I moved to California almost 10 years ago.
I didn’t know anyone here when I made the trek.
All of the sudden I was living 3,000 miles from my family. I had to find housing, employment, and survive in graduate school on my own.
I felt invisible in a town where I had no connections and, at the start, it was a pretty lonely time.
On the one hand I felt separate from those around me and yet I knew deep down that we were all connected. I felt that I was amongst fellow humans and I just needed a way to bridge the gap.
So I told a little itty bitty white lie.
To get a daily boost of connection I began to tell random strangers–at the grocery store, in the steam sauna at the gym, at the bus stop, in waiting rooms–that I was working on a creative writing project (which wasn’t true). I told them I just needed to ask them one question.
The questions i asked would shift. Sometimes I asked “What’s something you’re grateful for?” Sometimes I asked “What’s been your greatest life lesson?” While the questions changed, the way these small moments fed me did not.
Almost every exchange was heart-warming and effortless. On occasion someone would decline my curiosity, but that was the exception in my experience.
This one tiny white lie made a world of difference on days when I’d otherwise have little to no connection with other people.
In the time since then I’ve built a robust community of local friends but when I’m in the cereal aisle or at the dentist, I still feel the urge to reach out and ask the nearest stranger a question that will create a moment of connection. Reflecting back on that time I’m struck by what a sweet and simple little practice.
Perhaps those early California days are what make me sensitive to one of the challenges I see my clients face frequently: making adult friendships. (That and the fact that I went to five schools before college so making new friends and starting over are familiar territory for this sensitive woman).
I’m sharing this piece today to offer you a little exercise if you’re feeling alone or disconnected. If you’re not, I’m sharing it to start a wee conversation (over on my facebook page) about what small ways you find connection, build community, and make new friends.
It’s simply true that we’re all in this together and we’re all the same.
–– Oh, and it’s not lost on me that writing this blog post almost makes that old white lie, a truth.