I want to share with you one of the most important things I learned from my father (after decades of him trying to teach it to me). It's something I actively resisted for years only to now find myself doing exactly that.
My father is a "connector". He collects friends like a geeky kid collects pebbles at the beach. He goes one step further and lovingly takes care of these pebbles, sorry friends, for years. I've grown up seeing him maintain friendships that span decades. As I write this my parents are out gallivanting in Kenya with dozens of friends from over 3 decades ago.
I've grown up being pushed by him to meet new people, to network, to learn to converse. As an awkward child this was something I detested. I mean, I can make friends over time with neighbours, classmates, and people I'm sharing a space with. But going up to someone I know nothing about (and who knows nothing about me) and striking a conversation? That's terrifying. What if they laugh at me or worse, ignore me? But the things my dad made me do...he made me go talk to people who seemed interesting, he made me interview the owner of a resort we were staying at (she thought I was a journalist and took it so seriously that she got dressed and got a chef wearing a poofy hat to sit next to her for added effect). It was so cringe inducing back then but over time something happened. I got better at it. I still felt vulnerable each time I initiated a conversation but there was also a new voice in my head-courage - that told me I am going to be okay despite the worst outcome.
Almost every single one of my closest friends I have befriended this way. We knew nothing of each other, we spoke - awkwardly- and a few years down the line we are attending each others weddings, sharing kid pics, and spilling our hearts through whatsapp.
When I came to Riyadh, I felt my old life was a goner, that I would have no friends because of the limitations on travel here. I spent one year moping at home all depressed. Then something changed. I decided to be proactive and do what my dad would have done - put myself out there, reach out to the connectors here. So I connected with people who know lots of people. Over the last two years I met so many wonderful people I am now proud to call my friends. This year I went one step further, I began meeting these ladies in groups or one on one over lunches and coffee meet ups. I met so many like minded people I would never have come across otherwise just through Facebook. Each time we meet I am little bit more happier, my frayed mind a little bit calmer, my mom brain goes into a happy high.
Making new friends requires a lot of vulnerability. You are putting yourself out there for evaluation by someone who hasn't known you for long and you hope they find you interesting enough to want to be in your life. It's really not the best feeling in the world to momentarily lower your guard so people can get a glimpse of the real you. But you know what's one of the best feelings in the world? That 'click' in the midst of a conversation when two people really connect. When they realize they are on the same wavelength. When you look at each other and know it's the beginning of a lifelong friendship. Worth being vulnerable for, I think
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