A friend, who I have met since we moved here, said to me recently that she was impressed at how social I am. It was in the context of discussing friends I have made and events I have gone to while I have been here but it really made me stop and think about how much I have changed during this adventure so far.
As a child I was very, very shy and got embarrassed easily, especially talking to people that I didn’t know. I also have a tendency to blush and not just cute red dots high on my cheeks, but huge, red blotches spreading down my neck and chest. When I was embarrassed it was blatantly obvious, making me more self conscious and shy. My teenage years were a joy.
I have become more confident as I’ve grown up, especially through my working life delivering presentations and training sessions but I was still fairly shy at heart. Even as an adult at parties I would tend to stay with the friends I arrived with and never really developed the skill of ‘circulating’. My friends are very important to me but a social butterfly, I was not!
I found it easier when my daughter arrived and suddenly there was a ready-made conversation starter with other parents. ‘What is your child called? How old are they? Are they sleeping well? No, mine neither.’ I certainly made some great ‘mum friends’ in this way but I still would have been freaked out at the thought of going into a room of people I didn’t know and introducing myself.
Fast forward to 2018 and our Great American Adventure and I found myself in a different continent from my network of friends and family and no choice but to go for it and meet new people. And I did! I won’t lie and say that it was easy at first but now I barely bat an eyelid at going to a bookgroup on my own, meeting someone for coffee who I only ‘met’ through both commenting on the same Facebook post or meeting at a park 20mins away to meet new people who happened to also have kids.
Although there are some great networks of military spouses here and I have made lifelong friends from all over the globe, I have also tapped into non-military networks. In particular, I joined a group called ‘Hike it Baby’ who have branches on the east coast of the USA and are very welcoming. This has been a great way to meet new people and to discover new parks and trails to explore.
In the six months since we arrived (what?!) I have met some wonderful people as a result of pushing myself to say, ‘Hello’ and strike up a conversation from nothing. A good friend, who has had her own adventures overseas, told me to ‘Just say yes to everything at first until you find your people’ and I really took that to heart. I said yes to a lot of things that would have scared me in a past life and I’m so glad I did!
Although it will always be tough to do things that are out of my comfort zone, I have come to understand that my comfort zone isn’t fixed in place but is continually changing shape. Maybe I am a social butterfly after all…
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