Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Beauty in Reconnecting and the Ugly of "Awkwardness"

Hey AllOne family!
It has been a little while hasn't it? This prompts me to open this piece with a sort of meta topic. In the interest of hoping to use this page and medium more frequently (and admittedly often failing) I find I'm trying to open my creative filter up to accepting more ideas or experiences as things worth publicly writing about. Sometimes, concepts or philosophies that are second nature to us bear elaborating on and sharing to others. Oddly I find that this is hard for me to recognize because I'm always fearing coming off as pretentious or overtly obvious by stating what feels important to me, assuming that it's also second nature or obvious to others, especially knowing that no ideas are original and I have no illusions that I'm coming up with groundbreaking ideas so I don't want to just blandly state the obvious. I I think it is a forgiving reminder that there is merit in confirming what other people already feel they know or believe and personally I still feel great when I just see someone else working a theory or value out for themselves or sharing it with enthusiasm (as I am here) even if it's an axiom or maxim that I already hold. I say all that to say the following...this started out as a spontaneous Facebook post, but I decided "Hey Bruce, It's an important idea to you, so you should spend some time with it and then share it." Plus today's anecdote that prompted it brought me much joy. Which really is the entire crux of this story, you'll see.

The Pertinence of Reaching Out...

My friend Mike Genrich, once-drummer for AllOne & The Room, a wonderful person whom I played music with and was a co-worker for several years at my day job until a couple years ago came up in conversation today. I probably only him see quarterly a year if I'm lucky, and because he was brought up, I immediately texted him on a whim. I almost always message people in the event that I think of them in my ever fluxing Rolodex of a brain. It doesn't matter how long ago that I've talked to them so long as me contacting them seems appropriate or comfortable based on the circumstances of our relationships. Even if the message is only to say that they came up in conversation or appeared in my head and I wish them well, and perhaps that miss them, I send it.

As it turns out, my message came at a serendipitous moment for him. Mike really needed some kind words this morning. So of course, that pleases me immensely that I sent good vibes to a friend who could use them. But really, good vibes are almost never wasted, right? Who but an ex lover with a conflicted set of feelings for you could be upset about you sending good feelings their way? So now, Mike and I are talking throughout the morning and catching up after an absence of not seeing one another and made plans to meet up. How cool?! Not only did we have a good interaction, but now I have plans to meet up in person and experience the new novelty of the company of a friend whose life is largely a mystery. We uncover some of the out of touch mysteries in our updates. It turns out he's working on developing some writing for hip-hop instrumentals that he has been producing and this leads to him asking me advice on some rap craft. (NOTE: He probably regrets that because I'm "blowing up his phone" with all sorts of writer-geek advice!!)  

Return To Sender (Mutual benefit)
Here's a really great turn in our spontaneous correspondence: suddenly I'm unexpectedly inspired as I'm finding myself teaching mode" to share what techniques I know and have experimented with and used in my writing! It is probably no surprise that attempting to teach something only strengthens our own skill and knowledge of that thing because it tests the depth of our knowledge and challenged us to analyze and to simply communicate things we may ordinarily do organically that feel come "second nature" to us (sound familiar?). So now I'm entirely benefited immensely as well, not just from the casual subtle benevolence of my message our amiable interaction, but now I'm spurred to consider my craft, to celebrate my prior accomplishments as I root around my previously released work for examples for him as well as invigorated creatively!

"Don't Be A Stranger"
If it wasn't clear, my purpose here is the reminder of the importance of connecting with people. Even if it is people that you know already, don't take their established friendship for granted. "Don't be a stranger." Check in randomly with your friends and family, you'll feel good about it. I don't believe that a lessened proximity or decreased frequency of time spent together indicates some diluted value in our connection to that person. Meaning just because you stop seeing someone regularly it doesn't negate the friendship. People get busy or they change locations and move far. Collaborative projects end and time gets spent on other things and sometimes paths split. This no reason to develop a grudge against hat person for not maintaining the same amount of interaction that we got used to. If the friendship was defined only by routine then was it actually valuable? It gets lonely to adjust to change, but I think the foreknowledge of knowing our intense interactions are temporal is important, it helps us to anticipate that ebb and flow and reminds us to place more emphasis on being present and making the most of our engagements. I also find it important to retrospectively cherish the lengthy or bite-sized vignettes that we have developed, no matter if it's "relevant" or not. Technology is amazing, why not utilize it to let that person or those people in on the little memorable moment you experienced and see where you two have been? Perhaps, like my experience with Mike, you'll end up with a surprise opportunity to fortify yourself as well as someone else.

The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of Awkwardness
You may be reading this and thinking "Yeah yeah Bruce. We get the Grandma advice.. keep in touch with your friends and family randomly... what a revolutionary and remarkably corny Hallmark idea.. but when it comes time to message that person it's just....random and ...weird!" Is it honestly weird? That's up to you may know best the nuances of your personal interactions But do you? Analyze yourself and your motives before you cast out an idea like this as cheesy or odd. There may be biases at work or assumptions that don't necessarily belong to you, they just culturally seeped in. Let me explain: I'm cautioning you against getting caught up in the new internet culture fad that is obsessed with romanticizing social anxiety and stressing that "everything is like so stressful and awkward LOL"!  Many of the times when I hear people describing people, places and events as "awkward", the context doesn't even make sense for the use of the word, it just gets thrown around with a snicker and a snide laugh or a *tsk* *tsk* sucking of the teeth.
It seems to me that the advent of the internet has done a beautiful thing by providing a place for people who have issues interacting with others. Now they have the beautiful chance to get to express themselves and interact in a diluted and socially less threatening way. This also provides a platform for this culminated caricature of people of our generation as lazy, anxious, socially inept people that people just do meme-shares of and subtly start defining themselves as lethargic people who are afraid to leave their Netflix account or be honest in anything but a wordpress blog because "everything is threateningly awkward". I firmly believe that circumstances or interactions are only "awkward" if you decide they are! 
It works in both parts of an interaction.  Perhaps a stoic way to look at things but if someone else approaches you and you automatically decided it is going to be awkward, now your confirmation bias will surely make the situation feel uncomfortable because you weren't even opened up to the idea of just enjoying the correspondence! Similarly, when we want to contact or approach someone, if we go into that scenario with the unsure, self defeating expectation that the interaction is going to go sour and feel unsettling, then you will immediately be projecting that bizarre fusion of self doubt and fear and people will pick up on that awkwardness!  It's a self fulfilling prophecy that doesn't seem fulfilling at all to me!  
On some level, it feels like we have been training ourselves to be bad at the important social interactions that we human beings need. We can't make eye contact anymore! So if you don't want to have awkward situations... refuse to choose awkwardness! It's the one friend you shouldn't keep in touch with! It's a sad truth but the fear of a situation being awkward is really the fear of not meeting up to expectations or being judged at its core. So the weird paradox is that we don't interact with people because we're avoiding a negative experience and this keeps us from engaging and then we are upset because we are having none of the positive human interaction that is needed, and we become saddened because of this. When you risk failure you risk success too. So when you see you haven't seen in a while and you have a moment, or if you happen to think of someone, maybe reach out would you please? Most of us could usually use it and I'm sure the interaction will often be mutually beneficial!

Always thinking of you,
Bruce "AllOne" Pandolfo
Here's a video of AllOne & The Room performing our song "Needle Kiss" with the aforementioned Mike on percussion! Enjoy!