Beyond Room 119

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It’s been quite the thought experiment to start to unpack what I’ve learned from this most recent transition. Part of me thinks it’s too early to think about it and I need more time before I can look back, but a bigger part of me has already seen lessons that having been helping in getting adjusted to a new place now.

One thing that struck me, over and over again, as I said my goodbyes two months ago was how many people that I wish I had known better. There were far too many people that I genuinely liked and actually cared about connecting with, but I just hadn’t spent enough time with to develop our cursory friendship into something deeper.

These were the people that I saw at group events and always enjoyed catching up with, but never followed up on my thought of, “Hey, I want to grab coffee with them!” or “Dang, what a cool person- I want to have more of that conversation!”For some of these folks, these were the people whose schedules never intersected with mine- we were both fairly busy and the free time didn’t overlap enough to make it easy, and neither of us made the extra effort to reach out.  In other instances, these were the people I became friends with too late, in a sense – friendships that developed only during my last few months in town. Given time, some of those could have become much deeper, but I left before that could happen.

I had a “see you later” party before I left, and friends from all groups came- my church group, the running crew, the random group of girls I fell into, and more. It was special to see all my people come together and to watch the intersections. Friends from all levels were there – best friends who I’ll know forever, recent friends with more tenuous connections, and everyone in between. Seeing all these people together hit the point home for me: I had so many wonderful people in my life there, and I didn’t know many of them as well as I wished.

The second point that resonated with me during those last few weeks was that, for the most part, people are not told how valuable they are, that they are inherently worthy, and that they are pretty darn awesome. I was telling most of my friends how much I valued them, the beauty I saw within them, and how great they were because, hey, I was leaving! Who knew the next time I would see them again to remind them of these important things? I’m also a big believer that the only moment we have is this very one. The future is never guaranteed, so carpe diem, man, and just tell that person next to you how much you love them!

Now fast forward a few weeks to me trying to build connections and communities in a brand new place as an adult. Now, if you’ve ever restarted somewhere in your adult life, you know that it can be hard. Other people have lived there for a while and typically already have their social groups established. It can be daunting to be the odd man out and to try to nudge your way into the circle.  I’m well aware that this process will take a while, and I’m working on the whole “be patient” thing (easier said than done sometimes!). But I’ve realized that I’m learning from my experiences of just a few months ago.

As the newcomer, I quickly saw that people here already have their established social circles and full lives, as expected. Because of this, instead of re-inventing the wheel, I’ve decided to insert myself into them. In the last month or so, when I’ve met someone I liked (and I can usually get a good read on someone fairly quickly), there are two things I have been intentional about doing:

  1. Telling that person that I think they are pretty cool and I’d love to get to know them better
  2. Actually following up and reaching out to set something up

It’s exhausting, man. I like my own time to relax and recharge, and there are a number of solo activities I enjoy doing. I also have a pretty big family, and I’m basically doing the same thing with them right now too. (“Hey, bro, it’s been a while. Can I stop by for a bit/come over for dinner/play with the kids/find a time to connect?”) It’s been a challenge to expend all this energy while not quite yet finding how I want to balance all the pieces.

But I’ll tell you what: it’s important, and it’s worth the energy. In our world today, there is a strong lack of intentionality. We tend to go through life day by day, email by email, task by task, without being fully intentional with our actions. As a result, we often drift from our goals. We wonder why we aren’t getting any closer to these big dreams we have – a house, a life partner, a new promotion – without thinking through the steps it would take to get there. We wonder why so and so doesn’t reach out and invite us to invite us to that event or to spend time together without realizing we also have the power to reach out and nurture that connection.

Some people say it’s important to meet someone where they are, while others will preach that we must meet others halfway. I disagree with both viewpoints. If we want to live fully and love deeply, we need to put ourselves out there, regardless of what the people around us are doing.

If you wanted to build a shed in your backyard, you wouldn’t sit in the front yard and say, “I think I’ll wait for some carrier pigeons to drop me off some two-by-fours.” Similarly, you wouldn’t go to halfway to the hardware store and wait for the Home Depot dudes in neon orange vests to drive the cart full of supplies straight to you. No, you would make your shopping list, go to Home Depot, ask for help along the way, fumble around a bit, be awkward as you learned how to use new tools, and eventually, you would get it done.

It’s not the perfect analogy for building relationships since I also believe it takes two to tango, and in relationships, the other person needs to also put some effort in. Regardless, the point stands. Be brave. Be bold. Decide what you want and what it will take to get there. For me, I want to build solid friendships and create strong communities. So I make a list every week of who I want to connect with somehow and the groups I want to attend, and then I reach out to make it happen. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes energy. It’s hard to balance with work, family, and personal time. It takes putting yourself out there, again and again, even when you’d rather stay home and watch the Bachelor. But both the present and future you deserve it, so we’ve gotta work our tails off to make that happen. Because let’s be real here: it’s not gonna happen on its own.

There’s a beautiful relationship  between taking action and trusting that things will happen as they need to. I’ve known people in the past who have prayed for something and just assumed it would happen because of that. I’ve also known folks who have just waited for parts of life to come together in its own time. I’m not saying either of those are bad, and I absolutely believe having that faith and trust is important. However, it’s not enough on its own. We have the power to be the change both in the world outside us and within our own lives, and if we want something to happen, there is something to be said about taking the steps to make the dream a reality. Otherwise, it remains out there in space, floating around with all the other space debris.

One thing I’ve learned is that life is too short, and it’s not guaranteed. Why waste the precious time we have here waiting for something to happen to us? Today, choose to be the author of your own life, decide how you want the story to go, and go make that happen.

If you have a dream, go chase it
If you feel hope, don’t waste it
If you find love, embrace it
And never take a single breath for granted
The story’s yours, go write it
Tomorrow’s undecided
Our days are counted on this planet
Never take a single breath
Take a single breath for granted
(“Granted” by Josh Groban)