Talking to strangers

‘Don’t talk to strangers’. No doubt a familiar notion, one of those life lessons that parents and teachers drum into you throughout childhood, much like ‘stop, look and listen’. Of course it’s important to remember these words of wisdom to protect yourself. But no one teaches you the other side of it. The latter advice is something I like to stand by strictly, much to the amusement of my friends, who are often leading me out in front of the red man and assuring me not to panic.

We should be more talkative, we shouldn’t shut the world out. I heard a little girl the other day proclaim ‘I’m never shy’ to another child she’d never met, which brought a smile to my face but also filled me with a sense of sadness – I had been like that once, uncaring of what others thought and simply being myself, before I became so self conscious.

We can go out into the world, use our judgement and meet new people. Like that little girl, we should be ourselves and not care about so much of the insignificant stuff. I remember a boy at my secondary school once saying to me that if we never spoke to strangers, no one would make any friends. I haven’t valued the true meaning of that until now.

Human interaction is something that’s getting lost amidst the business of modern life, the rush that that the entire human race seems to be in at all times. I’m guilty of this myself – even if I know I’m early to something, I always walk too fast, it’s very hard to stop myself. I get very frustrated when I’m walking with a group of people and they’re all walking at a snail’s pace. I can’t help the urge to walk speedily though, even if I don’t have a time limit. That’s the way I am…

…much like the way I usually am on long journeys is reserved and private, trying my hardest to shut out the hustle and bustle of hordes of people. However, I’ve come to realise that this only exacerbates the stress, separating ‘me’ from ‘the journey’ and ultimately making it more difficult for myself. I have resolved to appreciate the journeys, be involved in every moment instead of feeling like I’m waiting. So instead of sitting in awkward silence on the train, I went against my childhood advice and had a pleasant chat with a fellow passenger who I’ll probably never see again. And that’s ok. People will drift in and out of your life. I could have read my book – but my book was still going to be there when I got off the train and it gave me something new to do, someone new to discuss the funny things about life with for a couple of hours. When I was on a transfer flight a couple of weeks ago, I wasn’t sure which direction I was supposed to proceed in and so I struck up conversation with two older women who were headed the same way. In both situations, I felt glad for the company and happy for the brief encounters where I wished all parties on their way.

Moments like those, and the one with the little girl who wasn’t shy, put life into perspective. Wherever you are, there will always be people around you going somewhere, doing something, who will have had different experiences. We can all learn from each other, whatever our personal histories, and we should take as much from life as we can.

 

So don’t always be afraid to speak to someone new,

E

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