- Ann Louden
BUT I LIKE TALKING TO STRANGERS
I grew up at a time when adults admonished children never to talk to “strangers”. My interpretation of that rule meant anyone that wasn’t in my immediate family was off limits. My parents never worried my compliance would be an issue since I was painfully shy as a child. In the first grade, I became severely dehydrated which required a hospital stay of several days. Everything was adult-oriented and I was terrified. Besides the grown-up sized IV’s and the big needles and the whir of large machines all around me, I recoiled at the medical team talking about me, but never to me. The day of my release, the charge nurse came in and unceremoniously ripped the band-aid off my arm that had held the IV line in place. It was a painful shock. Without thinking, I blurted out: “Ouch! That hurt.” She whipped around and stared. “Those are the first words we have heard from you since you got here. At least I am glad to know you can talk!” Perhaps that moment was the start of my becoming an advocate for myself. That journey during my childhood and teen years was a long “socially distanced” metamorphosis. Throughout high school, I was first and foremost a student, preferring earning academic success to winning social stripes. What changed me was theater. When I got on the stage to sing and perform, I found my literal voice. I can’t stop thinking about my coming-of-age experience as New York City reopens after fifteen long months.
How New York is Finding its Voice
There was so much silence during Covid. People were reluctant to speak to those outside their bubbles. Everyone kept to themselves. Conversation while riding an elevator or talking in the lobby of my apartment building was frowned upon. No one stopped to chat in the mail room or laundry room. Staff didn’t ask how your day was.
Small talk had become a lost art. And most of all, I missed seeing smiles. But in the last few weeks, I recognize New York again. Central Park is full of people. Bruce Springsteen will headline on Broadway. The streets are full, subways are packed, taxis are available, and horns are honking. The City is open for business!
Transforming Ourselves to Transition Forward
Just as there is still much more to do to make New York City whole – clean up crime and homelessness, get workers back to offices, and restore order – we all have our own work to do. Do you feel normal jumping back into life as you knew it? How will you re-enter your workplace? Or will you? What will you set as goals for yourself as the world reopens? This week, for the first time since Covid, I had four appointments in one day… all indoors. I left home at 9 AM and returned at 7:00 PM. IT FELT GREAT! My lunch was with a friend I have known for ten years. We were starved for a catch-up. We started talking at 1 PM. The next time I looked at my watch, it was 3 PM. I ran for a taxi, thirty minutes late for my next meeting. It didn’t matter. Everyone I saw was in high spirits, alive and energized. That included the taxi driver who was only too happy to engage in conversation all the way across town. We are all relearning our connection skills.
A Summer to Recalibrate
Last summer was heavy. I yearn for this summer to be light. What’s on your agenda this summer? Pre-Covid summers have been downtime for many. This year, summer will likely be “go time”, as people fulfill their pent-up need for connecting with family and friends, social activities, and travel. I am excited to head to Texas in July for my daughter’s bridal dress fitting. It’s been so long since I’ve been there, I’ll have some reacclimating to do with the heat. Also on tap in a couple of weeks is a trip to Nashville. I can’t wait!
What's Your "Thrive Story" Going to Be?
Covid and lockdown brought isolation and self-reflection. There were many days my NYC apartment felt more like a cage than a sanctuary. Looking back, a lot of it is a blur. Time blended, melted, diffused, got used up by default. Now I want it back. I dare say that most of us would say that the pandemic was less about thriving and more about just getting by.
One of my favorite quotes is: “Thought originates with you, which means that your life is your own creation.” So keep at it, my friend. Set high expectations. Enjoy your re-emergence. Talk to strangers. Wishing you many fulfilling conversations,