tortenet: (walkabout)
[personal profile] tortenet
Staying at home with my kids for the last eight years and not being able to afford much in the way of memberships or activities, my face-to-face contact with other adults has been limited. That's affected my desire to get out and about, too; whereas I used to feel fairly comfortable in social situations, even when I didn't know many of the people there, that's rarely true these days. I'm much less willing to strike up a casual conversation with a stranger or someone with whom I'm barely acquainted, since I simply don't remember how. It's not that I don't like meeting people or wouldn't like more friends, it's just that I more often end up feeling that I've put my foot in my mouth than made a good impression.

At any rate, I've been very fortunate in that regard the last few weeks-- I've been presented with a lot of opportunities to be social, both with existing friends and with friends of friends, and I've been having a fantastic time.

Just this afternoon, in fact, I was out to lunch with an old friend. During the course of the conversation, we ended up discussing an interesting phenomenon: those instances where you meet a person for a very brief time only, yet they end up impacting your life. I don't mean just connecting with someone for a moment in time, although that's special, too. I'm talking about those times when a short interaction inadvertently leads to a significant change.

I can only think of a couple of times I've had that happen. One took place when I was first at college. I hadn't known anyone else who went to my university, and while I got along with my roommate, we had very little in common. There were a couple of girls in my hall with whom I got to be friendly, but since we were in different programs-- one in teaching, one in nursing, and me in art-- our schedules didn't mesh well, so the initial couple of weeks were rather solitary for me. One afternoon, when I was walking toward the university center for lunch, I heard a weird swishing noise behind me. Turning around, I saw a girl wearing corduroys, who gave me a sheepish smile.

"I hate it when that happens," I remarked airily. She laughed, and we ended up chatting and grabbing lunch together. She invited me to have supper with her friends, who turned out to be a group I'd noticed in the dining hall a few times. They'd seemed like people I'd get on well with, although I hadn't known how to strike up a conversation to see if I was right, never having come across any of them individually and certainly not about to approach a large bunch. With the exception of the only other female in the group, they were all very welcoming, and I left supper with almost a dozen new friends.

I never saw that girl again. She ended up leaving school shortly after that, and while I'm ashamed to admit it, I can't even recall her name now. Yet, that group ended up being my core circle of friends while I was at the university, and the other girl (who'd been fairly rude to me the first night but ended up being my closest friend for awhile) was dating a guy who fixed me up with my first boyfriend, whom I later married. While that hasn't worked out, I have my children because of it, and some good memories, as well. Sometimes, the series of events that led up to all that boggles my mind: what if that girl hadn't put on corduroys when she got dressed? What if I'd decided to eat at one of the other places on campus for lunch that afternoon? What if she'd left school a couple of weeks earlier, or I'd pretended not to notice her noisy trousers, or... or... So many "what if"s.

While a recent experience I had hasn't led to something as concrete as a new group of friends, it has had a definite impact. There's no anecdote to tell, no funny little incident like with the corduroys, just a brief meeting such as millions of other people around the world were certainly having at the same time. It was important, however. My life hasn't been moving forward at all, and while I've somewhat fairly pointed to employment issues being the primary cause of that, I haven't really addressed one of the causes of those employment issues. I was giving in to a severe lack of self-confidence when I should have been forging ahead, letting myself be caught in a cycle of depression both as a result and also as a cause of my self-doubt. I've been in a stasis, a holding pattern based on fear. But, this snapped me out of it, and also fueled my excitement for what lies ahead. The fear has become a case of butterflies, not insurmountable. I want to move on with my life, instead of just hoping that I'll want to move on soon, and all due to a chance interaction.

Back to my lunch meeting this afternoon, when my friend and I were discussing this phenomenon, she said that there should be a specific word for it. I'd be willing to bet that there is, in some language; but to my knowledge, English doesn't have one. It also struck me as interesting that I was discussing it with her-- talking about key people I've only known for a moment in time with a friend I've known nearly half my life. Later on, we also discussed the concept of independence, and how it doesn't necessarily mean doing everything alone.

With the people I've come across in my life, family and friends and whatever I should call that girl in the corduroys, doing everything alone doesn't appeal, anyway.
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