I first heard about Jessica Pan’s book just recently, when she spoke to Emma Gannon on one of my favourite podcasts, Ctrl Alt Delete. They discussed Jessica’s introverted nature and her challenge to overcome some of her habits that were holding her back. As someone who really identified with what they was saying, I immediately ordered the book and have had the pleasure of kickstarting my reading for the year with this brilliant title.
Finding herself lonely in London, her friends now living their own lives miles away, the book follows Jessica’s year of living dangerously in an attempt to make new human connections. This is exactly my kind of non-fiction experience – accessible, informative, funny. Jessica Pan writes openly about her own experiences but I never felt like she was being preachy at any point. I would say there is a lot of self-help advice offered but not in bullet-points or how-to guides, simply just through the advice the author is given and how she benefits from this information. What I enjoyed was that this advice was received from multiple sources – sometimes friends, sometimes professionals – so Jessica certainly wasn’t claiming to be an expert on the topic, and was merely sharing some of the tips that had so clearly worked out for her.
She also shares the moments that don’t work out for her – failed friend-dates and awkward conversation starters that made me as a reader cringe and cover my face. I particularly appreciated the sharing of the Budapest trip – at one point Jessica books herself on a “blind holiday” experience, leaving the location and details up to a company, in a bid to push the limits of her comfort zone. The holiday ends up being a bit of a flop, and I liked that there were examples of things going wrong. Even exciting adventures don’t work out sometimes, and that’s ok.
“There is no fail… Do it or don’t do it.”
– Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come
I understood a lot of the feelings Jessica experienced, but I also sometimes thought “I used to do that but I don’t anymore”. It’s clear I’ve been on my own journey too, and I’ll be using some of Jessica’s advice to further my own happiness and make sure I am connecting with people in an authentic and human way. It was really encouraging to see how simply striking up conversation with a stranger led to creating memories and friendships. I mean, the advice is so obvious but I feel we don’t want to believe that just talking to people is how you make friends. If you don’t put yourself out there a little then you aren’t creating moments to connect.
I’m in my 20s and I’ve had to make new friendships too as my childhood friends started moving away – luckily the geek community is amazing for connecting introverts, but I can see how it must be hard for people who aren’t part of clubs or groups already. I think the book is a small triumph for introverts, and I expect that for Jessica, putting her embarrassing moments into a book that she went on to promote is one of the most scary and extroverted things you can possibly do. Like offering a bunch of strangers your diary to read.
I couldn’t recommend this book enough, whether you identify as an introvert, an extrovert, or somewhere in the murky waters in-between, you will learn a thing or two about communication and how we could all benefit from challenging our comfort zones from time to time.