Monday, March 11, 2013

How to be bolder in college

Last weekend I went to Disney with a friend who is in her senior year of college. It was the last day of her Spring Break, and we roamed EPCOT, instagraming ourselves in every country, eating lots in Italy, China, and Germany. 

When the sun went down it got chilly and we walked to our locker to retrieve our jackets. My friend returned the locker key inside, and the young guy behind the counter started making conversation with her. She learned he was an intern with the Disney College Program, and he kept asking her questions. I noticed this was more than just a friendly exchange. There was chemistry. 

We walked away and she seemed to glow. We didn't talk about it, but continued excitedly into the park, rode Test Track, and then devoured honey chicken and sweet and sour pork in China.

But then, with a few grains of white rice left on the plate and in the contented silence after a perfect meal, my friend said, "I have this crazy idea that I should give that guy my number." 

She is shy, and I have never been outgoing myself. But something about that statement just seemed right, exciting, and a perfect thing to do on the last day of spring break. So I said, "why not?"

So with a boldness I had never seen from her, she wrote down her number on the receipt after we paid for our meal, and we marched up to the front of the park. I could hear her heart pounding, trying to talk herself out of it but knowing she would kick herself if she didn't go through with it. 

But when we peeked in the store, he was gone. 

My friend realized that she wasn't ready to give up; she strolled in and asked the new people at the counter if his shift had ended or if maybe, just maybe, he was on break. Sure enough, he was on break and would be back in half an hour. 

She left the store and we laughed, feeling like silly 7th graders.

We continued to dessert and watched the fireworks.

On our way out of the park, we peeked in that store one more time, officially feeling like stalkers. There he was, behind a counter teeming with tired vacationers trying to get their pictures from the day. It seemed like it was over. 

But then, in an instant he moved to the end of the counter and there was a break in the line of customers; my friend walked into the store, said "hey, I don't usually do this, but you seem cool and I wanted to give you my number in case you ever want to hang out before you leave" (he lived in another state and was only in Florida for the college program). 

I kept darting my eyes in to see his reaction; this guy's face lit up and he and the worker next to him looked stunned. I'm guessing this doesn't happen to them often.

I could also tell that their night had been made. My friend had given them  a fun story to tell, had shaken things up, done something surprising, and came out on the other end feeling like she had grown in some unspeakable way. 

I don't want to disappoint you, but this isn't a love story. The guy texted my friend the next day and said she indeed did make his day and he thought she was really cute, but that he was already talking to a girl at his college back home. 

But all along we both knew this story was never about her and this guy living happily ever after. It was about doing something you don't usually do, something outside your comfort zone.  

There was something magical in my friend's boldness. I've known her since she was a freshman in college, and I saw something new in her that day. Typically a shy, reserved person, she was now willing to reach out even when it seemed crazy. 

This is not about why you should give random people your number (I do not recommend this in most situations), but it is about taking chances in your college experience, meeting new people, and being unafraid to be bold -- even if it means it might not work out the way you think. 

Is there an opportunity you've been holding back on? Is there a person in your class you think seems cool but you're feeling too afraid to start a conversation? Is there something you've always wanted to do but are putting it off because you're scared?

Don't be afraid to put yourself out there. We rarely do because we want to avoid that burning feeling of rejection. 

But when you take risks in spite of rejection, you might find that the burning feeling can also transform into fuel that can teach you something and propel you forward, towards a destination you might have never discovered otherwise. 

So throw some caution to the wind and do something scary. It might not work out, and that's okay. But what if it does? 

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