A few days ago, I took my 7 year old brother to Fourth Ward Park in Charlotte, NC. When we arrived, a similarly wee tyke came up to my brother and asked if he wanted to play with him. Without any introduction at all, they launched into a detailed game about bears and caved and who knows what else.
Standing there in the center of a city with 751,000 inhabitants watching two small kids playing their imaginative hearts out really puts our adult social norms into perspective. These two kids have never met each other, yet they were there creating worlds and forging bonds that were in many ways better than those made by adults; but what about that skill in adults? It can’t all be lost.
And it’s not. All that happens as adults is that we stop trying to make new connections and begin to settle into the ones that we already have. Which is fine and dandy and all; but the skills are still there. They’re waiting to be used again for something beyond “networking”. As we age, we begin to seek out the familiar more and more—we look for the people with similar goals to ours, we enjoy the company of those who have similar beliefs, and we stop searching just outside the outskirts of our self-definition.
But as the words “skyline”, “mouse”, and “knave” have learned: definitions can, will, and have changed—albeit with a little effort. So let’s apply that effort needed to change and challenge our definitions of ourselves. All it takes is the derring-do to go up to someone and say “Hi!”.
It’s not easy, I know. But it’s one of the challenges that I give myself on a daily basis as well as the ones with which I challenge others as the President of my university’s chapter of the Clown Nose Club. Our comfort zones have a limit; and just like the city limits, they are definite lines that mark the area in our conscious jurisdiction. But like Charlotte or Seattle or Indianapolis, more land area can be annexed with a popular vote. In our lives, we are our own constituents and our own mayors—in charge of the ideological denizens of our lives.
Take the challenge, annex a new friendship—challenge yourself to take your personal limits beyond those you made and learn.
As always, learn.