I no longer talk about long term plans with people I’ve just met. I don’t frequently talk about my long term plans with people I already know either, but there’s a very particular reason I don’t discuss these things with new acquaintances. More times than I can count, I’ve met somebody that I would have liked to become friends with, and upon striking up a conversation about our lives – both what we do now and if that’s what we see ourselves doing forever – my plans bring our conversation and potential friendship to a screeching halt.
Why is this? There’s nothing reproachable to be found in my plans. I want to travel, I want to serve people and help those who have little or nothing. What’s wrong with that? For a long time I couldn’t understand why this sort of revelation ended conversations so quickly, much less how it could change a budding friendship into exactly nothing. But now I have a couple of theories as to why this could be.
Most people aren’t looking to start new friendships with people who won’t be around for long. I get that, it makes sense. If you’re only going to be around somebody for a very short period of time, a significant time and energy investment might feel like a waste. It isn’t a waste, but I see how people could feel that way. Why would you want to become attached to someone who doesn’t want to put down roots in any particular place and who seems to be a leaf on the wind? Unfortunately this can lead to wasting the opportunity to know a person you might have otherwise been good friends with, and who in the long run may have changed their plans anyway. Now you’ll never know.
Another possibility is that since people don’t normally go around saying “I want to serve people” it may come off as better-than-thou. I wish that there was a way to better show people that this is not at all the case with me. I’m not looking to help people because I think I’m better, I’ve just seen a little more of the dark underbelly of the world than I’d like to admit, and I’d like to do what is in my power to help those with fewer opportunities or resources than I currently have. I can see how far I’ve come from nothing, entirely due to a few helpful people and experiences that were a great catalyst, and I’d like to be able to help others in that way.
I suppose another reason my plans could be a turn off is that people who don’t know what they want are intimidated by people who do know what they want. Or in my case people who sound like they know what they want. I speak with confidence when I talk about what I’d like to do. I’d be nowhere if I didn’t. Half the time I’m still convincing myself that this is the direction I should be going in. I’m not trying to sound like I’ve got it all figured out, because I’m about as far from that as is humanly possible.
What goes hand in hand with that is Big Picture people. People who speak and act and think with broad strokes. People who are almost too sure of themselves, so it doesn’t seem like they give leeway for anything else. Just because I can say in two sentences what I’d like to do with my life doesn’t mean that I can see it all planned out in my head into the sunset in the distance. No. I can’t see two inches past my feet – I don’t know where I’m going. I’m not painting with a big brush, and my ideas aren’t grandiose. They’re just aspirations. And just because this is what I think I’d like to do with at least a portion of my life, doesn’t mean I have any less respect for the ambitions of others. You want to be a musician? Excellent. You’re studying for law school? Sweet. You are a plumber and handyman? Fantastic. I do not think that my interests are any better than yours. As a matter of fact, I don’t even know what I’m capable or qualified to do the things I want to do in the world. It could be out of my reach.
So this is why when I meet people now, I talk about mundane things, the every day hum drum. I try to avoid topics of the future, especially those which involve leaving. It’s very difficult for me, because I’m bad at small talk, and I’m terrible at sounding like anybody other than myself. I’m very direct, very honest. If I’m asked a question, I answer, regardless how little I wish I was saying the words. I have no reason to be secretive, but it seems that if I’d like to make new friends, especially in this small town with so few people, it’s best if I keep my aspirations to myself.