Thursday, July 7, 2011

Why I meet new people: Happy hour at the Yale Club

When I graduated, I thought I was never going to see anyone from Yale, save 14 certain people, ever again. I was on my own in this big, lonely, frustrating world, and that's exactly how I wanted it. There was a reason why I wanted to go to the Philippines, and then LA (and not NYC) after graduation: a fresh start. I'll be the first to admit that the last few weeks at Yale were mad fun, but also stressful and enervating. I didn't really enjoy Commencement, and it wasn't because of the nostalgia. Part of me, despite how much I loved Yale, simply didn't want to be stuck in the same staid social circles anymore.

Fast forward to New York. Here's a snippet of a conversation me and John had in the afternoon, while both of us should have been working:

me: realized why i'm so happy, actually
John: why? 
me: because i'm hanging out w. more people than I ever have b4 

"More people" in two ways:

First, I'm seeing as more old friends than I have in 3 years. I'm interacting in different ways with familiar people, and it increases the vibrancy of the interactions.

Second, I'm meeting new people every day. It's not just an obligatory task for a newbie in the city; I've realized that it's philosophy for life.

When I'm around new people, I find myself listening to their perspectives as if I've never heard them before, which in turn causes me to challenge my own ingrained beliefs about how the world works. The social dance of what to say and when to say it keeps me on my toes. There's always the belief that after we subsume all the niceties, he'll teach me something new. It's like injecting a shot of adrenaline into my social self: it might make my life better -- or worse -- but regardless of the outcome, everything's just a little more interesting.

And a new person, really, is a fresh start. My philosophy on people is to give them the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise. From my side, I used to make the mistake of being too casual and flippant with a new introduction. Now, I've learned to invest as much as I can into every new encounter. If I hadn't learned that, I wouldn't know how to play guitar, have gone busking in Times Square, started working at this internship, even gotten into Yale. (That's a story for another day.)

Finally, I've realized meeting new people helps me care about my current friends more. It helps put what I have in perspective; I'm more appreciative, and as a result I reciprocate better. (There's also something to be said about time constraint: the more I'm out and about, the less time I have with friends, which makes the sessions more intense.)

Maybe you have too many friends already. Maybe you don't care about strangers. Maybe your life is already devoted to a self-sustaining passion. Maybe you just can't -- or won't -- talk to new people. I think I was a little bit of all these, at a certain point in time. But as much as I've heard other people tell me to double down on pre-existing relationships and stop spreading myself too thin, I've realized the only way I can be happy is to do both: fertilize the trees and water the saplings.

As for the Yale Club happy hour tonight, I have to admit, I felt a little apprehension walking into the room. There were already ~200 people there mingling in small groups. What if I didn't know anyone? What if I had to walk around trying to find people? What if I was judged??

All those fears dissipated. I saw friends. I saw acquaintances. I saw graduates I hadn't seen in years. I met new people from different colleges. I winked at people across the room. I might have even flirted a bit. For the first time in a long time (in a Yale setting), I didn't feel at a loss for conversation. After two hours, I walked to Bryant Park with a group of friends, and realized I had a great f*cking time at the event. I realized I've been having a great time all week. And then I realized how many new people were in my life.

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