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We're Lacking Intimacy, and What We Can Do To Fix It

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Do you ever just watch people and wonder about them? In common terms it's called people watching, but for me I like to really take a look at someone and wonder where they've been, what their life has been like, and where they want to go.

It's fun to think about. It would be even more fun if I got the courage to just go up and ask them. It's kind of like what the Humans Of New York person does. Getting lost in the life story of a stranger is something that stops me dead in my tracks. It gives me a whole lot of purpose.

I talked with an older woman next to me on a plane about my parents. I got off the phone after telling them I loved them, and something about it struck her. She talked to me about her Mom, and how she died, and how she misses her so much. She told me to pay close attention to the time I spend talking to those I love. What a great lesson to learn early at 23 years old.

She was on her way to the Bahamas, and it was the first time she'd been on a plane since forty years ago, when she had her children. She told me that having kids changes everything, and that your whole life becomes about them in an instant. I was really enjoying our talk.

That's why I'm traveling--because I know that when I do settle down it's over. I want to show my kids the world too, but I also want them to live in a structured environment where they can be comfortable. I want them to someday have as much curiosity about the world as I do now. But that's another story.

In a world of "How are you," and "What's up," I managed to discover two invaluable life lessons from an older lady in a matter of five minutes. Then I thought about the last time I had a conversation with a stranger like that. I thought about the last time I really pushed the boundaries in a talk with my best friends. I really wasn't. I had fallen victim to the "What's up" pitfall--barely scratching the surface.

A few months ago my best friend (I have a few) came back to Florida to visit his family. He asked me if there was any way he could see me while he was down since I hadn't seen him in almost two years. I told him I would come drive to see him. I was very excited.

After basically two years of failing him as a friend with "What's up," we managed to have many amazing conversations about love, society, and even reincarnation. We picked up immediately where we left off. Every time we get together there's always a deeper conversation to be had.

And that's where we, myself included, fail each other on a daily basis.

We fail each other because nothing of value is spoken about anymore. We're all just too busy, and when we're not busy all we want to do is watch a movie because the day was so difficult. It's understandable. I'm the biggest culprit--I can't stress this enough.

The other day I got to meet an entrepreneur named Miki Agrawal. She's spearheading the female hygiene industry with a company called THINX, which makes period-proof underwear for women. It's an incredible company led by an equally incredible woman.

I actually don't even know if I should call it the female hygiene industry. It sounds so robotic. Look, she wants to help you with your period, okay? In a market that's only seen three breakthroughs' in the last hundred years, I honestly think she's on to something.

I'm mentioning THINX because Miki has been a favorite author of mine for a long time. She wrote a book called Do Cool Sh*t a few years back, and she's who inspired me to go on a road trip and take risks in my life. Read the book.

I met Miki in the Bay Area on her THINX Taboo Tour. She had a panel of interesting women with her at a spot downtown, and I swear I was one of maybe four or five guys in the room. I could feel the sweat dripping down my forehead because I felt super out of place. I get very shy sometimes guys. Introvert here. But I stayed and I can't tell you how happy I am that I did.

Right there, that night, this amazing panel of women in front of me started talking about deeply personal stories and issues facing our society today. It was beautiful. I was captivated.

I slowly started to inch forward to the front of the room more and more. Finally, people were being vulnerable in front of each other. Finally, there was honesty.

It was a beautiful few hours, and I'll never regret staying in that room for one moment.

Why aren't we like this?

Why can't we be vulnerable with each other and take the time to really learn about what's affecting each other deep down to the core? We all want to be understood. I think we all want somebody to be courageous enough to knock down our walls without us asking them to.

That's what best friends are for.

I call this intimacy. I mean, anybody would call it that, but I feel like intimacy is a word we only associate with sex or something.

Intimacy. It's what I look for everywhere I go. I could be more interested in a conversation with a stranger if we're talking about the right things than a conversation with a great friend if we're talking about the wrong ones. But it's my fault for not bringing up the right things.

Our lives are dominated by communication. Texting was just brought onto the scene a decade or so ago. Ever since then we've been able to talk to each other ALL THE TIME, non-stop. I think it's because of this that we don't value communication anymore. Even when we're hanging out with our best friends we're on the phone texting others. Ugh. Put the phone down. Let's talk about how you grew up, and what it was like when you got your first pet, and what it was like when you had to say goodbye to them years later when they died.

I'm so sick of "What's up." I'm so sick of people being afraid to lay their cards on the table and talk about interesting things. Miki smacked me upside the head with this realization the other day. We aren't as intimate as we should be.

She told us that the best things to talk about are also the things that society tells us we shouldn't be talking about. What's taboo. Like periods.

Like what's hurting us, or what has hurt us, or what we're afraid is going to hurt us in the future. How we're scared to death of saying goodbye to our parents, or having a child, or getting married. All of these things.

I'm not saying you need to pour your heart out to every stranger you see. I'm saying that we simply need to be more deliberate with what we're saying to our friends. Let's become more vulnerable. Let's speak on issues that really interest us. Let's not be afraid.

And how do you do it? Just internalize the fact that we're all here with one common desire: to be heard. We all just want to be understood. We all want to have a magic moment with someone else where we feel like they're going through what we're going through too, and we end up feeling less alone in what can be a very cold world.

Intimacy will make this world better in the end. It'll make you feel better, and it will make somebody else feel better as well.

Take time to realize that we don't have much of it. We don't have time to be fake. Let's be more real with each other instead.

Tom is a regular contributor at the Huffington Post. You can follow him on his Facebook page, or take a look at his blog for more of his writing.

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