I’m leaving for Europe in just over a week. Now that my departure date is quickly approaching, all kinds of anxiety and excitement that has been lurking for months is bubbling to the surface.
Meanwhile, I’m reminding myself of an important concept that guided me through my time in France and Greece and many other experiences: Just Say Yes.
This concept came in handy last January, when I was doing research in Paris for my Independent Study. Before leaving, I let myself become anxious about being lonely during the week I would be in Paris among the 17th-century books I was afraid to ask for. I worried that in the dark of winter, I would go the whole week without talking to anyone. Even as an introvert, it didn’t sound like the ideal trip.
I set my mind at ease by telling myself that as long as they didn’t interfere with my work at the archives, I would just say yes to any opportunities that came my way.
In just under a week, I met a friend of a friend–a Finnish student at Oxford studying abroad in Paris–for lunch at a bustling, quintessentially Parisian bistro. We hit it off, so we made plans for dinner later in the week as well. We talked about our studies and the importance of a well-rounded education and becoming your own person overseas, away from home. We talked about how lonely it can be until you find someone who understands.
On another night, I met my parents’ friend’s parents at their chic apartment in the third arrondissement, and we ate home-cooked Moroccan food and drank wine while they swapped stories with friends they had invited to share our dinner. Their daughter was applying to college and I recognized her giddy and nervous excitement. They made sure I made it home safely on the Metro.
One evening, when I came home to my Airbnb after a full day at the archives, my hosts invited me to join them for une verre with a few people in their living room. I met a young American violinist living in Paris and trying to make it as a musician and a Parisian man who had just finished his Master’s degree at Stanford. The three of us talked well into the night about the struggle of young adulthood.
Happily, my host family from my time in France in 2011 was also able to visit me, and we spent all of Sunday together, mostly eating and walking, and when it started to rain, I took my host sister to the train station and we had a warm cup of coffee while she waited for her ride home.
I’m lucky to have a network of friends and connections that reaches across the ocean, but I’m also glad that after spending years anxiously and shyly avoiding too much social interaction, I learned how to say yes. I could have spent all of my free time curled up in bed with Netflix (and I admit: jet lag did get me one evening and I did just that). But that week in Paris last January was filled with experiences that I could not have had if I had retreated inside of myself–and they brought me so much joy.
So, to all of my introverted friends out there: just say yes! Netflix/the book you brought/your bed will be there when you reach your limit.
(And for the record, I did actually do the research I went to Paris to do.)