Currently I’m in Mexico City. Mostly sequestered during the day, by choice, while I diligently work on my first novel and a couple poetry projects.
But after only four days here, I’ve already started feeling lonely. I am so used to interacting with people that this sudden lack of socializing, while somewhat refreshing, makes me feel like a hermit. It’s an interesting experiment to spend so much time alone with myself. At this point, I am trying to get reacquainted with a me who is significantly less distracted by social media, Netflix, email obligations, and building my new business.
So far, I can honestly say it was easier to crack my caffeine habit than spend this quality alone time with myself.
So what do I do? I go on walks. There are a few parks nearby and I wander around taking it all in. But frankly, this makes me feel even more alone. Because it’s not like I’m out there getting all chatty with folks. In fact, things are further complicated by my current lack of confidence with the Spanish language. Seems that my occasional hour of telenovelas on YouTube turned out to be a total bust.
Things get worse in the evenings as I try to muster up the courage to enter a bustling bar or restaurant, a lowly party of one. Now you might think I’m the sort of guy who can make do when faced with this mild social challenge, but I can’t. And to me, right now anyhow, it’s not mild at all. Truth be told, I’m afraid. I feel like an outsider. And guess what? I am one.
Maybe this is what happens when you embody the characters in your story? Maybe it makes it increasingly difficult to talk to actual living people?
But here’s the crux – I am hyper aware of my need for human connection. I’m not necessarily looking for people to hang with, but definitely needing to balance the time spent with characters in my novel (I mean, they’re fascinating and all, but…). So rather than wander and hope that some local extrovert will pop out of nowhere, chat me up and take me under their wing, I’ve decided to seek people out myself.
Similar to my storytelling project from a few years back, We Are Carrboro, I decided to approach people with a set purpose. When I think of socializing as a project of sorts, I can do it with élan. Make it look easy, even. Here’s my strategy – after a morning of novel writing, I’m dedicating a couple hours to walking my Roma Norte neighborhood seeking people who exude love. Then I ask if I can take their photo. I call it my “Love Project.”
“Hola. Con permiso. Soy artista y estoy haciendo un proyecto de amor. Espero que es posible sacar su foto.”
Most everyone says sí.