Sunday, 2 November 2014

talking to strangers

If there is one thing I would like to change about myself, it would be to be better at talking. As anyone who has ever met me will (probably) testify - I can be difficult to talk to. At first. Once I warm up and shake off my social awkwardness, I love a good chat. But even then, I don't talk for the sake of talking, I only speak if I feel I have something to contribute. This can come across as shyness, or even rudeness, but it isn't either.

There are days when I barely speak at all. Choosing to get lost in my own thoughts, read or listen to music instead, I can go from feeling desperately sad to hopeful in a day, with no one else being any the wiser. This isn't intentional, I don't actively shut people out - sometimes I just need to be quiet.

It therefore surprises me when circumstances lead me to talk to a complete stranger, and I feel strangely revitalised. On Friday night when myself and a friend found ourselves at Clapham Junction waiting for a delayed train, a burly looking chap made conversation with us. His name was Charleston and he was a pop artist by day and a doorman by night. He showed us his art on his phone and mocked my friend's fear of a nearby zombie-fied Ronald McDonald (it was Halloween). 

Now, I'll never see Charleston again - but this snatched insight into another person's world was fascinating. If I had a camera around my neck, I would have felt like Diane Arbus, roaming the streets of New York taking pictures of strangers. She was socially very shy, but with her camera she felt invincible and came to life when she entered other people's lives, no matter how briefly.

Fuelled by rum and boredom, on that platform I felt like Diane. I wanted to meet everyone in the world and find out what life looks like to them. I've been thinking about myself a lot lately - what does my future look like, where will I end up, what the fuck am I doing - so I think the reason I enjoyed this random conversation so much was because it got me out of myself. I burst my own security bubble and saw a world outside of my own.

I want to do that more. Maybe I'll take up a new hobby, or travel somewhere by myself. Maybe I'll take a camera and start my own Arbus-inspired anthropology project, who knows. All I know is that while a certain amount of introversy (is that a word?) is nice, it's time to take a deep breath and head into the unknown with the curiosity of an explorer and the bravery of a warrior. 

I'll let you know how I get on. 


Maria Fallon said...

I hate meeting new people, I am really shy at first (believe it or not!) and completely freak out unless I have someone I know with me. I like the idea of having something to bridge that oh so awkward gap though- I have never had more people talk to me than when I had to get a table home on the train!

Maria xxx

Rosie Hurley said...

I love this post - I'm exactly the same (not a massive talker) and you've managed to articulate how I feel a lot of the time so beautifully! I love how just the briefest word or smile from or to a stranger can remind you that there's other people out there living their own lives - a great reminder to, as you say, not get too wrapped up in your own security bubble!


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