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The Approach to Expanding Your Social Circles

I read somewhere that we rarely travel more than ten miles from where we live.

It was just some happenstance moment where I was reading an article about God knows what and that little kernel of information stuck with me. And some time passed, life went on as usual but something was wrong with me. I just wasn’t happy anymore and I was becoming less and less so every passing week. It was a rather gray patch in my life where everything I was doing just felt so static and banal. I knew what every weekend was going to be like by the time Wednesday rolled around. I had become predictable.

And I hated every moment of it.

But that fact had I read kept coming back to mind over and over. I’d push it aside repeatedly. I never gave it much thought because, frankly, I was pretty set in my ways.

Then by chance I had a close friend of mine invite me along to a burlesque show in Chicago. The show was the first burlesque I’d been to and it it was a lot of fun. But that aside, while I was there we ran into a group of friends we hadn’t seen since High School. They didn’t recognize me because of my weight loss so reintroducing myself was an interesting moment.

But we got to talking with them and as it turns out they shared all the same hobbies and enjoyed all the same entertainment we did plus a lot of new things too.

They were just cool dudes.

Now the end of the night rolls around and you have that moment. You know the one. It’s when everyone says how great it was to see each other and they all say things like “We should do this again” or “Call us sometime if you’re in the area”. And what happens? You never do it.

But not this time. Rather than let that moment play out like it always does I did something different. I actually made plans. Plans that we stuck to. A week or so after that chance meet up we got together again to see another show. After that we made more plans. More shows, hobby stuff, games, food. I was introduced to a truly amazing lady through these new friends. I was shown an awesome restaurant and became the patron of a great little hipster bar.I went along to support their Floor Hockey team. I met people I’d either lost touch with or would have never met on my own.

(Green Eye. It has everything you could want in a Hipster Bar. Bearded masses, over priced artwork and a great selection of beers. 2403 West Homer Street, Chicago, IL)

And I owed it all to that little fact I heard months ago. I wasn’t going to let my habitat be a ten mile radius around my place in the sub burbs. The instant I committed to staking a claim in a new territory my mood improved. I looked forward to my weekends because I had no idea what I was going to do, who I was going to meet or what I was going to see.

(See, she’s a nurse and she’s a shark. So Nurse Shark is a clever character. @Alien Queen variety show)

(Possibly the best part of the show were these people in the crowd. Equal parts sexing each other up and unleashing a violent beat down upon one another. Had the worst Manhattan of my life served roughly around this time. @Alien Queen variety show) 

(Brian Mazzaferri of I Fight Dragons doing his thing, which is a very good thing by the way.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwBN8Phe1xU AND http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pvjgBn4m4k)

(There’s a hot dog in there somewhere. And it was amazing. Belly Shack 1912 North Western Avenue  Chicago, IL 60647)

(On the left is Hazel Hellbender. Good luck finding a more beautiful Chomp let alone a more beautiful lady. Gorilla Tango Theater 1919 North Milwaukee Avenue  Chicago, IL 60647)

The whole transformation has forced me to learn new skills. I was a master of my terrible little domain out in the suburbs and it made me sour and arrogant but in the city I’m forced to be humble because I’m learning a new place. I’m learning a new place! How often in your adult life do you get to do that? It’s exciting! I’ve always considered myself a people person and talented when it comes to the soft skills. By expanding my territory I get to interact with not only new people but people who live a very different life than mine. City life and suburb life is so far apart and most of you may know that already. I didn’t.

But knowing what I know about people and about friendships you have to have a healthy respect for the new bonds you make with people. You can’t treat them as a means to an end, as guides tasked with finding you something exciting to do with your weekend. You have to have some solidarity with your new circle. You have to be their friend. They’re not there just to entertain you. It’s a fine line between showing someone around and becoming someone’s babysitter. My friends had a weekend devoted to just board games. I was still there. Not because board games are the most exciting use of my time but because these are my friends and I value their company beyond just the context for our gathering.

Life has changed for me. My world seems a lot bigger. The things that I filled my time with before are less important now because I’ve found a whole new environment to exist in. Now I fill my time with trying to figure out how and where I fit into my new circles, strengthening recent bonds and creating new ones and being surprised by my days.

I don’t want to tell people what to do with their time and how to get the most out of life. All I can say is what worked for me. But that’s my approach to expanding social circles. I’d love to hear yours.


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