One of my go-to phrases in life is:
“Ugh, I hate people.”
I know, I’m a lot of fun to hang out with.
Recently, my friend called me out on it.
She told me it was just a blatant lie on my part, honestly.
I protested, defending my everlasting dislike of the human species.
She didn’t buy it.
Which is a good thing, because it got me thinking.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, or I guess even about 15 minutes, you know I’m an introvert by nature. Occasionally someone will find me sitting in my room, light off, listening to music or watching something. They always assume the light off was an act of laziness on my part, and flick it on, and always, always, it feels like an invasion of my privacy. The darkness allows me to be truly alone. No distractions. No one else but my own mind.
But then, on the flip side, there is not much I enjoy more than walking the busy streets of New York City. Quite literally the most opposite experience. I get a thrill from the people, from writing their stories in my head, from the crowds.
Sometimes I’ll hang out with friends, or go to a social gathering, and I’ll come home on a high. And then the next morning, someone could ask me if I want to go somewhere…and my first thought will be “ugh, I hate people.”
This is the thing:
I absolutely hate small talk.
No matter what, you will never find me comfortably chatting about the little things.
I hate talking about the little things.
Like the weather. Or what we do. Or where we’re from.
I’ve heard continuously from people “without small talk, how does one make new friends?”
Trust me, I’d rather make a new friend by talking about my deepest secrets from when I was eight than to chat with them about what I do today.
Oh, by the way, one of the worst versions of small talk is when someone tries to start a conversation with you that can’t possibly happen right then, like in the moments between a speaker finishes and begins their sentence, or as you’re about to cross the street, or when there are people around that can’t be a part of the conversation.
Most social settings are filled with moments like these.
Hence, my dislike for people.
I hate people.
I love people.
Recently, I had to get into the front seat of a Lyft. Naturally, being me, I prefer to sit in the back, look out the window, and listen to the music.
This time, I was with friends and they had taken the back. When they came to pick me up, my only option was the front seat.
I got in, I turned to catch up with my friends, and at one point the driver joined our conversation.
We did no introductions, I did not ask him how many years he has been a Lyft driver for, I did not have to tell him who I was, where I lived.
But I learned a lot from that conversation.
As my friends in the back began to discuss something between themselves, I began a conversation with the driver.
He told me about his country, the differences between America and his homeland. He told me about the time he accidentally killed a deer, and the police allowed him to take it home. He skinned, cleaned and cooked it, to my disbelief. I looked at him.
A man who has lived a life so extraordinarily different than my own.
A stranger, who I now shared this conversation with.
A man whose native tongue was not English, who had almost none of the same experiences as I did, yet we shared a conversation. A human connection.
That is what I love about humans.
We can communicate and see into each other’s lives. We can empathize, we can feel, we can listen. We don’t have to share anything, but a language, and sometimes not even that – to link into the human chain, to widen the horizon of understanding.
We are wondrous creatures.
When I talk to people that know me very well, and I talk about how uncomfortable I am in most social settings, they laugh. They say “oh please, you’re fine talking.”
And it’s true – when I’m comfortable, I have plenty to say. I’m not shy – I’m happy to share, argue, discuss. About almost anything. Ask my family.
But those people know me.
So I don’t know what it is really.
Is it a matter of vulnerability?
Does vulnerability not just mean being able to bare your soul, but to allow people to accept you – without you baring your soul?
Oftentimes, when I meet someone I don’t know very well that will tell me they read my blog, or that they liked something particular that I wrote, I feel the growing expectation to be meaningful and inspiring in my conversations with them. Which definitely does not bode well for small talk.
I don’t hate people. Most certainly not. I find the human species fascinating, incredible, infuriating and beautiful.
At times, my connection with my fellow humans is easy. Comfortable. Sometimes it’s like trying to get water from a rock. Painful.
I don’t hate people.
I hate the process of getting to know people.
I hate how slow you have to go. How little is socially acceptable to reveal about yourself. How difficult it is to get a good conversation going sometimes.
So, strike up a conversation. I know there’s a whole lot of people out there that I would benefit from knowing.
What is the human connection?
Talking to the uber driver. Having a conversation with someone on the subway. 2am texting conversations with people you know really well. The incredibly sweet messages I get from people who read this blog that are always unexpected and always push me to continue writing. A shared love for the same song. Nighttime trips to the beach, to the mall, to anywhere, really. Road trips – again, to anywhere. All the times that you get to bypass the small stuff, and get to the good parts.
Maybe I’ll never enjoy small talk. But maybe one day I’ll accept it as a means to an end, an obstacle that just needs to be crossed to reach the person behind it.
My friend turned to me as we discussed me not hating people and said: “sorry, you’re not special.”
I’m not special.
And that is what I love most.
(by the way, if the photo that goes with this post does not give you warm fuzzy feelings and the reminder of a sweet memory, you need to try living the way I do sometime. Benches in the city should always remind you of some of the best conversations. No pressure.)
Blog Post: 17/52