I often look at the ground when I’m walking. This has little to do with self-confidence. Some might argue, instead that, despite my hunched posture, I am actually over-confident. I attribute this quirk largely to the fact that I spend most of the day deeply engrossed in my own thoughts. I recently took the Enneagram personality test, and was planted firmly in the 5 group, also known as The Investigator (look it up, I’m totally and completely a 5, for better or worse). One of the qualities of Investigators is the propensity to be so enveloped in one’s own thoughts and imagination that they are oblivious to the world around them. For one so invigorated by solo pontificating, life in an over-crowded city can be exhausting, so to combat the constant presence of so many people, I look down all the time. Or sit on a train with my ipod blasting and my eyes shut. For these moments, I create an alternate reality: one where I’m peacefully alone. In fact, I just spent 12 hours this weekend on a bus completely content to have a solid excuse to sit and think for several uninterrupted hours. Aside from the smell of charter bus and slight motion-related nausea, I was a happy little introvert.
Unfortunately, this habit makes it too easy to divorce myself from the world, to lose connection with other humans. At my best, I am a lovely pensive soul. At my worst, I’m a curmudgeonly hermit.
I find it difficult to make eye contact with strangers. If eyes are the windows to one’s soul, I prefer to keep the shutters closed. This is why I am such a terrible flirt. The profound vulnerability that can transpire from a locked-eye gaze with a stranger has the possibility of being met with utter rejection, so that too might explain my downward fixation. I remember telling a good friend awhile back about a series of great dates I had just gone on, and that nervous feeling I got when I paused to think of that particular male companion. He asked me if I was too nervous to make eye contact for fear that he might detect my interest. It really irritates me when friends are able to figure me out so easily. I suddenly realize I’m never as mysterious as I think I am.
“Yes! I said “it terrifies me to think of it.”
I tabled the issue for visits to my future therapist.
Until this evening. I was traipsing down the street on my way home this evening when I happened to look up at the exact moment a rather good-looking man locked eyes with mine as we passed. It was purely by accident that our eyes met. We held our gaze as we crossed the sidewalk and an interesting thing happened: he smiled, and my stomach flipped. This was not a long moment, lasting only a few fleeting seconds, but it nearly stopped me in my tracks. This stranger penetrating my force-field of solitude was, dare I say, a bit thrilling? Another friend of mine once told me about an article she read that surveyed people to discovered a trend that more people fall in love in a park than any other public place. Something about the countenance just make people more open and relaxed (I have no clue if science backs this claim, but just go with it). People walk less hurried, scowl much less and carry themselves with a slight air of cheeriness. That day I had a great idea that I never capitalized on, one that I was reminded of today after my 3-second tryst: I probably should walk everywhere as if I am strolling through the park.