Think back to college. Some of you honestly can’t because that part of your memory was warped from the austere grandeur of hunch punch, marijuana and tequila shots — which to you, I salute.
But if we consider that time as a whole, and survey most adults on their experience, the most notable takeaway is connection. People upon people are continually introduced to us like a Chinese buffet. And much like that distinct dine-in experience, if you don’t like something, you go pick something else. There’s no shortage.
Fast forward to your graduation (or dropout in my case), and things take a sharp left turn. Nothing shifted that much — we merely supplanted a class schedule for a nine-to-five — but lurking emptiness begins to cast a shadow we cannot help but acknowledge.
Slowly but surely, the ratio of people entering our lives versus exiting becomes inverse. The flush of hellos transforms into a parade of goodbyes and we feel helpless in our attempts to impede its volition. The given of human interaction now has become scarcity, with loneliness planting itself firmly in the seat next to us.
This is the harsh truth. Getting older sucks. Feeling lonely, exponentially so. Above all the marketing and branding ploys, this is where social media stands head and shoulders above all other purposes — the desperate need to feel less alone. To be connected. To be expressed. To share what we wouldn’t dare try to contain inside ourselves.
But it’s gotten us a little lazy, hasn’t it? It’s a fairly watered-down version of the connection we used to experience in our heyday. I know — as we get older, people have more crap going on. The kids, houses, spouses, divorces, etc. There’s more shit to take care of with the same amount of time. And the last thing we want to be viewed as is disturbing or an annoyance. So we take the next best thing, even if it’s a distilled version of what we really want.
No, I’m not knocking social media. I think it’s an incredible tool to broadcast powerful messages across a wide array of differing people and cultures. Messages that need to be heard.
What I am saying is as adults, most of us stop there. Sure, we have our close two to three friends — to which we assert quality over quantity — and then that’s it. We stop making attempts. We shut people out. We assume everyone is out to get us. Lord of the Flies sets in and what use to be game of chance is now a war for survival.
Fear drives this behavior, whether we’re conscious to it or not. We are all engaged in an intense ongoing battle with our minds and as a result, cast the same net out into reality.
Imagine: What would life be like if you knew that everyone in the world was in 100% support of everything you wanted for yourself?
Now imagine if you operated from that frame of reference all the time. The impact you would have on people. The fulfillment you would receive for yourself. It’s not that far away, folks. All it takes is to start letting people in.
Connection is a fundamental human need. By being the one to get the ball rolling, you’re taking on the leadership role. You think about senior citizens and there’s a constant that comes to mind — they want someone to talk to. This is the case across all walks of life. There’s never enough. And we rob ourselves of it every day.
In closing, what I’m encouraging is to give it the old college try. Make a difference for yourself and for others by stepping outside of what’s ordinary and into what’s possible. Sharing is what multiplies feelings. So if what you’re feeling isn’t enough, it’s pretty obvious what’s missing. Bypass whatever formality the situation calls for (cough — networking events — cough) and go deep. We only get so much time on this planet. And everyone else is just as freaked out about it as you are. Come together in that struggle until you’re able to turn the crying into laughter.
You come alive when you bare your soul in front of someone. Many people go years without doing so. No one’s coming to drag you out of your bachelor apartment. You’ll have to be that leader for yourself.
Put your shoes on and walk out the door.
There’s millions of other people out there just like you. Waiting for a leader like you to make the difference.