I very rarely leave my personal zone of safety unless I really have to and there are some things that I try to avoid doing. The only exceptions to this is if A) I have at least one close friend accompanying me so I’m not alone or B) I plan everything out in advance so I know exactly what’s going to happen.
However, this past weekend, I was given two opportunities to venture out of my comfort zone. And I did something very unlike me. I decided to dive in.
I’m not really sure why I decided to do it. I guess it was just me trying to prove something to myself, a kind of social experiment for me. People have often told me “you won’t know until you try” and I guess I wanted to put that to the test.
SATURDAY: Visiting a new place with 7 new faces
I was invited by a university friend to visit a Vintage Fair in a nearby city. I do quite like unique vintage pieces so I took up the offer. I went as part of a group; my friend who invited me and 7 friends-of-friends who I had only met on the day. So already this was interesting… I’m not used to meeting so many people at once – it’s too overwhelming! I cope best meeting one or two people at a time. And as I was in a new place, I couldn’t really decide to leave early… because I’d probably get myself lost and that would just terrify me more.
It turned out to be a rather girly day; eight girls walking around town and having fun. This was something I wasn’t used to! I’m used to my small cluster of close friends yet here I was, in a rather large group of mostly new faces! All of them were lovely people, friendly, very bubbly but they all seemed extremely social too. I did start out feeling quite awkward because I stayed rather quiet when I first met them. Inside, I felt as though I should be interacting with each and every one of them. I didn’t want them to think I was deliberately trying to be distant. Yet all I could do was smile, laugh and agree.
I also rediscovered that I really do not deal well with social pressure. My mind seems to forget normal behaviours and just starts thinking of how I’m supposed to please these people I don’t really know. For instance, I’m a very picky shopper and quite money-concious. If I’m going to buy something, it has to be a good deal! – But at this Vintage Fair, I totally forgot about that and started to think about buying things I wouldn’t usually consider! All for the sake of buying something. Thinking about it now, it seems quite silly. How does buying something equal social acceptance? I’m not really sure myself.
I don’t know why that happens. All these girls were absolutely lovely and they didn’t do a thing to actually pressure me. I’ve put it down to the social expectations during school – I guess it still lingers in my mind.
One thing that struck me was I was perfectly fine if I put all my focus on one person. I felt much more comfortable as I didn’t feel the pressure to give every person my attention. Conversation could flow naturally without the need for “small talk” questions every minute. I didn’t feel like I needed to do anything to gain their acceptance – because I knew they had already accepted me.
By the end of the day, I was pretty drained. If it wasn’t the huge crowds at the Fair, it was my overthinking of how to seem more sociable. It reminded me of why I don’t usually accept invitations to go out somewhere with a group of initially strangers. When I got back, all I wanted to do was put on some music, sit and think. I couldn’t stop thinking about how the whole day had gone and reflecting on what happened, what could’ve happened, and why I acted like I did. Yes I survived, yes it was a fun day out, and yes I met some really nice people, but the whole experience is at such a high energy cost… it’s no wonder why I don’t do this very often!
SUNDAY: Going to the cinema alone
I had the opportunity to see a showing for free at the local East Asian Film Festival. I was allowed a plus-one but I didn’t know anyone who was interested in that sort of thing and I didn’t want to drag them out just to keep me company. I’ve never considered going to a film alone before especially as I’d be quite wary of what other people might think of me – one person going in by herself. But with so many stories about how the experience is actually quite a nice one, I decided to give it a go. Having had a quick look at the films they were showing, I found one in particular that I liked the sound of and went for it. My logic for this was if I did end up finding the “alone at the cinema” experience to be unbearably uncomfortable, at least I know I didn’t pay money to have that done to myself.
I must admit, at the start of the day, I really didn’t feel like going. I’ve always viewed cinema-going as something I do with friends. In fact, the main thing I look forward isn’t the film itself (though that does play a part), it’s seeing my friends and enjoying the film with them. We would sit together, allow ourselves to be absorbed by the film, and then discuss our thoughts on it when it was over. Not this time – I was going in alone, then leaving alone with only myself for company.
I thought I’d go anyway to show my support for the Festival. Upon entering the building, I suddenly became very self-concious and very shy. My voice had drastically reduced in volume when I collected my ticket. There were groups of people happily chatting and then there was me, on my own, probably looking a little awkward. Thinking back, it was obviously all in my head though since nobody was staring at me or saying anything… everyone just carried on with whatever they were doing. If I could somehow get rid of this paranoia, I think it would’ve felt normal. Nothing strange at all.
Once I entered the screen room, I felt more relaxed. I spotted a few other people who had also come alone and saw them take their seats. I think I felt better knowing that I wasn’t the only one who came solo. By the time the film had actually started, I felt completely fine. It felt roughly the same as being there with friends – except I didn’t feel that friendly warm vibe that’s there when you really do sit with friends.
For most part, I happily sat and watched the showing but at times I felt like there was something missing. With my friends, whenever something funny happened, we would all laugh together. This time, there was nobody to laugh with. Some of the other viewers around me laughed of course but it didn’t feel the same laughing with them. When it was time to leave, it felt odd that I didn’t have anyone to talk to and ask if they’d like to grab some lunch now. Perhaps I’m just not used to the solo-cinema experience yet.
The film itself, Mitsuko Delivers, did seem like a fun one to see. The synopsis described the main character as “eternally hopeful and optimistic” and the film itself as an “uplifting and often hilarious tale.” I enjoyed it but I couldn’t figure out whether everything was deliberately exaggerated for effect or whether it was going for a satire approach, where it was making fun of itself. Nevertheless, I found the film to be funny and somewhat random (in a good way) and the solo-cinema experience was actually quite pleasant… but I think I would have enjoyed myself more if I had gone with friends.
This weekend has been quite an experience and I think I’ve either learned or rediscovered a lot about myself. I remember why I often turn down invitations to large social gatherings/events. I realise that I should stop being so paranoid when I’m in social situations and stop overthinking things. And I understand that the thing that is most fun and is the most rewarding is spending time with people you love.
There is one more experiment I would love to try. The “random act of kindness” experiment. Buying coffee for someone, giving an usually large tip to that nice person who served you, or just generally smiling and saying hello to people. Actually it’s not really an experiment and it isn’t for myself either, I’d just really like to make more people happy if I can. We need more positive airwaves in the world. There’s too much negativity around… and I think the world would be a very bright place if everyone showed some kindness everyday.