you’ll have a routine of sitting next to the same person every music rehearsal.
I also have to thank the community. Through the fundraising efforts my family puts forth each year we hold a 5K race, we continue to meet other fundraising groups all working towards different causes and we connect and support each other. I’ve heard stories of heroes everywhere of all shapes and sizes. It’s truly inspiring to see the legacy they leave behind in their families, friends, and supporters.
If I could go back, I don’t think I would tell incoming college Freshman Hayley to “make connections.” The magic comes from not knowing what’s in store for you. I don’t think I’d be writing this post right now if I went into life fully prepared to see how wonderful it can be to meet and experience others. I think I needed to grow and to know that I was wrong to think I couldn’t go beyond my comfort zone. To the people reading this who look down at their phones to avoid confrontation (believe me I have been there and will often still do this): I know it may seem like you’re fine in your own circle. Maybe you don’t need to meet new people, or make small talk. But maybe that person next to you in the elevator seeing you look down and avoid their gaze is in need of a smile. Maybe they’re looking down at their phone too, hoping to find something or someone to keep them connected with the world. Offer your smile, or a kind hello, you never know when you can be someone’s hero.