A Step Forward #6


Shane McGinnis

Illustration By Miranda  Sepúlveda

If you told me this year would be when I learned to be outgoing and engaging, I would’ve said you’re crazy. Somehow, I grew to be my most social in a time when the world was at its most isolated. 

When we started quarantine over a year ago, many of my Type A friends saw the isolation as their worst nightmare. The thought of not being able to invite friends over for a party or missing out on eating at their favorite restaurant was terrifying. However, it wasn’t like this for me. I lived a decently quiet day-to-day life before the pandemic. I didn’t get stressed if I ate lunch alone. I quite enjoyed the quiet time during my days. They allowed me to do what I wanted to do and not worry about others’ thoughts. My thought was if I invited someone, I’d need their input on the activity, but if I did something by myself, then it could be whatever I wanted to do. 

That being said, quarantine wasn’t the worst for me. I got to wake up and do things on my schedule. Much of the time that included at least a run during the day and a movie at night. That’s how it went for several months.  

Then I got a new job. Initially, I wanted this job, because I love the outdoors. I wanted to be able to hike, climb and kayak and get paid for it. It really sounded like the best of both worlds. Do what I like to do in my free time and earn a paycheck? Yes, please. The unintended side effect of the job is that I needed to talk to a large group of patrons every time I worked. The introvert in me that thrived in the isolation of COVID-19 was now thrust into a role where my main job was to make sure people enjoyed themselves. This led me to find out something new about myself. I realized that I didn’t hate being social. I didn’t despise having to make small talk with new people. I actually quite enjoyed it. Getting to talk to a new person can be incredibly interesting. Their thoughts, perspectives and ideas can give you new ways to think about a topic that you never considered before. During the fall semester, I looked forward to political discussions with my coworkers. With the patrons, we began to bond over the activities we did. As the semester went on, the same people came back week after week. As this happened, we got to build friendships. We didn’t just discuss climbing anymore but rather things going on in each other’s lives. I started to look forward to my shifts, so I could see how everyone was doing. These interactions gave a much-needed break from the monotony of virtual school. They allowed for a hint of normalcy when I was missing it in my classes. 

It was important to me to realize that I didn’t need to impress everyone every single time I talked to them. I didn’t need to wow them with a new accomplishment or big idea every time I saw them. I just needed to be there and enjoy myself. Once I stopped putting so much pressure on these interactions, it became less of a chore and more of an opportunity. I’m very thankful for that realization.