It was the day before Valentine’s day and an email popped into my inbox about an event. It was an event for single people to go and mingle in a bar after work the following evening.
I deleted it.
Then I went into my deleted items folder, opened the email, clicked the link to the event and RSVP’d yes.
Of course my initial reaction was “I can’t go to something like that, that’s not me, that’s not the sort of thing I do, it’ll be scary and horrendous and… and… and…” but then I reminded myself of something that’s very much a part of the exploration phase of my career change journey.
Do things you wouldn’t normally day. Speak to people you wouldn’t normally speak to. Be uncomfortable. Comfort and growth cannot coexist. Act. Don’t think. Just do. I’m exercising a muscle here. My do muscle is being awakened after being dormant for too long and I need to keep exercising it so going to this event was exactly what I should be doing.
I thought about my team lunch: Did I want to go to that? Not really. Did I have a good time? I did not. Am I glad I went? Absolutely. Would I do it again? Yes.
So after work on Valentine’s day, I made my way to the central London bar where the event was being held. The fact that this was on the internationally recognised day of love was not really in my mind at all. Although I am single, I was not on a mission to meet my soulmate, I had my own mission. I mean, I wasn’t against that happening but it was not my reason for going.
My own secret mission was two-fold. Firstly, just to go. Just to be there and be uncomfortable and get used to that feeling and embrace it. To feel it and let it wash over me. The second part was to interact with people but I wasn’t going to push myself too hard on this one. I was going to talk to as many people as I felt reasonably uncomfortable doing so with, pushing my limits enough but not all the way. I was going to stretch my elastic band but not snap it.
Now, I realise that a lot of people could read this and think, ‘wait, that’s it? Your mission was to go to a party and talk to people? You’re congratulating yourself on doing that?’ And I get that, I do. But everyone is different. Someone’s mountain can be another person’s molehill. I’m determined that one day this will be the latter for me and it’s only by doing things like this that I can make that happen.
Anyway, I get to the event and there are only dudes there to begin with. I talk to them over a bottle of beer – an essential lubricant in any social setting – and it feels a bit weird. Then I remember this is an event for single people on Valentine’s day and that the people I’m talking to are pre-occupied by the fact there are not yet any women here.
The night goes on and more and more people arrive – plenty of both genders. In fact, it gets packed. Very packed and I am not comfortable with this level of packedness, in particular when I don’t know anyone. So I drift to the bar with the words “act, don’t think” on a loop in my head and I instantly ask the woman standing next to me if she is going for the 2 for 1 cocktail happy hour offer. She is and we end up chatting about cocktails and whether it’s her first event and what she does for a living and travel and all kinds of things.
I’m now much more relaxed as she was very friendly and I decide to try my hand at mingling. I go through the checklist first though: do I want to? Not massively. Should I? Yes. Do I feel uncomfortable and scared doing it? 100%. Yep, it meets the criteria so off I go.
I end up doing a combination of all of the following:
- Aimless wandering whilst trying to look like I have a destination
- Deciding to stand near people who are already chatting and introduce myself when I can but then backing out
- Deciding to stand near people who are already chatting and introduce myself when I can and actually doing it
- Speaking to people stiltedly and moving on quickly
- Chatting to people for longer periods of time and actually enjoying it
- Noticing a couple of people giving me the eyes but not quite having the courage to approach them because I convinced myself that they might not have been giving me any eyes at all
I don’t want you to think of this a self-congratulatory, back-slapping, blog post denoting how triumphant and successful this night was. It was good for me to do and I enjoyed it at times and less so at others. I’m building my ‘stop thinking, start acting’ muscle and this was a good workout session.
I did make a new friend as well. I spoke to her for a while and when I was ready to leave she said she was as well so we left together and the first part of our journeys home coincided. We found some common interests, exchanged numbers and I met up with her the following week to go on a walking tour.
Cliffhanger ahoy, because what happened on that walking needs a whole new blog post dedicated to it. Stay tuned.