I’m assuming some of the ideas I talked about in yesterday’s post have struck a responsive chord. You may have decided you need to give the idea of renewing your social capital a chance. We need to take a fresh look at where we are and do an inventory or self-assessment before we just start changing things.
If you are working at a full time job, probably you working too many hours and the more time you work the less time you have for social contact. There are many kinds of jobs of course. Many afford opportunity for social contact, but many do not. In the latter case, such a level of estrangement from real humans can be much worse than it is for others who have an opportunity for human contact on the job. But let us take a look at the worst case and suppose you do your work alone. No one helps you. You do what you do well and not one at another level who reads your monthly executive summaries or even more detailed reports has complained or even suggested they might want to see something different. Even your immediate boss doesn’t give you much feedback. He talks to you at the end of the year. You nearly always get the same small bonus and a few words of praise that actually tell you more about the state of the company than it does about your performance. “Well, we had a good year,” he says. But, they pay you well and the bonus comes in handy. No complaints about your reports. You do your job well. You’re on salary, and a little unpaid overtime may be necessary just to get your work done.
Years go by and you realize you are putting in a lot of hours and you don’t really have any friends. You have acquaintances, some of whom may consider themselves friends, but not many, you think. You see your neighbors frequently, but you don’t really know them. They don’t invite you for dinner. You don’t invite them. In fact, you only know one of them by name and that is because he happened to say his name when he answered his cell phone. You also know the name of the lady behind the counter at the local Starbucks because you’ve stopped there every morning for the last several years. You know her name because her coworkers have used it in your presence.
Last Wednesday you stopped for coffee as usual but someone new is behind the counter. “What’s up? Lydia sick this morning?” you inquire. The words actually sound strange. It’s the first time you’ve actually said something to a human being in the last several days.
“No,” Ray replied from behind the counter. “Lydia left Starbucks. She got another job elsewhere. What can I get you this morning?”
You know Ray’s name because it’s on his name tag above his shirt pocket. You take a chance and ask Ray where Lydia is working now, but he doesn’t know. Ray gives you your coffee and you sit down with it instead of rushing to the office. Something about Lydia not being at Starbucks anymore doesn’t set well with you. It’s not as though you know her well or were especially attracted to her. She was just a smiling presence every morning—fleeting daily contact though she was, you depended upon her apparently to get your day off to a good start. After getting your coffee from her, you left and basically ran through the work day without any human contact. You went home sometimes passing your nameless neighbors, and had something or other for dinner. You may have watched the news or a television program, but most often not. Sometimes you had an after dinner drink, or did a little work you may have brought home. Then you went to bed, sometimes only after falling asleep in the soft chair in front of the television.
In the days that follow Lydia’s disappearance you make an effort to expand your social perspective. You get to know Ray at Starbuck. Not much, but it’s a start. You introduce yourself to your neighbors, one at a time as you pass them. Some are pleased to meet, even friendly. Others are surprised. But you’re polite and chat a bit with them. That puts them at ease. You buy a new suit and take considerable time talking to your tailor about the color you will choose, and also the fit. You get his advice and also his considerable expertise. You’ve never made much use of him before, but this time you did and you are pleased with the outcome. He is especially pleased to be of service.
You decide to have to take some time to do a little reading outside what might be related to your work. The library and the bookstore are close. You buy a few books take some out of the library over the next several months. Some subjects spur your interest. You join a discussion group at the library when you learn they are to discuss of a book you have read. It’s another step for you, one you could not have imagined taking just a few months ago. But now, you await the scheduled book discussion with interest.
You are starting to feel better about your world and much more connected to it. Back when all this got started, when Lydia disappeared, you didn’t really know who you were anymore—if you ever did. Now you still don’t know for sure, but you are learning. You have social interests. You are not only beginning to know who you are but maybe even what you stand for.