BY: ANGIE PICCIRILLO
Two years ago, I worked in a very corporate environment where it literally took twenty minutes every morning to get into the office. I had to go through valet workers, front desk security, assistants and elevator attendants. Add coffee barista to that list, if I happened to swing by the shop and grab a cup of Joe. I was always guilty of being one of those people who have their nose buried in their phone, checking and responding to emails and texts as if they were life or death situations – which of course, they never were. Admittedly, I was one of those horrible people that would order their grande latte while on the phone, rush to work while ignoring people on the street at all costs, and finally, hand my keys to the valet guy without even acknowledging him.
I’m not blaming technology as the responsibility for my actions. But once I quit that corporate job and started freelancing, I started to notice just how inhumane the human race actually is to one another.
As a child, I was what my mother refers to as a “people collector.” I was the child who always invited the kid without any friends to come hang out with my group of friends. I had lunch with the kid in the wheel chair that everyone else thought was weird. I always befriended any stray animal, amphibian or plant that I would come across. In my unfortunate corporate-ness, I lost sight of that.
The problem is, when we get into our daily routines, we tend to go into tunnel vision mode. We see ourselves as “survivors,” focusing meticulously on checking off tasks that will somehow allow us to make it through a world of rabid zombies, and make it to Saturday morning.
We see ourselves as “survivors,” focusing meticulously on checking off tasks that will somehow allow us to make it through a world of rabid zombies, and make it to Saturday morning.
In the last two years, I’ve taken as many random jobs as I can take in an attempt to figure out where I can be happy, while simultaneously not turning into a predictable corporate A-hole, with a predictable life, who sleeps with their cell phone under their pillow. I was an intern for a celebrity stylist, worked at a fashion PR firm, a portrait photographer, a graphic designer, a music video director, and an unemployed (yet completely rad) individual. While doing this, I became a “people collector” once again.
Now, anywhere I go in my life – because it’s different every day, most of the time – I like to make conversation with the people all around me. Being a “people collector” means asking another person questions about themselves: do they like what they do? How did they get where they are in life? Do they have a dog, or any children? What do they fight for, what makes them get out of bed in the morning? Are they trying to make money for a sick parent, to get custody of a stepchild, to buy land and own a llama farm, or be a famous model? Basically, whatever is it that fuels them, and brings meaning to their life. To be a “people collector,” you have to learn to shut-the-hell-up, stop talking about your own life for five minutes and listen to someone else.
As an unfortunately, sometimes overbearingly, wordy person this is something I have to work at. Once I start listening however, the results are truly astounding. Sometimes you may have very little in common with someone on the surface, but when you really listen to their story, you can find all kinds of things in common – even if it’s just a quick laugh (which we all need more of in life). It also creates a path for all kinds of new adventures to occur.
I often go to concerts, art openings, fashion events and other things completely alone – something that tons of people are terrified of doing. But because I’m a “people collector,” I know that I’ll make a new friend when I get there. Some of my greatest friends are people I’ve met in line for the first time at concerts, hung out with for the two-hour show, and then stayed in touch with afterwards.
Most of the time, any of my close friends who get invited to whatever “event” I’m attending, are usually somewhat mystified as to how I meet people. They often ask, “Wait, so how do you know this guy?” which I follow with a convoluted introduction. My collections of Facebook and Instagram friends are some of the most interesting people I’ve ever come across. From a kid who can spray paint amazing street murals to a real Victoria’s Secret model – I met these people by reaching out and investing in human stories. I would have never met them, had I not made an effort to look up from my phone.
Being a “people collector” puts the “human” back in “humanity.” It forces you to take your blinders off and actually see people for who they are. You have to throw out the things that separate us, like race, financial status, age, gender, and most importantly, judgment. You have to actually want to know about people, and you certainly cannot judge them for their reasons for doing things in life – just as you’d hope they wouldn’t judge you.
You have to actually want to know about people, and you certainly cannot judge them for their reasons for doing things in life – just as you’d hope they wouldn’t judge you.
I encourage everyone to try “people collecting” as a way of exploring the human race. Trust me, you’ll probably meet some interesting people who will brighten up your day, or maybe even change the way you think. Next time you get your car towed and you’re sitting with the driver, or get stuck in an elevator with a stranger, or even when you’re just standing in line to get coffee – look up from your damn phone and explore someone else’s life for a moment. Be open and just listen. Make friends and gather stories – be a “people collector.”