Social context matters 

When I traveled to California with “work and travel” the first summer, my friends there tried their best to help me. My host drove me to apply for jobs. Another friends put a good word with some of his old employers. None of them pan out. I remember now how overwhelmed and frozen I felt. I didn’t know what to say and how to say it. I was not am outgoing person perse. I didn’t seize opportunities and I didn’t stand out in a crowd. I was comfortable to be lost in a crowd. But at a youth group meeting on a Wednesday night some other friends shared a prayer request for finding a summer job. I raised my hand out of instinct and said: I’m looking for a job too. Everyone laughed. I was joking. I soon discovered the rules of the social game. What’s valued and successful in this particular society. I tapped into my social well, and pumped with all my might. Next time a friend arranged for an interview I said: I’ll go in first and talk to them. I have to. I can’t have someone else do the talking on my behalf. It was a turning point. If someone had pushed me from behind I would have had a hard time talking into my courage. But observing how being shy didn’t get me anywhere, understanding the culture a bit more in the few weeks I was there, I took a leap of faith to be more social than it comes natural to me. I was welcomed with open arms in my new found silly courage to speak up and let myself be seen. I got a job. I made friends. I was rehired there three times. I made my little fortune that gave me courage to marry a young American guy who was upfront about his school debt. I’m an economist after all. And I like hard work. 

I am forever grateful for that social context that allowed me to blossom, to tap into unknown social skills and  abilities, and practice despite the discomfort to be brave in ways that serve me to this day. 

The treasure I discovered in America is my own self and the social skills I acquired and practiced there. 

Today Jackie is going to a friend’s house with a bunch of her colleagues. She is new in that tight-nit group. Though she is an extrovert she has embraced my extreme self awareness and discretion in not assuming she is automatically invited. I hope it will only complement her natural social courage if she doesn’t overthink thinks like I have the tendency to do. Alas, today she comes come at 6. She has a day to herself and I’m so excited about this new found independence.