You need to get out more

Aug 18, 2014

All my life, my mother has been telling me “You need to get out more! Why do you sit at home all day and play video games? You’re getting desensitized! You live in society, you need to maintain relations with other people!” To which I’d reply “I have mad social skills! Look at my CHR, it’s 9! Everybody in The Forgotten Realms loves me!”

Kidding aside, I always disregarded my mother’s advice, mainly because she tends to be somewhat more obsessed about maintaining a decent public image than I ever have been or will be. But recently I realized that there was a grain of wisdom in all the nagging she’s been doing. But probably not in the way she looks at it.

I’ve come to realize that socializing is important. Not so that you have someone to look after you when you’re sick, not because you’re “a part of society”, not because of the peer pressure that all of us introverts feel to conform to society’s idea of how an average human should behave. It’s because biologically some chemicals are secreted into my bloodstream that reach my brain and make me think that I’m happy whenever I end up hanging out with fellow members of my species.

It’s similar to what I’ve always been telling people who decide to have kids. Nobody decides to have a kid. It’s just that once you reach a certain age, the evolutionary response kicks in. I must reproduce. I must keep my species going, your body whispers insiduously into your ears when your guard is down. Chemicals flood your bloodstream, making you feel a certain longing when you look at infants. I should have a baby! the thought pops into your head, unbidden and unwanted. And so you have a kid. And then spend the next two decades raising the brat. And somehow convince yourself that everything you sacrificed for the kid will somehow be worth it in the end.

Anyway, to get back to the point I was trying to make, socializing is something you should do because it will make you happier. Regardless of whether the company you spend your time with is entertaining, intellectual, arousing or none of the above, you will leave that company happier than you were while entering it. People who have known me for a while know me to be very flaky when it comes to social engagements. A week before an event I will whole-heartedly agree to attend. The night before the event I will be looking forward to it. One hour before the event, I call up the host and back out of my commitment with a sad excuse. Or at least, that’s what I used to.

Why did I do this? Well, as the time draws closer to the event, my mind starts making excuses. Wouldn’t you rather play Mass Effect for the third time? it asks. How about curling up with a good book and a big bar of chocolate? it suggests sweetly. It’s too hot outside! Let’s just relax in the beanbag and catch a nice nap! was the latest advice my mind came up with. Previously, I’d listen to this part of myself and back out of whatever commitment I’d made. I would sit at home and do something else, have a good time doing that something else, and this would serve as positive reinforcement for when the time came for the next social occasion.

Recently however I’ve started going out more. And it’s not that the voice in my head has gone away. Oh no, not at all. Just last week I’d made plans to go for a movie with some friends from work. Right up to the point when I left my home, here’s what was going through my head:

Who in their right mind goes for a movie at 1 in the afternoon? It’s so hot outside! Besides, you don’t know more than half the people you’re supposed to meet! And who the hell are Guardians of the Galaxy?

The trick, as I’ve discovered, is to listen to the voice but to keep your promises anyway. I treat all my promises as sacred, and when I give someone my word I want them to value it. The only way my word will ever be valuable is if I never fail to keep it. Plus, every time in the past few months that I kept a social commitment, I ended up enjoying it. Maybe not immensely, but it was definitely not as bad as the voice promised me it would be. So I tell myself that the next time will be fun too, and I go out and mingle.

This ties in to another thing that I’ve learnt. Whether I have fun doing something or not depends largely on my frame of mind. If I convince myself that I’m going to hate something, I’ll end up looking for every little thing I can find to prove to myself that I am indeed hating it. Instead, if I tell myself that I’m going to have a good time no matter what, I end up seeking ways to have fun if I do find myself not having fun at any point of time. And quite often I end up experiencing things - good things - that I would otherwise have missed out on.

Which brings me to the crux of this post and something that has been on my mind for the past few months. I read somewhere that your life is ultimately the sum of your experiences. So if you experience the same things day in and day out, your life will be very poor indeed. If you do the same things, follow the same routine over and over again, what exactly are you gaining? All of our lives are finite, how much of it are you willing to waste (not spend) on stagnation? This is not to say that one should not work towards a goal. If you have a particular objective in mind, if you are striving towards something, then it is perfectly acceptable - crucial, even - that you work each day towards reaching that goal. But most of us lack such direction. We wake up in the morning and head to work, exchange our finite time in return for a full belly and filled pockets, and return home to a familiar face or an empty room. Is that everything that you want out of life? This life that you’re leading, right at this moment - is this the life you dreamt you’d be living? If so, I am truly happy for you and honestly quite a bit envious as well. And if not, don’t you think it’s time you did something about it?

I’ll end this post with a quote I read in Jon Krakauer’s [Into the Wild](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Into_the_Wild_(book):

I read somewhere how important it is in life to not necessarily to be strong, but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once. To find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions, facing the blind, deaf stone alone with nothing to help you but your hands and your own head.