A conversation can change your life.
In subtle yet important ways, serendipitous moments have the power to redefine our perspectives and catalyze our personal growth. I still distinctly remember a cold, rainy afternoon in 2006, when I spent hours talking to an absolute stranger. I had just arrived in Stockholm, Sweden--a place I'd never been to before--and I asked a stranger for directions. Before I knew it, six hours had passed and I was still engaged in a deep conversation with this gentleman, a Danish PhD student. Within this short time, he shattered a number of preconceived notions, some which I didn't even realize I had!
At the time, I did not know anyone who had continued to study well into their 40s; he was 42, was spending 20 hours a week learning Hindi (!), while also earning his second PhD in culture and linguistics. Growing up in a traditional education system where our choices are typically expected to be either science or commerce, my eyes were opened by his experiences. I saw the virtues of pursuing a holistic education. This inspired me to dive deeper into the cultural aspects of business and geopolitics--a topic that I continue to educate myself on even today.
The internet, with its semi-anonymity and helpful 'Block' buttons, was where I found great friends and acquaintances, mentors, as well as the love of my life.
That day in Stockholm, I realized that like most youngsters in India, I essentially spent most of my time in a small, selective social circle of family and friends. Over a period of time these relationships get classified into formal (broadly meaning, no real conversations) and the super-close--the few that we come to know so well, we essentially live in an echo chamber of our collective amalgamated thoughts. Comfort zones are, sometimes, too comforting.
Add to that having been brought up in a household that values education and good moral values above everything else, I had internalized a fear of talking to "strangers" and was constantly worried about being judged. Good girls (or even boys) don't walk up to strangers and talk to them, right?
In my attempt to break out of my comfort zone, I started blogging. The internet, with its semi-anonymity and helpful 'Block' buttons, was where I found great friends and acquaintances, mentors, as well as the love of my life. By putting myself out there, by giving voice to my thoughts that I wasn't sure I could say in person, I acquired the ability to learn from those around me and develop a nuanced perspective that has helped me become the person I am today.
It's not enough for only a few people to want to break out of their comfort zone--it takes a shared understanding to make it more acceptable, achievable.
However, it's not enough for only a few people to want to break out of their comfort zone--it takes a shared understanding to make it more acceptable, achievable. The first time I saw Tinder and really understood what it was about, I jumped! I saw in the platform the potential to facilitate great human connections with the ease of a swipe. Just like blogging in 2006, but 1000x more empowering. There is all the diversity of the real world, but more opportunity to express yourself uniquely. With less fear of rejection, and connections built on the foundation of explicit mutual interest, it is a safe place to be exactly who you are and find exactly what you are looking for, with no predefined demographic and compatibility boxes. The potential, honestly, blew my mind.
I believe that, today, there is simply no real reason why a young woman who starts her first job in a new city should be restricted to only hanging out with her colleagues, friends of friends or distant relatives who may know nothing about her. There is simply no reason why she should be reluctant to attend the French documentary screening that she's excited about--so what if her friends don't share her interest? Similarly, there should be no reason why a 22-year-old girl should 'settle' for dating someone who happens to be in her immediate social circle or begrudgingly resign to the prospect of her parents finding her a groom a few years, all the while hoping for serendipity to work its magic, sending the 'perfect one' into her life. More than anything else, I think it is unfair to ourselves to hide or restrict our ideas, our unique perspectives, our sexuality and our self-discovery simply for reasons of fear.
We no longer have to wait for life, and magic, to happen to us. We can make them happen... And that, I think, is Serendipity 2.0.
It's 2016, and the world around us has changed. For the most part, the change is for the better. It's still far from ideal, but every Women's Day brings more reasons to celebrate than the years gone by.
Smartphones and social networks have brought the world to our fingertips, giving voice to many who would have otherwise remained unheard. It is up to us, now, to exercise the choice and freedom that technology affords us to get out of our comfort zone. Today, we can choose. To listen and be heard. To discover the world, and ourselves. To discover the magic of human connections and the incredible possibilities they represent. We no longer have to wait for life, and magic, to happen to us. We can make them happen. And that's how it should be--because our lives deserve to be lived to the fullest. And that, I think, is Serendipity 2.0.
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