By: Ali Schofield
Sometimes opportunity knocks but you don’t want to answer the door.
I’m a very social person who always needs to be part of an active community. Don’t get me wrong–I love my alone time too but I have a strong need to be around deep thinkers, debaters and problem-solvers. Coming to Toronto from Dubai, where I’d been for 13 years; I’d grown used to attending so many different events, numerous times a week. It was a vibrant lifestyle where you could easily meet like-minded and inspiring people.
I immediately found Toronto a bit of a “cold” city in comparison. Most people seem to disappear into their homes after work and socializing on weekdays doesn’t really seem to be a thing. This makes it quite hard to meet new friends. Luckily, one day I ventured out to an amazing talk at the Harbourfront Centre-not having been there before-and I happened to meet Muryani there. She and I seemed to get on like a house-on-fire right away! I could see she was a fascinating person that I definitely wanted to get to know. One thing I should tell you about Muryani is that she is a super-connecter and a seasoned networker. Before we’d even left the event, she had already exchanged contact details with all of the people we were chatting with and she even booked a meet-up the following week! Soon after, she sent out an invite for an event she was organizing. Of course, I went to that event with bells on (desperately happy to have somewhere to go and people to talk to!). I was amazed at how she’d managed to pull together such a fabulous evening of storytelling and networking AND with really interesting people! Once the pandemic hit, she hosted another online event that was just as outstanding. I could see that she had a great vision and the kind of talent it takes to bring people together.
Back in my corner of town, I still wasn’t having much luck branching out or meeting many other interesting people, aside from my Uber-drivers. More and more, I started noticing the large number of people that were eating alone at restaurants. I kept hearing neighbours tell me they were lonely in Toronto and that they weren’t sure if it was the place for them. I think this was the story I kept telling myself and somehow it seemed to be mirrored right back at me. I was feeling isolated and started to notice everyone else around me seemed to be lonely too. How could things be different, I wondered? It seemed like there were so many people here trying to find their tribe! I continued scouring all kinds of events and activities-looking for places where like-minded humans might be hiding. Even after going to a few more lukewarm events, there still seemed to be no further signs of life…anywhere!
I went on to complain to my friends across the globe about my sorry situation here. They kept telling me to stop whining and instead, do something about it. Secretly, I just wanted to burrow under a blanket. Why should I always have to create new things? I’m already a busy social entrepreneur! Honestly, I just want to finish my work at the end of the day then get out to some already-organized events where I can relax and meet other like-minded people authentically. That was the ideal plan! Why should I stretch myself any further than that?
One day, after meeting with Muryani again over coffee, we talked about her events and how powerfully engaging they were. I said she really had to continue doing them-they were just so outstanding. Then, she asked me if I wanted to help her organize them. Even though I hadn’t at all seen myself taking on anything extra, something inside me said, “Just do it!” I just knew I had to do this with her, all signs were pointing straight at me! I actually felt a surge of energy for this new opportunity–a chance to co-create a new community and solve a problem that many other people here are facing – not just me. After we came up with our name and our brand, I felt aligned and dare I say…inspired?
Sometimes in life, you might just find that your biggest problem can become a beautiful opportunity. Remember though, you just have to be willing to open that door when you hear the knocking.
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