Last week’s flip was tough for me. I’d completed the adventure of “talking to every intriguing person I met and asking one to dinner” on my original project that led to SERENFLIPITY and it was a lot easier back in 2013. Was I less inhibited because I thought I’d never see these intriguing strangers again? Were we all more open because we were out of our commutes and off our devices? Or did I simply just want to speak to people because I was traveling alone?
But my mission to complete this week’s flip taught me three important things.
First, I found that it was hard to connect with people – and I found that I can be hard to connect with. I was speaking to a mentor last week and shared that I gotten into a habit of doing three things at once – in fact, as we were speaking, I was in the back of an Uber, trying to respond to a friend’s text and messaging a TaskRabbit about a pick up.
When I’m hyper-busy, it’s impossible for me to connect. And I imagine it’s similar for others – I’d finally have a moment to look around and spot someone who seemed intriguing, but with our screens and headphones, eye contact and conversation can be easily avoided. And when someone breaks our screen fixation, it sadly can feel like an intrusion of space.
We’re at an interesting time when it comes to connection; it’s so easy to meet people online and to interact screen-to-screen, and a run-in can feel like a relic.
“I meet everyone online,” a 25 year old guy told me last week. “I mean sometimes in a very rare case, I still meet people in real life.”
By the weekend, I was feeling discouraged about how I was faring on this flip when I received an email from a friend: “so your Instagram post inspired me to talk to an intriguing guy on Tuesday. We went out on Friday and have another date on Sunday. We’ll see what happens!”
That was my fuel to double down. I happened to be in Philadelphia on Saturday morning, and with this mission in mind, I decided to turn my morning breakfast run into an adventure of intrigue. I made friends with an Amish Farmer who cooked up one of the best egg sandwiches I’d ever had – and took ironic delight in showing me how to use the store’s credit card reader. I made a failed conversation attempt with the guy behind me, who looked at me like I had two heads. I chatted with two girls in line for the train about the flower show, instead of checking my Facebook feed or attempting a one-handed email response.
Then something really interesting happened. People started approaching me. A foreign student came up to ask if he was on the right train; we started talking about our experiences in Asia, and ended up sitting together. But we weren’t forced into awkward conversation as I had feared – we simply shared space, and chatted here and there between staring at our respective screens. Oddly, I was in the midst receiving a slew of Facebook and text messages from people I hadn’t seen in months or years.
Was there a connection between these conversational outputs and inputs? I’m not sure, but in my #veryscientific mind, I wonder if when we connect more with others in an open way, even on a transactional level, some sort of bat-signal goes out, and others get the memo and start connecting with us in that same way. Hmmm…
Which brings me my second lesson: we often take for granted the beauty and intrigue of those we consider nearest and dearest – and don’t really connect.
On a quick stop to New York en route to the airport, I got to experience some of my best friends in a different way as a result of seeking out their intrigue. I found myself really available and honest in my time with them – not just sitting next to them at dinner and wolfing down food, but really listening, getting curious and sharing personal updates honestly – not just the high points over the past six months, but the ins and outs of all parts of my life.
It was having dinner with my best friend and her husband and watching him tell her that he didn’t know what his life would be without her. It was an impromptu midnight ice cream date with one of my oldest friends, marveling at all of the ridiculous ways that our paths continued to cross and how we continue to nudge each other forward on our respective journeys. It was leaving each encounter and taking a minute to savor a feeling of fullness and connection, instead of racing to my next appointment.
And finally, I learned that there’s a really good reason we find someone “intriguing” – and there’s an even better reason to act on connecting with that person.
It can be easy to think that someone intriguing has to be someone alarmingly attractive or exotic, but we’re all intriguing when we decide to dig below the surface and share ourselves honestly. Often the ones who intrigue us have something to teach us.
My friend Sally and I call these folks “Karma Dumplings”: people who get put in your path like lovely little packaged dumplings – and totally shake up your life. These are the people you might not have met were it not for a weird bout of serendipity – and you seem to share an incredible amount in common, or just happen to be in the same life circumstance. These people often move you to the next step in your growth – and you do the same for them.
I think about all the incredible people who have crossed my path over the years – online and in real life. Each person has taught me something – in fact, a Tinder date two years ago led to one of my biggest breakthroughs, and almost every single person I spoke to when I received this challenge in Bali is still a part of my life today. (The craziest Karma Dumpling story with Sally warrants an entire post.) All of these connections with intriguing people have moved me forward in some way, and I’ve been told that I have helped them as well.
So, if you didn’t seek out someone intriguing or connect with someone on your mind last week, fear not! You can keep it in the back of your mind for when the time is right, or do it this week (or just jump to this week’s flip, which is a crowd favorite!). Perhaps it will just be a catalyst for the next intriguing person to enter your life, a way to discover a hidden gem within someone you’ve taken for granted – or even a step to an encounter with a Karma Dumpling.
February is the month of #fliplove – where we share a flip that’s led to a SERENFLIPITY love story every Monday and reward the best tale on that Sunday. Follow us on Instagram (@serenflipity) for each week’s adventure.