As a college student I always find myself in rooms full of people- my classes, the quad on campus, bathrooms, restaurants, bars, parties,etc. Yet, as a college student I am amazed at how little interactions we actually do within these rooms. Yes, it is very awkward to talk to people in the bathroom, and yes going up to strangers is weird and uncomfortable, but is that it? Is that our biggest fear when approaching someone? That feeling we get that is half fear half nervousness that makes us doubt everything we are about to do and psych ourselves out. This feeling is scary, it can even be terrifying, but what I have recently discovered, is that missing an opportunity to meet someone, to expose yourself personally, to actually talk to someone new, to me that is far worse.
Today in one of my classes my teacher told us to stand up from where we were and go sit next to 5-6 people we didn’t know. Now for the past 6 weeks I have sat in the same spot, in the second row between two of my friends, and I have become comfortable here. I wasn’t afraid to talk to the people next to me, I knew the professor saw my face everyday (bonus right?), and I also didn’t feel the need to move because I was comfortable right? Wrong. After getting up and finding myself sitting next to five complete strangers, the Professor then asked us to tell one another our greatest fear. The class was silenced by these words. Not only were we supposed to sit next to strangers, but we were supposed to have a conversation with them all and then tell them all the most vulnerable aspect of ourselves? Now I thought this was crazy too at first, but at the same time I felt my own curiosity rise up within me, wanting to know what these people around me feared. What is it that they feared the most in this world? What would they think of my fear? Would they look at me differently?
Not being afraid to speak first, I told the group my name and proceeded to tell them my greatest fear and why. I told this group of strangers that I was fearful of time, of not having enough of it. I did not want to be sitting in my death bed, looking back at my life and feel the weight of regret. Whether it is regretting not swimming for another year, not telling that person how I felt, not thanking these influential people in my life, or simply for not going out that one night I was tired, I want to live a life without regrets. I feel as though time carries such a heavy weight within us all, making us second guess everything we do, making us think it will affect our future in someway, when in reality the future is as real as the past, meaning it never exists. We only have a multitude of presents, so we should use them, take advantage of them, and stop worrying about what we cannot control.
After explaining my own fear, shakily speaking my words at first, I learned that most of these people, strangers, girls I had never met before, shared my same fear. They explained their fears of no longer having their parents around one day, of not being able to support themselves, and of not being able to figure out their purpose in life. I am surrounded everyday by people like this in college, people who walk around sharing my same fears, aspirations, and questions, yet I have never taken the time to get to know them. Most of us travel around with headphones in, with our phones glued to our hands not wanting to feel alone, yet by doing these things we are in turn isolating ourselves. By failing to look up and recognize the people around us, we are just adding to our own loneliness.
I no longer look to these five people as strangers, instead I see them as friends. I exposed more of myself to them than I have to some of my good friends and family. Through our shared vulnerability we were able to make connections, ones that went past what we do on a normal basis. I learned through this exercise that fear limits us from reaching our potential, it literally kills us from the inside out. By being fearful we worry, we stress, and we hesitate and I think these are the worst things a person can do. Once you being to overthink and hesitate, the moment golden is gone, it has passed, and we have let our own irrational fears get the best of us.
As I prepare to graduate, I look back on the amount of strangers I have passed and not spoken too, of the amount of people I have been to scared to open myself up too, and I regret it. I regret not taking the chance to talk to someone because of my own personal fear, but now I know better. I know that life is full of a multitude of moments, without a past or present. I know that most of us are all fearful of the same thing, and because of this we are all connected. We aren’t as lonely as we thought we were. My teacher ended lecture today by telling us that life should be a win/win situation for everyone. Meaning that life should not be based on who wins and who loses, but ensuring that we all end up winning in the end and in order to do that, we need to live in the present. As cliche as it sounds, and as overused in country songs as this is, it is the truth. Our fears are killing us- emotionally, physically, and psychologically, so as Elsa said not too long ago…we should let it all go. Let go of the fear, let go of feeling afraid to go up to someone, and let go of placing yourself in a position to feel lonely. Get out there. Go. Now. Take advantage of the moment you have now, the multitude of moments you have now, because the black and white truth is that is all we really have.