5/52 Talk To Strangers
As I sat in a busy cafe off the good old Kilburn High Road, sipping my hazelnut flat white, staring at a blank page, I start going over all the random encounters from the past week: the moments when I spoke to strangers. There was the musician on the train (not the underground, don’t worry!) who was also an incredible artist, the older woman in the queue at the coffee shop, the IT genius on the overground etc. and I wonder how to string all these moments together. What’s really been the point? Was this week perhaps a cop out?
I continue staring at the blank page on my laptop, feeling uninspired and lost of anything real and honest to say other than ‘talking to strangers opens doors’, ‘it makes you realise we’re all the same’ or some other cliche like that which we’ve heard a thousand times. Even the thought of having to write that was putting me to sleep and well, I didn’t want my coffee to go cold.
Suddenly, the stare down competition I have going on with my MacBook is interrupted by a man’s calming voice “You’ve got to press the letters on the keyboard.” I look up and an older gentleman smiles at me. I weakly smile back, let out a short ‘Ha’ and return my focus to my mac.
“What you working on?” He asks.
I’m not in the mood for conversation but have become too British to be rude so I answer, “I’m working on an article for something called Project 52. I do something new every week and write about the experience.”
“That’s an odd thing to do.” He says a bit weary yet intrigued.
I nod in agreement, “I know.”
“What happens after the 52 weeks are over?” He asks.
I smile. “I dunno. It doesn’t matter really. There’s no point to this process other than just doing it. Something that puts me in a different headspace and gets me away from the day to day. The writing part of it makes me nervous though.”
He stares at me with a pondering look “What was this week’s challenge?”
“Talk to strangers.” I say in a very matter of fact manner.
He nods in understanding and after a few moments of silence he calmly shares “I myself have always found talking to strangers easy. It’s talking to those you know that’s the real challenge”
And just like that, it’s as if these words from a stranger were the mirror I needed someone to hold up in front of me.
Talking to strangers is fine. It’s the opposite I find challenging.
I’ve become great at inserting myself into new environments. It’s the sticking around and committing I’m not so great at.
Followed from that, when I find myself in a moment of conflict my first instinct is to move. My most recent alternative fantasy life goes as follows, “Fuck it, I’ll sell all my stuff, leave with a months notice and move to Brazil where I’ll learn how to dance the samba.”
I know. I’m working on it.
This article has been sitting in drafts for the past two weeks because I’ve wanted to quit project 52. I’ve been feeling really anxious. Sharing what’s going on in my head is an ultimate exercise in vulnerability. But also, having to show up every week and commit to the process is something I’m finding challenging.
My approach to things is generally, “Have my physical body but you ain’t getting my heart.”
Because when you put your heart into things, weather that be a job, or a person, or a city, or art, you suddenly feel like you’ve got something to lose. Suddenly you care if it doesn’t work out. And well, I hate losing.
You know how people talk about how we sabotage our own success because more than failure we’re actually afraid to succeed? I used to think that was such a stupid concept but for the first time I really understand it.
With success and exposure comes the hundreds of opinions from people who are looking for ways in which they can make you feel insignificant.
Fuck those people. Stop waiting for permission from a man in a suit. I say this a lot but I’m saying it again: You don’t need someone with a fancy job title to validate your creativity.
Art and creating things is powerful. Period. This takes true bravery and dauntlessery. (No thats’s not a word but I'm using it anyway)
To conclude, the point I want to make with this entry is the following: Tomorrow may not come so, be bold. Be audacious. Be vulnerable. Be honest. Be a fucking superstar. Commit to the things you love, create something and live with all the challenging emotions that are tied to that process. That anxiety you feel, turn it into a song. That insecurity, into a painting. That broken heart, into a poem. Work through the things that make you uncomfortable and when in complete loss of what to do there is really only one other solution.
Put THIS SONG on full volume.