I had spent recess by myself, as I often did, and as I walked back to class with my head down. I heard a voice inside me say, “if you would just look up and smile at people instead of holding your head down, you could be their friend.” After that, I was a friend to everyone, but I didn’t have many friends. I didn’t know there was a difference. I thought being friendly to everyone was connection… My best friend in high school once told me, through her tears, that I didn’t let anyone in. I spent years trying to figure out what that meant.
I have always loved being with people and observing them from the “other side” of a proverbial glass wall. I thought this way I could enjoy, love, and even offer support while not feeling like I was “in the way” or worrying that I would do something that would draw unwanted attention. I told myself I was better being “invisible” and that I was better off alone.
However, science shows that human being are, by nature, social beings. In fact, there is no such thing as individual neurons or single human brain cells” that exist in nature. Louis Cozolino says that “without mutually stimulated interactions, people and neurons wither and die.” In neurons, this process is called apoptosis. In humans, it expresses as depression and other debilitating emotions.
I recently had an inspiring conversation with my friend, Tracy O’Malley, who has learned the power of connection in her own life.