When I lived in California, I spent my days with teenagers, attempting to convince them that finding the zeros of a polynomial function was a worthwhile endeavor. From there, I went to Toronto, where I spent my days primarily burying my nose in a book or computer screen. Some of you might consider that a step up, feeling that spending that much time with teenagers makes Sartes’ famous line, ‘Hell is other people,” make a lot of sense. And in one sense, maybe it does. But what I didn't realize going into a new setting was how much of a step down it would also be for me.

That’s not to say that I regret going to Toronto and taking on more studying. My change of lifestyle helped me to realize how much I value spending a good chunk of my days with people (or teenagers, which are almost people). My time in working on this degree was largely isolated. Circumstances often made it hard to make connections even when I could. Despite studying theology, I don’t often like the way it’s analyzed. Being surrounded by a theological environment of people in their element made me feel on the outside which intensified my experience of being in a foreign country.

And frankly, I’m not particularly good at forging relationships. I’m an introvert, and I spent a good chunk of my time as a kid uncertain of what to do in social situations—freezing or doing nothing—which left me off to the side and never really learning some of those instinctive things we all are supposed to pick up about how to build bridges with people and form community. I've learned quite a lot since then, but old habits die hard. I can think of various circumstances where I rejected opportunities for connection because my social skills are middling at best, and the concept made me too anxious to move. I think for many people, disconnection, in the short run, feels better than fear. Problem is, neither one is particularly good in the long run.

If nothing else, being in Toronto demonstrated to me that no matter how introverted I am, I probably need people more than I feel like I do in any given moment. The alternative is sort of a flattened life, a state of just going through the days in a dull, almost lifeless way. Not that I should be surprised at that. For the Hebrews, to be isolated or separated from their people was a curse. It was the worst thing that could happen. Scientists today argue that human beings are by leaps and bounds the most social creatures on Earth. God designed us to be in community. He fully intended for us to connect with each other. Whether or not I’m mediocre at connecting doesn't change how God wired me.

So here I am in a new city, original country, different circumstances. I’m still in the midst of those studies, but maybe with different options. I’m hoping God will provide some opportunities to foster connections in ways that I know how to work with. I need people. Or teenagers. They can sometimes do.