Sunday Lifestyle

On becoming a people person

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE - Jim Paredes - The Philippine Star

I can finally say that I am a people person.

I wasn’t born like this. For years, I was extremely shy and had such a hard time taking the initiative to join a group activity, start a conversation or make a friendship. I was a lonely introvert who felt happy and functional mostly in one-on-one situations, or in the company of really close friends and family.

Growing up, I kept most of my teenage angst to myself,  maybe sharing just a little with my girlfriends. I might say I was a serious, brooding, moody and withdrawn person when I was young.

Even when I was already performing with APO, I felt uneasy being recognized on the street and praised, even if, admittedly, I craved the approbation. If you went up to me in the early years and told me how much you liked something I had done, I would have seriously considered the possibility that you were greasing up to me to sell me something.

I suffered from being insecure, and at times felt incapable of being content and at peace with myself. I was my own most vicious critic. I knew how to beat myself up and I did it often. Little did I know that behind that inner tempest was a laboratory that was cooking up something.

It took me a while to find out what it was until one day, I realized that I was probably on my way to becoming an artist. An artist — yes, a title conferred by the world upon many people I admired. I initially recoiled at the thought, thinking that I must be suffering from a great self-delusion, megalomania or a grandiosity complex. It took a few more years before I could accept it beyond intellectual understanding to an emotional one. And once I did, I pushed myself to become a fairly competent artist.

My journey to self-acceptance was slow but it led me to a place that became increasingly comfortable as I traveled on. The deeper I went into the woods, the more I began to feel more at home with myself. Things felt right. I even began to see that what I perceived as my faults and imperfections were part of my character that somehow brought an identity to my work.

And as I became more accepting of myself, I began to be more accepting of others and started to enjoy the company of more diverse kinds of people. I ventured out of the comfort zone of my usual circle of friends in show business and cultivated intimate friendships with other kinds of people that I could not have done before. When I learned to let go of a lot of my self-absorption and began to listen, I felt even more creative as an artist.

I began to enjoy my music and performances more and more as I watched people enjoy them. My growing confidence in my chosen field led me to writing, which I have been doing for more than a decade now. I also got into teaching in a university and conducting workshops.

I can describe the process I went through as something  of a “creative opening” or an “awakening.” I learned to trust my intuition more and I was eager to share my work with other people.

Looking back, since then, I have been riding a streak of creativity which ebbs and flows, but has not stopped. I feel that I have tapped into the energy of the universe and I have that power to “drink the Pacific Ocean in one gulp,” to borrow a Zen imagery.

All these things have made opening myself to others and allowing them into my world a most pleasurable experience. I have lost nothing by doing it. In fact, I have gained so much by meeting others and listening to their stories. 

I actually hold dinners for people I do not know. I call these events Passion Nights where I ask strangers over to talk about themselves as the evening unravels.

There is no one out there who does not have a story to tell and I try to look at every person I meet as the bringer of a message, a lesson or an interaction that may have been divinely planned. Some of them will speak clearly and some will be vague and enigmatic. The encounters do not all have to be pleasant or agreeable, but they may be part of some higher purpose that is beyond my understanding.

Am I denying my private space by allowing people access to my thoughts and ideas? Have I become someone who merely plays for the crowd? Have I become addicted to engagement, like a politician who must feel the approval of the masses to feel validated? These are questions that I ask myself and the answer is no! I can retreat into my cave when I need solace. I do not associate being alone with loneliness.

What every artist eventually does is reach out to an audience to show his or her work. One cannot conceive of a world, of any art itself, much less create it, and keep it locked away from possible criticism or praise. Eventually, all art must be released into the world. Heck, even the platypus and the proboscis monkey saw life!

There is saying that goes, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I believe that when a person has found what he or she wishes to say, an audience will be there to listen.

And that is how, in a convoluted way, I have evolved into a people person.










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