I am so grateful to have a life that is rich in relationships with family and friends that bring me joy, support, connection and fun. That's why it's incredible for me to think that less than two years ago, I was completely dissatisfied with my social life.
It's not that I didn't have great family and friends then, but I didn't feel fulfilled or satisfied. I now realize that the missing element was my role in the relationships. I was completely passive and I was always waiting: waiting for someone to call me up to do something; waiting for someone to come up with a plan; or waiting for friends to be free. In addition, I was relying on a core group of a few people to fulfill my social needs and desires. I hadn't really expanded my network very much and I certainly wasn't putting effort into making new connections. I had my "people" and I was sticking with them. There were countless weekends that consisted of my couch, snacks and Netflix (I got real tight with Walter White). Don't get me wrong, that is still my idea of a pretty great weekend, but it's definitely not what I wanted to be doing all weekend, every weekend! I was totally stuck in a rut.
I attended a retreat in 2014 that was put on by a coach. At one point, we were asked to create rituals that would be the practical steps we would take to arrive at goals we had identified at the start of the retreat. My social life was top of mind for me as I tried to come up with my rituals. This resulted in the creation of my favourite personal ritual out of the retreat -- Sunday Tea with Me. I decided that I would go out on dates with myself every Sunday morning or afternoon. The beautiful thing about this plan (if I do say so myself!) was that it tackled several of my goals simultaneously. The goals it addressed were: increasing my self-confidence in social situations; trying to stop living so routinely and passively; and to start opening myself up to new adventures and exploring my city.
This ritual ensured that I would get out of the house every weekend. It also provided an opportunity to explore my wonderful city because I made a rule that I couldn't go to the same place more than twice within a month and I attempted to pick coffee shops in different neighbourhoods. I was appalled that on many of these occasions, it was my first time stepping foot in some of the most popular neighbourhoods in Toronto and I've lived here my whole life. I became a tourist in my own city! By going alone, it also set the scene for me to try and talk to new people. I also loved the fact that I wasn't waiting for a plan to be made for me. I was taking charge and making it happen.
I really started to look forward to my Sundays and I'd spend time each week Googling places to go next or asking friends for suggestions. While on my dates with me, I'd read, journal, reflect, people watch or all of the above. And as per dating etiquette, I refrained from using my phone.
To be honest, I didn't end up striking up tons of conversations with interesting strangers as I'd imagined, but what resulted was that I reconnected with myself. In the same way that we must carve out time to strengthen relationships with important people in our lives, I believe that we need to do the same with ourselves. Yet how many of us take ourselves for granted? These Sunday mornings or afternoons became special times in my week reserved for me. I'd schedule them into my phone and I didn't bump them for other plans and I didn't cancel them because I felt lazy. I committed.
Sunday Tea with Me resulted in a blossoming self-confidence that I hadn't anticipated when I first created this ritual. At first, it felt awkward going out alone and getting a table for one, but over time, my awkwardness faded and my confidence grew. It started to feel natural and I became more comfortable in my own company. Surprisingly, I started to see carryover into other aspects of my life. One instance in particular comes to mind. My friend was having her birthday celebration at a loungy restaurant in downtown Toronto and I arrived before everyone else. Normally, I would have waited outside or gone to kill time at a store nearby. However, on this night, I went to the bar, sat down and ordered a drink. I soon found myself in conversation with some strangers. I was like, "Who is this person?" I would NEVER have done something like this before. But I felt so at ease and in the moment.
Unexpectedly, these dates had somehow become catalysts for the rest of my social life. Where I had previously been bored and in a rut, I started to find myself quite busy, with social plans almost every weekend. Even weekdays were filling up with things. I eventually made the decision to stop my Sunday dates. I felt like I'd been successful in achieving the goals for which this ritual had originally been created.
The funny thing is, I'm writing the end of this post seated in a cafe on a Sunday afternoon. I haven't done this in a long time and I have to say, it feels really good! I'm here with my friend but she's doing some work of her own. So basically, we're on a double date with ourselves! Although my social life is now at a place that makes me happy and I don't feel like I'm stuck in the same old routine and living passively, I think there may be some real value in starting up this ritual or some variation of it again. Now that my life has become quite busy, it's more important than ever to schedule time to catch up with me. There's something to be said about alone time spent doing something other than watching TV (oh Netflix, you're so amazing and evil at the same time!) or doing chores. Simply being with and by yourself allows time for reflection, connection and increased self-confidence.
What does your "me time" look like? What is a ritual that you can create to reconnect with you?
I would love to hear your thoughts! Please comment below (if you can't see the comment box, click on the title "Sunday Tea with Me" and it should pop up). You can also connect with me on Instagram @reverie_realized or contact me privately :)