They say life can be bucketed into three main areas: health, wealth, and love (or relationships). I’ve been thinking a lot about latter two as of late. For the most part, I feel that my social life is relatively active, but yet I’m generally unsatisfied. I have several friends, frequent the bars, share in each other’s lives, etc. I don’t date often. I tell myself that’s because I’m not looking for anything right now, but I think the truth is it’s because I’m timid and face many social anxieties. Despite the fact that I’m 5’11’, can bench over 225, have a beaming smile, and am often teased about looking like Matt Damon, I too battle many insecurities in life. Ultimately, these are things I want to overcome. I began looking at my behaviors and thinking about what it is that I would desire. It all comes down to who you are in the world and how you present yourself. I want rich and abundant relationships. You can either chose to be to type of person that doesn’t get in people’s way, or you can decide take up space in the world; own your piece. I want the latter.
I faced this problem when leaving my project to take time off. I had to make the decision to go after what I wanted, rather than what my superiors or client would have wanted. Ultimately I was inconveniencing many people, forcing them to find replacements for my position and depriving them of a wealth of information in a very niche field. I imagine there will be many growing pains as the new resources ramp up, all because I wanted to take time off to re-evaluate and travel. At the end of the day, I made the decision that this is my life and I was going to do what I felt was right, not what was comfortable or considered socially acceptable. I feel that many would not have taken this path, but rather stayed where they were because of perceived safety; change is scary.
Change is difficult because it requires changing behaviors and habits. When you’re surrounded by the same environment that you relate these behaviors to, the difficulty in changing is compounded. Take a smoker as an example. Though studies have been shown nicotine to be addictive, much of the trouble in quitting is related to psychological habits. Smokers have smoker friends; smoking has become their way of interacting and relating. Quitting would mean being different, being an outsiders to your smoker circle of friends. This would inevitably exert many social pressures to continue smoking. Furthermore, there are several habits formed around smoking. Perhaps when at the bar, smoking is an alternative. It can act as an escape from awkward situations, or a way to break up the evening. The point is that it’s more than just smoking; it’s your behavior and ways of interacting.
Standing around the bar with the boys, carrying on small talk with intermittent moments of awkward silence, as if we’re waiting for girls to flock to us; I began thinking about the social habits of my friends and me. Why would anyone want to remove themselves from the comforts of their own home, just to pay $6 a beer, listen to music that you have no control over and that’s twice as loud as it should be? Perhaps it feels good to get out of the house every once in a while, but I think the answer comes down to one thing: meeting new people, especially women. We as human beings are social organisms, designed to interact, collaborate, and eventually replicate. Though this may unconsciously be the goal, I find it to be inconsistent with our actions. Typically I find myself around a table with a bunch of guys, sitting around talking and drinking beers. Meeting new people is not so much a proactive activity, but rather a side of effect of having one too many beers, masking the social anxieties of meeting new people and being accepted. Traveling alone inherently places you in new, unfamiliar situations. You are no longer able to depend on familiar social structure and habits, but rather, you are forced to adapt, learn and grow. One of the things I look forward to most on this trip is that people that I’ll inevitably meet and the experience we’ll share.
The same can be applied to other areas of life. In order to change behavior, you need to disrupt it. You must become conscious about the unconscious. This disruption for me is traveling to Argentina. In the process I am effectively disrupting a job role I am unsatisfied with, while also putting myself in a position in which I will be forced into unfamiliar social situations. Growth can’t occur without change. While I am excited about experiencing the cultures of Argentina, and seeing the world from a new perspective, this trip is also about recalibrating and redefining my comfort zones.