My good friend Hannah inadvertently complimented me the other day when she told another friend in conversation, “Christina is the most social person I have ever met in my entire life.” It’s true that I’m clearly extroverted and that I love people and talk a lot. Still, this comment came as a bit of a surprise to me as, in the past year or so, I’ve come to realize that I don’t always want to be super social, and that I don’t have to force myself to be either. (In younger days, I was more or less playing a game with myself entitled, “Be the most BUBBLY, friendly person in the ENTIRE WORLD!” Frankly, younger me was crazy, this was exhausting and I quit.) I’ve learned that it’s okay if I’m usually quiet in the mornings because I hate mornings. (Until I have my coffee) It’s alright if I don’t go to every single party or every event I’m invited to. It’s fine if occasionally I’d rather opt out to have some alone time, or cuddle with the husband and a glass of wine. (Yes. I cuddle with my wine.) Coming to terms with the fact that I don’t always have to be insanely outgoing, all of the time, has actually served in making me a more confident, relaxed individual. I’m now re-energized into being the naturally social person I am and blab to my heart’s content.
This brings me to my recent trip to Pittsburgh. I had a layover in Chicago and arrived at the Pittsburgh airport a few hours before my best friend was scheduled to pick me up. In both states, I had lovely conversations. One with a middle-aged lady in Chicago about her state and everything else in between; Another with a twenty-year old dude in Pittsburgh, about our travels and a million other things, as we both waited for our rides to pick us up. I still giggle at my good luck from these conversations. My Chicago lady friend gifted me an expensive and exquisitely delicious candy bar on the one condition that I would share it with my friend. (We both savored it.) My Pittsburgh friend, after I complimented his array of bracelets, reached into his luggage and insisted I take one that he had packed. The biggest gift of all though, was connecting, laughing and learning from people that, hours before, I had never exchanged one word with and would probably never see again.
All too often, I think that many subconsciously turn the childhood warning of “Don’t take candy from strangers.” into a lifelong adult attitude of shunning the unknown and staying in silent comfort zones. And this isn’t me saying that you should talk to every single person on the planet or get into big white vans with sketchy looking humans. This is just my little, friendly reminder that sometimes, as grown-ups, it’s okay to take candy from strangers. Or to smile at somebody you’re passing on the street. Or to ask a cashier how their day is going. Or to make small-talk with that lonely looking person on the bus. Or to compliment a random girl on how awesome her hair is. You might make somebody think in a way they hadn’t before, or just bring a smile to somebody who needed one. You could, in some small but tangible way, change a life. Possibly your own. Who knows, maybe you’ll even end up with a cute, little blue bracelet. What I’m getting at here is this: Talk to people. Ask questions. Tell stories. You never know how much beauty can come from the simplest of exchanges.