For too many years I had my head buried in the sand. And by that I mean I kept my eyes to the ground and really wouldn’t make eye contact when I would pass people on the streets, in the mall, even at work. Perhaps especially at work, as the kitchen operations manager for The Keg I would often do laps of the dining room and I would look at people’s dinner plate, checking for food quality. Ten to fifteen times a night I would lap the dining room and always, always had my eyes down looking at each table and the plates on it as I would pass by.
I realize now in retrospect that I had it wrong the whole time! What I should have been looking at was everyone’s eyes and face, to see they were enjoying themselves and having a good time. That information alone would have told me all I would need to know, having a good time then the food must be good as well. Making eye contact, smiling at our guests would have made me and them feel better. After all ins’t a smile contagious?
I was an introvert, and I didn’t like people. I kept to myself, and presented a very business like front at work. I presented a professional version of to keep everyone at an arms distance away from me and at the same time I didn’t go out of my way to get to know my co-workers on a personal level. Since moving out on my own when I was 18 I already had this mindset and never in all the places that I lived (and there were a lot, I moved on average once a year for 10 straight years) did I get to know any of my neighbors more than a casual nod of the head in passing, some not at all.
Even friendships from childhood, friendships I had made when someone would ignore my walls and want to get to know me anyways on a personal level. Those people I liked the most as they put forth the effort to see what was beyond the image that I had presented to everyone else. Over the years, even those special people I let fade away and lost contact with.
Let’s take Facebook for example, those of us that use it most likely have some of childhood friends on our friend list, I know I did but I never went out of my way to actually reconnect with any of them. I would have considered myself a silent Facebook stalker, as everyone once in a while I would see what they were up to. At times ignoring or making up excuses to reconnect. Too busy, too many kids, too caught up in my own head at times.
When I started this journey I have started to look at people much differently than I ever did and I have found myself doing things that I never would have before in my life. And every single time that I push my personal boundaries and do something that once upon a time I would anxiety about or uncomfortable with I would jump in head first. Let’s go back a few months shall we…
My neighbor Jodi came by my house one summer day offering me a couple of extra winter coats that her daughters had outgrown, and having two daughters slightly younger I thought that it was an incredible gesture and that was the literal start of our friendship. Over the weeks to come we would continue to talk and get together a few times a week and converse almost daily now by email. She has become a very close friend and important part of the support circle that I have been creating. She helped open my eyes to new thoughts and new possibilities, she helped change my life. Had I not been open to her and kept my old mentality that exchange at my door may very well have been the end of things, and I so very glad that I didn’t as she has helped me in numerous way. I just returned from a delightful dinner with her, her husband and another lady that she is mentoring. It was a delightful evening full of great conversation, and as I sat there I was thinking wow Ed, you never have done something like this before. It was really great.
Thank you Jodi.
The other side of the coin is old friends. Lot’s of times we bump into an old friend, chat for a few minutes and ultimately leave the conversation saying we should get together some time. I know I would do this, and never follow through. Far too many times. This morning I actually reconnected with one of my best friends from grade school and high school, James. We grew up in Milton together along with a circle of friends, and today I drove down to his house in Toronto to have an afternoon full of nerd adventures playing a Star Wars miniature game along with another old friend John David.
The old Ed would have had much anxiety meeting old friends, not to mention a room full of strangers that I had never met before. I considered bailing on the outing last night and even this morning as I had a convenient excuse built-in with the issues going on with my daughter but I ultimately decided that a day reconnecting and catching up with old friends was exactly what I needed to take my mind off things.
And boy was I right! Driving down from Barrie to Toronto taking all the back road to both enjoy the view, avoid the gridlock on the highways gave me such a sense of peace that I was able to think about the situation with my daughter and rock out to some great tunes. I parked my Jeep, walked up to the front door and knocked. The second James saw me through the window he threw up his arms in the arm with a big smile, opened the door and we immediately embraced in a big long hug.
It has been 28 years since I had seen my childhood friend and both immediately agreed that it had been far to long. He was open and welcoming and we sat down and chatted for a few minutes about life and then headed down stairs to meet the rest of the crew. I gave John David another big hug and spent the next several hours getting blown out of the sky (in the game) and reconnected with a couple of class gentlemen that I realized after I left had missed for far too long. It was a great afternoon talking about the old days, meeting new friends and just enjoying life and each other’s company. When it was time to go James walked me out to my car, exchanging another big hug and made plans to meet again real soon.
It was an incredibly powerful afternoon and evening for me. I will definitely have to write more about these guys and some of our childhood adventures as they are some of the happiest times of my life.
Nothing about today was difficult or hard for me. Once i started to drive I did not feel any kind of anxiety or feelings of nervousness. It was pure joy and enjoyment in the company people who I call friends. True friends with no motivation or hidden agendas, genuine people that honestly care about my well-being and that of my family.
I learned a lot today, not only about myself but about my view towards the rest of the world. Quick side story, at a traffic light waiting for the light to change green I looked to my right and watched a wonderful old couple, perhaps in their 80’s laughing and smiling at each other just enjoying each others company. I thought to myself we all should be so lucky. It brought a tear to my eye.