When I arrived in Prince Edward Island 15 years ago, I was terrifically shy. I could conduct myself in polite society, but small talk was a foreign language for me and casual social situations were something I would usually avoid, and certainly never actively seek out.
Island life is lubricated by copious amounts of small talk, however. And as such the Island is a sort of crucible for the socially averse and has forged me into the kind of person who can, as I just have, spend a pleasant two hours talking about minimally invasive surgical procedures and the like with a stranger met in the Halifax airport. To say nothing of the discussion of Island real estate I had with the Coop Taxi driver who took me to the airport.
Fifteen years ago these episodes would have been unimaginable. Ten years ago they would have been possible, but would have felt like hard terrible work. Today it’s effortless and a pleasure that feeds my inveterate curiousity.
Indeed you could say that the greatest gift the Island has given me, through rigorous practise and considerable patience, is the revelation that all people are interesting if you give them the chance, and that if you sublimate your social terrors long enough, eventually they will disappear.
I have discovered that all people are interesting as well Peter. The island has taught me that. Small talk doesn’t have to be boring or mandatory. It can be fun and interesting. When you let down your barriers you open yourself up to meeting other people and hearing and learning things you would never otherwise.
This was a great post. Thanks for sharing.
I think an irrational fear is bound to succumb to evidence that it is irrational, which you are liable to accumulate through experience, if you are not so afraid or insulated that you avoid exposure to the scenario you so fear. The way Prozac, Powder Milk Biscuits and women-only colleges are all supposed to work is by suppressing the anxiety that prevents you from engaging in what “normal” people naturally have the courage to do. After you’ve engaged awhile without disaster and perhaps with pride even, you’re liable to come to feel easy in approaching such stuff, even without the biscuits. For example, graduates of women’s colleges are supposed to feel easier challenging the assertions of males they meet in the workplace and wider world. And notice you were off-island, Peter, when you had that easy conversation with a stranger at the airport. I suppose there are fears and there are fears. A supercharged fear from a childhood experience—from being bitten by a spider and sent to the hospital, say—is bound to be more die hard.
I’m quite happy to hear someone has had Island life change their life so positively.