When I first decided to spend Spring Break in Portland, so was everyone else. My friends and I had talked about going to Bend, going to the coast, spending time downtown, going camping, etc. But as happens in college, students don’t plan well (unless they’re planning on going to Cabo…).
As the semester trickles on, especially those long weeks before Spring Break, the excitement subsides. Spending a week on your parents’ couch with the family dog sounds more and more exciting the closer you get, and all of a sudden, your friends’ Spring Break plans become “I’m going home for a few days”, then “I’ll be gone all break, sorry”.
There I found myself – Saturday of Spring Break, watching my friends leave the city one by one. I started to think – shit, this is going to be a lonely week. I’m not often that prone to feeling lonely, but by pure nature of being an extrovert, I lose my sanity when I try to go without human contact.
By Saturday night, I had already called my mom to fly home for part of the week. I had already committed to work and attend meetings during a few weekdays, so leaving completely wasn’t an option. Of course, I was also debating driving to my friend’s home in Tacoma, or escaping to the coast with another friend, and only was on the fence about it all because I was terrified of spending the whole week alone. By Sunday morning, I put on my big girl pants and told my mom I was going to stay in Portland.
Just a couple of days before break, I was talking to my friend about people and how some “reach out” and some don’t. I’ve always seen myself as someone who reaches out. I try to maintain friendships as best as I can, genuinely checking in on people and making sure they know I care, but it dawned on me as Spring Break got closer that there’s a difference between reaching out to maintain a relationship and reaching out to strengthen one.
My issue is planning. I’m a compulsive organizer and I’ve never been the type to just call someone and say hey, let’s do something. So that Sunday, looking ahead at the week of absolutely zero plans, I decided to make it a goal to truly reach out to a different person every single day.
Throughout the week, I not only found myself more capable and excited to do things on my own, but I had the most fun-filled hodgepodge of a Spring Break that I could have imagined with old friends and new. I walked to Cathedral park, I drank beer at Big Al’s and relived Orientation in a whole new way, I went to multiple bottle shops and restaurants around Portland, I spent some time at Goodwill, I spent time participating in a Survivor tournament, I went to a concert and even met a nice dog.
There’s this pattern that we fall into, where our best friends are the people we live with, have class with or see most often. Convenience determines so much of our lives, so for me, when the second the convenience of class, school and proximity were gone, I had to learn to reach out. I’m not sure I’ve mastered it yet, I definitely spent my share of break alone in bed, watching my tv or designing campaign posters.
Though, I saw myself put who I am out there more. I posted on Facebook to see who was around, I once snapchatted a couple of people to tell them I was bored, it all felt weird, really. It’s that act of displaying and admitting that you don’t have plans. Look, look at me, I’m bored, my best friends are gone, my housemates are gone and I don’t have convenient access to all of my usual relationships. I noticed that sometimes it’s simply hard to reach out because you have to admit that you don’t always have things to do or people to be with.
Yet, that’s the nature of people, I’ve realized. You can’t choose who you want in your life if you can’t put yourself out there and truly reach out. So go through your contacts, text that friend you haven’t talked to in a while, and make plans with them as soon as possible. Don’t say, “let’s hang out soon”; say “when are you free?”.
Soon, you’ll find that not only is everyone just like you and dying for someone to reach out to them, but you’ll find you have more friends than you thought. You’ll find that 30 minutes of coffee does more than one night or texting ever could. Reach out.