Full disclosure (and it’s really no secret): I used to not like people very much.
Most of the people I have met in the past year or so can’t believe this.
They see me on twitter and Facebook and “out there” finding my voice and having epic adventures in everyday life. They see me happy and laughing and friendly and outgoing. And when I tell them I was a semi-friendly introvert, they just don’t believe it. (Notice my twitter bio: “wanna-be extrovert” — it’s the truth).
So part of the amazingness of my journey of late has been twofold:
1) Discovering that I indeed love, adore and connect profoundly with people
and, as direct result,
2) Meeting, exploring, becoming friends with and coming to love some of the most phenomenal people on the planet
So as part of the new people-loving introvert-who-can-roll-in-a-world-of-extroverts plan, I recently decided that I need to “mix up” my work day. Specifically, I am no longer allowed (by me) to work all of the time in my home office, alone and holed up in my cave.
Don’t get me wrong: I love my home office. It is an awesome space that, even more than my bedroom, soothes and fulfills me. And for many years, about eight or nine at this point, I have worked mostly alone and mostly in that office.
It has always worked well for me and I have always enjoyed the aloneness and the quiet (and by “quiet,” I mean when my kids are at school or otherwise not home).
But recently, as I have realized that being all alone all of the time is not necessarily the way I want to live or work, I have made some efforts to work elsewhere. In places where I can get work done while still seeing other people, new faces and just life beyond my four walls and my computer. Bonus: No one in Starbucks whines at me or calls me “Mommy.”
(Besides, my now-infamous “Daily Confessional” Skype conversations with Sarah Robinson and Elizabeth Potts Weinstein are as mobile as I need them to be. Like the US Postal Service, they happen regardless of day, location, mood or workload.)
Over the past two or so months, I have tried out a few Starbucks in the area. And for the most part, I have enjoyed the noise (I use my iPod when it is particularly loud or when folks at a nearby table are not using their “indoor voices”) and the energy of those environments.
Once I figured out the Starbucks I liked the best, I started going to that one the most. And, like many people, I preferred to sit each time at the same table, in the same chair. It is one of those standard wooden table/chair combos I would imagine can be found in many Starbucks — probably yours, too.
So I sat there each time.
“My” chair gave me a good combination of space, outlets all to myself (Elizabeth, you know how important proper outlet coverage is no matter where we go!), view of the door and privacy.
And it was a sensible chair. It wasn’t as cute or inviting as the plush comfy purple chairs in the corner, but it was good for my back and my alignment when on the computer.
Practical and simple…..yes, it was my spot.
I’m nothing if not a creature of habit. So now instead of a private cave in my home office, I had a public cave in Starbucks.
Fast forward to last week, I agreed to meet my friend Michael to work at Starbucks, together but in silence (yea, right). Michael is like a little brother to me, and we always have a great time together. We’d wanted to “work together” for some time.
I saved him the second seat at my usual spot.
When he came in, he put his stuff down but instead of sitting down he immediately scanned the room.
I knew what he was looking for.
And I started to sweat.
He wanted to find an empty comfy chair. He wanted the comfy purple velvet chair in the sunny corner in front.
The one where all the action seemed to be.
The one that looked cute but wasn’t good for my back and was unknown and changed the whole Starbucks game for me.
The one that for whatever reason made me nervous because it wasn’t “my spot.”
Lucky for me (I thought), only one of the two purple velvet comfy chairs was open, so I encouraged Michael to go get it.
“I’ll come over when the other is empty,” I promised him, silently hoping its inhabitant was an all-day-at-Starbucks kind of guy.
Of course….wouldn’t you know it…The Universe (or at least The God of Comfy Chairs) had something else in mind for me. Within .24 seconds, Michael had befriended the nice man in Comfy Chair #2 and they’d worked out a deal that entailed Nice Man and Myself switching seats. And I think Michael may have also thrown in some computer/Internet training for Nice Man, just to sweeten the deal.
So I had to pick myself up, pick up my laptop bag, my purse (it’s huge, as you can imagine), unplug everything, my water, my latte, my banana, other various snacks (I was planning to be there for the whole day and no responsible mother leaves home without proper snack coverage), my BlackBerry, my iPod and various pens and spiral notebooks and walk a full 20 feet across Starbucks to Unknown Territory.
To the inviting but not practical and utterly unknown purple velvet comfy chair.
I gave it a shot. I got settled. Unloaded all my stuff. Lined up my cups, bottles and snacks along the window sill. Decided to make a real go of it. I owed that to Michael, right?
And it was fine. Quiet. Uneventful. I worked and got stuff done. Sure, my back hurt and I couldn’t figure out if cool Comfy Chair People should have their computers on their lap while sitting in the chair or on the small, cute and, of course, totally impractical little round table in front of the chair.
Eventually, Michael left. I decided to stay longer. People, maybe three in total, came and went from the other chair. I soldiered on. I could have returned to My Chair, but I didn’t. Now I was in it for the long haul. Or at least for the rest of the day.
And about an hour before I left for the day, someone new sat down in the chair. Unlike what happened with the others, he and I ended up talking for quite some time. Turns out he needed someone to help with copy on his website.
But way beyond potentially doing work together, he was also going through some things in life that he opened up about and we discussed. We had a deep and connected conversation that was very real and unexpected.
We became….yes, you guessed it: Friends.
I made a friend.
Out of my comfort zone in so many ways (wrong chair, surrounded by people, talking personally to “strangers” — the whole nine yards!) and yet….comfortable. Me. New surroundings, new voice, but still totally Me.
And my friend — while he is a little more adventurous than I am, the really funny thing is that he also rarely sits in the comfy chairs. (Or, so he told me.) Regardless, I would never have met New Comfy Chair Friend if I hadn’t moved over to and stayed in the purple velvet comfy chair in the corner.
Who knows….maybe next week I will put Equal instead of Splenda in my Grande Nonfat Latte?
You never know…stranger things have happened. Even….well….especially to me.