According to a few personality tests, I am a fairly extroverted person- but I'm an extrovert who likes routine. I do not panic when I have to improvise something instead of follow through with my plan but sometimes I find it hard to do something new. Here's a really lame example that will demonstrate my point. I am a music teacher. I currently teach 308 students in my classes right now. Some of these students I see for 22 days each year, my chorus kids see me a lot more. (There are 700 kids in our whole school. I will have all of them eventually during the year but 210 sing for me all year.) This year I attended a game that one of my singers was playing in. I have known this student for 4 years- seriously, one of the nicest kids I know. It struck me at their game that I had never met their parents. I've seen them play before and as I was watching, I recognized who I thought would be their parents. I wondered why I have never met them after 4 years of concerts and thought "I should say hello after the game." When the game ended, they walked by, looked at me and gave a bit of a nod and then continued. I almost said hello and introduced myself but then I got nervous. If they wanted to meet me, why didn't they stop? Did I have the right parents? Maybe they don't know who I am. Maybe they do know who I am and aren't interested in talking to me. The next day I was thinking about why I didn't make a move to say hello. I think I just got self-conscious.
Let me contrast this with another story. There is a new woman working at our school. She is considerably younger than me but seems to have a similar personality. I think she is really funny and really nice. I have wanted to get to know her better but 1) her classroom is not really close to mine and 2) we don't have any of the same time off. She took the position of a good friend of mine who has just retired this year so I really wanted to be a friendly face in the building. One day about 2 weeks ago, I was walking by her classroom and saw her working really hard after school. I decided to step in, say hello and ask how things were going. (Not difficult.) As I left, I thought of how much I enjoyed talking to her and how it was too bad that I didn't know her better. So, I did something out of the ordinary for me- I invited her to come have dinner with my family. We live in a small, cluttered apartment and I tend to be paranoid that people are judging me so sometimes I avoid inviting new people over unless there is a big event. She came over tonight and I had such a great time. She is really interesting, my kids loved her and I think she had fun too. This made me think:
How much do we rob ourselves of unexpected joy? Routine is nice and predictability is convenient; but what would happen if we opened ourselves up to different experiences, people and choices? Sometimes the most exciting type of joy is the joy that happens when we're not expecting it to come. How can you stretch yourself today that might open up an opportunity to grow, develop a new friendship or turn your life in a completely different direction?