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Submitted by journalist on February 19, 2018 - 11:05am
Riding solo up the chairlift can yield some positive outcomes. You can fly through the lift lines. You can avoid the depths of weekend crowds. You can also come out of your ride up the mountain (or hill here in Wisconsin) with some positive social interactions.
If you are anything like me, I am pretty content with sitting on the chairlift to catch my breath from the last run on the end of the chair. I was never too keen on interacting with my unknown chairmates. Talking with strangers was something I thought gave me a lot of anxiety, so I never did it. It was not until this past trip out to Winter Park, Colorado where this mindset was uprooted and changed for the better.
As the weekends approached, a steady influx of people flocked to the mountain to shred the fresh snowfall. Lift lines looked like a joke; they wrapped out and around the corrals to a point you truly questioned whether it was worth it. It definitely was, but nonetheless, the lines were brutal.
My ski partner and I decided to run the singles lines. It made for a much shorter wait time and I even came out of it with a new realization: brief interactions I had with chairmates gave me a new form of confidence.
Talking with other young adults, and even moms, I was put on such an equal level. I did not feel like “just some kid”; my opinions and statements were valued. The ageist undertones that frequently arise when talking to adults can undermine confidence in an instant. Yet, this was not the case. I really felt comfortable with myself and confident in what I had to say. It has a lot to do with the fact I am actually at an age now that older people will take me seriously. I feel equipped to contribute to conversation. I have things to say, and I want to share them.
I have a theory that talking with acquaintances is much harder than talking to complete strangers. Seeing someone you sort of know, but not really, but well enough to say hello, is the most anxiety ridden interaction for me. Having to come up with small talk and the effort to keep the conversation going is exhausting. Talking with a stranger is a clean slate. They do not know anything about you. You have everything in the world to talk about. You do not have to hide anything. Talking with people on the chairlift is this fresh slate. You can find relations to any stranger if you let yourself. When you do, it creates these fun, productive interactions that you can learn from.
One particular ride up the chair gave me this chance to interact with random people I had never met. A group of moms were talking about college and their kids; something very relatable to me. I overheard their misconception on topics I knew the correct answer to. So I spoke up. I apologized for eavesdropping on their conversation, but had to say something. We talked through it and came to an understanding. We even continued our conversation, laughing and delving into even more relatable conversations. They were talking about their young daughters going through puberty and how they refuse to shower, reeking like onions. The ultimate relatable conversation when reflecting on my own life. This all happened within a four-minute ride up the mountain. When we all parted ways after showing our appreciation for one another, I felt rejuvenated. I felt so accomplished and confident in myself going forward in interacting with future chairmates.
Moral of the story: talking to strangers may seem anxiety-inducing. But setting the ego aside, talking to new people can open up new perspectives you may have never considered. What do you have to lose? They do not know you and you will probably never see them again. So it really does not matter whether you make a fool of yourself or have a productive conversation. It’s all just a little social practice that amounts to tools you can use in the future. This follows my favorite motto: You live and you learn. If the interaction ends up being horrible, awkward, fantastic, wack, really anything, just take it as a learning experience. All experiences develop yourself and how you conduct yourself in the future. You live the experience out, and you learn from it. You build a toolkit of skills to help you in the future.