In the company of strangers
I don’t usually like going to parties where I don’t know many people there. I generally find that the experience consists of talking to the one person I know, then spending the rest of the time awkwardly trying to find something to do. So I was worried that very same scenario would play out again at this party I was set to go too.
I prepared myself by mentally playing through the event. I was thinking of all the things I could do to take up a bit of time before making an early exit. I would order food, then eat the food, talk to the few people I knew there, check my phone to make it clear I had friends. I figured that would probably be enough.
When I was there though, I did something I’d rarely done before. I ended up in a conversation with some people I’d never met. Not just polite small-talk, but a conversation I was actually enjoying and engaged in. I ended up sticking around, and not falling back on any of my reclusive time-filling activities.
A quote that’s always stuck with me comes from someone who moved from rural Puerto Rico to New York City, “I was surrounded by millions of people, but was somehow completely alone”. I’ve experienced that in a variety of contexts, and I’ve never liked it. It was strange though, because now I was surrounded by people I had never met before (and was unlikely to ever see again), but I felt right at home.
Maybe that quote doesn’t have to be true. Maybe with the confidence to start up a conversation (and a little bit of luck to bump into the right people) you’ll find you’re never really as alone as you think.