Thursday, August 15, 2013
Just Start With "Hi"
On my Journey of a Lifetime 15 years ago today, I found myself in Stockholm, Sweden. I was staying at a youth hostel on the south side, named Zinkensdamm when I ventured out with some fellow backpackers to Kungsträdgården to participate in the city's Water Festival.
Downtown Stockholm was like a runaway party. There were hoards of people everywhere! Being a first time visitor, I knew nobody but the people I had come from the hostel with, and I even lost them in the crowd. I was alone in a sea of people, being a virtual stranger to the country, city, and language.
While looking around in the crowd, I noticed one blond female over all the others. She was wearing leather pants for God's sake, and I could not keep my eyes off her. Of course I was paralyzed with fear because it immediately occurred to me that I wanted to go talk to her.
But I didn't.
I watched her from a far until I finally lost her in the crowd. I frantically tried to locate her, but she was gone. Within seconds, the self-loathing kicked in. It was a battle of good Fred Flintstone-bad Fred Flintstone in my head of, "Why didn't you go talk to her?!"
One was on the attack, and the other was entrenched for a brilliant defence. Finally, after an epic internal battle, a truce was called in favour of an agreement. I capitulated, and gave my word that if I got a second chance and this woman came back, it meant that I HAD to go over and talk to her.
She came back about 10 minutes later and the panic set in. What would I say? How would I say it? As I walked over towards her to keep my word, my hamster-wheel mind spun every possible scenario of what I could say to her. I was over complicating it and I knew it.
When I got there, it really was as simple as just saying "Hi, I'm Chuck."
That was 15 years ago today, and Martina (yes, that is her name) and I are still great friends. From the start of that simple greeting, we talked all night, and she invited me to a Swedish crayfish party the following day at her friend, Mathias' house. Friends like Mathias and Peter that I created a lasting relationship with that night, are still close to my heart and valued greatly by me today.
We all have had children, and I have seen them grow, and we've kept in touch all of these years. I'm so grateful for them and their friendship because even though we don't see each other often, when we do, it is like a family reunion.
Yet I realize that all of this was only made possible in the one moment of clarity I had to stop being fearful and just simply say "Hi" to another human being.
And today, 15 years later, I am overjoyed that I did. Looking back, I realize that I could have dealt with the rejection of Martina not accept or like me, but knowing what I know now about our friendship, I would never have forgiven myself for at least seeing where the possibility could have gone if I simply took the first step. I am a better man for having been to Sweden and met my wonderful friends there, and have met many more wonderful friends in Sweden subsequently.
It was truly one of the most wonderful stories of my Journey of a Lifetime.
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