For the past few years, I’ve been living an odd sort of life; I go out for voiceover jobs, errands, running, and an occasional dinner with my friend Lara, but the bulk of my life has been online. While I’m utterly grateful for the internet (a large part of my income relies on it and many folks I’ve met through it have become true friends) living in this much solitude is whacked.
Sometimes, when I really want to torture myself, I note the parallels between my mother’s life and my own. Granted, she was also a paranoid schizo who killed herself and I am neither of those things, nor will I ever want to check out early, but she was a thoroughly self-contained hermit who craved human contact and at the same time, was afraid of it. That is our parallel.
A few weeks ago, something changed within me. It started with the posture work which led me to Alexander Technique which has posture elements within it but is so much more, its purpose is to strip away habits while developing a deep mindfulness [this wonderful book is the closest you can get to teaching yourself]. Somehow, by redefining the way I move along with this new self-awareness, not only within my own skin but in the world, I suddenly wanted to be part of it…the world, that is. To stop existing and start living.
So one evening, I put on my brave girl panties and started researching free stuff to do around the city. Turns out there’s an endless array of cool activities if you know where to look. One website, Meetup.com, is a fantastic worldwide source for book clubs, discussion groups, happy hour gatherings, and groups for almost any interest you might have. They have a specific Meetup group for free stuff in Philly, so that was my initial source. Then I found Eventbrite.com, which also lists tons of free and cheap stuff, plus a few local sources as well.
After hemming and hawing, I had a couple weeks worth of activities scheduled that I would dare myself to go to. I also gave myself this assignment: to find something I liked in everything I went to, just one thing.
Now, over the years, I’ve adopted some strict labels for myself: “I’m not a ______ person” (fill in the blank with history, classical music, science, blues…so many subjects it’s embarrassing). Worse, I felt that I had long ago run out of interests, having already gone through a variety of hobbies and obsessions. It struck me the other day though, that I’ve always defined my interests as something I participate in, either by making or doing, I’m not used to spectating. But the funny thing is, this type of spectating is a “making or doing”…it’s called learning. That’s what I get for not going to college.
And as it turns out, I never had to look for one thing to like because it’s all been thoroughly fun, enlightening and surprising. I still don’t have the slightest urge to turn on a classical radio station or watch a TV show about some medical thing, but to be in a room while someone plays violin or speaks engagingly at a lectern about the role of physicians from Hippocrates to the present, well that’s a whole ‘nuther story. The live, human element makes it wonderful.
Finally, one more crazy cool realization is that going out solo, the thought of which had become more anxiety-provoking as I’ve gotten older, turns out to be totally un-scary! In fact, it’s downright fun. I don’t feel self-conscious or pathetic in the least, people are so friendly, they’ll just come right up to you and start talking, it’s kinda kooky how easy it is.
So, in the past 2½ weeks I’ve gone to 2 lectures, a museum, 2 music events, a film screening with a catered reception, a discussion group, an author’s reading and a book club…all free. Tonight it’s another screening (with free popcorn and a soda). Not bad for a shut-in.
Some additional fabulous byproducts of getting out in the world are:
1. Wearing makeup and cute outfits again. It’s fun to be girly and “get ready to go out”.
2. After 11 years of living in Philly, I’m just starting to feel like I live here instead of being a transient. Hell, I bought my first SEPTA (bus, subway, trolly) tokens last week.
3. I’m more motivated to do my design work because it’s more satisfying to go out after a productive day.
4. It makes me want to treat myself in other little ways (I just bought a bunch of flavored syrups and a milk frother for lattes) and to quit the grossly low-rent things, like storing filtered tap water in a couple of old 64oz soda bottles (buy a damn pitcher, you idiot). I bought two.
5. Cooking new things. Hard to admit, but I just bought my first package of chicken drumsticks. I’ve only ever bought skinless, boneless chicken breasts. I’m too old to be so naive about chicken.
6. In leaving my apartment and getting out in the world, there once again exists the potential for getting laid. I barely remember how that works, it’s been so long.
7. I feel like anything’s possible. Because it is.
I’ll leave you with this one simple thought: You can change. You can change the things you assumed were ingrained in you, the things you don’t like about yourself, the things that scare you about yourself or make you feel weird or sad. It’s never too late to swerve off that beaten, familiar path and forge a fresh one. You have 80ish years to fill. Whatever you do, don’t stop in the middle.