There will always be an infinite number of good reasons to stay in at night.
Because the party seems lame. Because you’re tired after a long week of work. Because the possibility of this night turning into one that you talk about for months or years to come seems so impossibly small and you’re done being tirelessly optimistic about it all. Nothing new ever happens and nobody interesting ever shows up and you can see how it’s all going to end before it even begins. So you might as well stay home. You might as well relax into what you can be sure will be another mediocre night in your apartment. You have Netflix. And that’s all you need.
There’s nothing wrong with staying in now and then. We all need our down time and we all need our space. But the problem is when it becomes a pattern. Staying in. Checking out. Choosing certainty over uncertainty and forgetting to let chance into our lives.
We want excitement but we never seem to want to leave the house. We want change but we can’t be bothered changing from pajamas. We want lives that are varied and full but we choose comfort at each opportunity. We blame our lives for staying stagnant. And we blame them from the comfort of our living room couch.
I’m not arguing that one night out is going to turn your whole life around – not at all. I’ve been out enough times to know how it will go – your friend Shannon will drag you out to that party. You’ll be the only single person there. You’ll pour a drink, refrain from outwardly scowling and count the hours until you can retire. Worst-case scenario, you’ll be trapped in the corner talking to someone’s mind-numbing cousin named Anne. Best-case scenario, you will spend an hour talking to some impossibly cute guy named Jimmy whose girlfriend is working tonight. Shannon will take home her boyfriend. You will take home yourself.
It takes more than one night for your life to start happening. But here’s the thing: It takes that first party where you don’t know anyone to get to the party where you do. It takes that first forced conversation with a stranger to start the process of making a new friend. It takes more than one or two nights where you’re grumpy and out of your comfort zone to build a life that fully thrives inside of it. You can’t avoid those necessary evils. Not if you want to build a life that doesn’t take place entirely between the confines of your own apartment. Not if you want it to progress.
Because here’s the thing about those little interactions that seem so arbitrary – they resurface when you least expect it.
Maybe eight months from now you’re out of work. Maybe Shannon posts a “Help Wanted” ad to your Facebook wall. Maybe Anne sees it. Maybe she knows someone who’s looking to hire in your field. Maybe in that half hour of dull conversation you shared over lukewarm beer, she learned something about you that impressed her. Maybe she scores you that interview. Maybe it lands you the job.
Maybe two years from now you’re sitting in a coffee shop trying to sort out a project from work and Jimmy walks in and you both give each other that quizzical ‘Don’t I know you’ head tilt. Maybe he approaches your table and after a few moments of fumbling awkwardly through possible mutual friends, you both proclaim, “Shannon,” and share a knowing laugh. Maybe he pulls up a chair. Maybe he tells you about what he’s been up to and the beautiful girlfriend doesn’t seem to be in the picture. Maybe he gets your number. Maybe four dates later he doesn’t feel like much of a stranger anymore.
Maybe no single night turns our lives around. Maybe nine times out of ten, we do nothing exciting, meet no one important and make no memories that are really worth remembering. But maybe one out of ten times we do.
Maybe one time out of ten we meet someone extraordinary. Maybe one time out of ten we stumble across a new opportunity. Maybe one out of every ten times we go home with starry eyes and open hearts after a truly incredible night with the people who honestly matter. And maybe that one time makes each of the nine duds before it seem worthwhile. Makes us glad we pushed through. Makes us glad we didn’t pack it in at quiet night number seven.
Chances are, this won’t be the best night of your life. Chances are you’ll come home at midnight, vaguely angry that you wasted the last of your lipstick and consumed 500 calories of beer that you cannot get back. But that’s the thing about your life – it isn’t meant to be a series of instant gratifications. It builds on itself and that building happens slowly. It happens each time we say ‘Yes’ when we’d honestly rather say ‘No.’
Maybe your life won’t explode into beautiful, untamed chaos by the time the clock strikes 12 but maybe it doesn’t have to. Maybe each night is not an end in itself but a small stepping stone that eventually moves you toward a bigger, better life. One that is fuller and richer and wilder than you ever expected it to be, because you kept welcoming change in, even when it seemed easier not to.
We think that one night isn’t enough to make a difference – but we’re wrong.
One night might make a whole world of difference.
But it definitely won’t if you spend it alone on your couch.