I’ve always been a quiet guy. I just never really had much to say. When asked, I’ve always said my spirit animal is an owl. Silently observing, waiting for my opportunity to shine and taking it when it would come along.
I never really put myself out there; both envious and irritated by the peacocks.
Admittedly, I accepted a life of taking second place to those that could speak with candour and grace; those that had no difficulty looking people in the eyes and speaking their minds.
The ‘Type A’ folks.
My mother always tells me how upset she would be when I’d come home from school with a report card and the comments would always say “Jonathan needs to speak up and participate more”. She never felt it was fair and I suppose in a way it wasn’t — I just assumed that that was the way it goes!
And so I quietly made my way through life and I did pretty well for myself, all things considered! Each year I grew a little stronger in my owl-ness and progressively got better at this social thing. I became a husband, a general manager and a well-respected friend. Things I didn’t expect from a humble soul like mine!
It wasn’t until I started challenging my natural traits that I realized I don’t have to accept a fate that had been handed to me.
It began with food. I used to be the pickiest guy I knew. In fact, there’s a famous quote of mine that perfectly demonstrates the level of picky that I practiced. My brother never misses an opportunity to bring it up when we get together.
“Green peppers contaminate everything!”
But as I matured, I challenged this notion and eventually overcame my tendencies to judge a plate by the way it looks. How naive I was to reduce green peppers to a mere contaminant!
So this got me thinking. Would this work for my social struggles?
LANGUAGE BARRIER OR SOCIAL BARRIER?
The thing about traveling is that when you start your journey, the idea is usually to learn about someone else. To observe their present days and hear the stories of days past.
Yet fascinating is the fact that the more you explore and engage with others, the more it tends to become about yourself. The lessons learned are often more in tune with personal development and what begins as an outward viewpoint soon evolves inward.
Intellectually, I’ve grown into a man obsessed with experiencing and understanding local lives unfamiliar to my own. One who will eat just about anything placed in front of him and probably enjoy it too!
But socially? I’m still a boy unable to string a sentence together. If I can’t interact in my own world, with familiar people, how will I discover the rest of the world in the way that my soul craves?
I miss a lot of great opportunities to start conversations when I visit a new country. I tell myself I avoid these conversations because they won’t understand me — that there isn’t a point in putting both of us in an awkward position by playing the game of language barrier charades.
But I recognize that I’m just kidding myself and that the barrier has less to do with our respective languages and far more to do with my social limitations.
The further I pushed myself into this idea of traveling, the more apparent these struggles and limitations became. But with deep determination, I crafted my greatest travel-related goal to date — and it’s based right here at home.
TRAVEL GOAL: TALK MORE.
To some, it might sound like a simple goal but to me, it’s a hefty challenge. It means stepping outside of my comfort zone more than ever. Asserting myself in ways I never thought I would. Maybe even introducing myself to complete strangers.
If I can overcome this idea that I’m limited by my inability to speak fearlessly, the depth of this world is unimaginable! No longer is exploration limited to how far my eyes can see but by the questions I ask and the answers I receive.
They say practice makes perfect, and that certainly proved true when it came to my desire to eat more. With every bite my mouth took, I grew into a more adventurous, willful, strong individual.
Perhaps it’s time to give my mouth a new challenge: break down language barriers by talking more.
At least once I’m done chewing. No need to be rude.