Put away your phones for a while and make true connections


Living with my aunt in Curaçao for a year was unforgettable. She’s an incredible woman who is fearless with her black belt in Taekwondo. On the surface, she seemed to have everything together, but actually, she was very forgetful and surely didn’t like to be reminded of it.

It was tough to keep from laughing when she lost her keys yet again. She eventually tagged them with a label, which helped, but everything needed labels because she lost things constantly. When she blamed theft for her missing jewelry, thinking someone had broken in through her window, I found it hard to believe.

One night, after we went to bed a bit on edge, I was woken by her scream: “MONIQUE, MONIQUE!!” Realizing an uninvited guest was in the house, I immediately opened the window and screamed to alert the neighbors. My aunt chased the thief, who was having the worst night of his life, but fortunately for him, she didn’t catch him. And by the way, none of the neighbors woke up despite my screaming…

My aunt often got lost driving from A to B, sometimes passing the same spot multiple times. Once, during one of those frustrating trips, she accidentally hit her head against the closed window while trying to look outside. I could not stop laughing sitting next to a very angry aunt. Sometimes, we’d come home to find she’d locked us out, leaving her keys inside. One time she asked me to climb through a small window three meters off the ground. When I refused, she tried herself, got stuck, and had to be rescued by the neighbors. It was hilarious, and we laughed so much we had belly aches the next day. These misadventures helped her connect with many people who became true friends.

Little did I know that I had inherited her seed of chaos. When I had to stand on my own feet after leaving Curaçao, I found myself in similar situations, often forgetting things and spacing out. I’ve since developed strong routines and rely heavily on navigation tools and my phone to stay organized. If my aunt would have had access to a smartphone or home cameras, her life might have been easier but less fun.

Nowadays, many things distract us from living connected lives. Modern technology, while beneficial, has also taken us captive. People including myself are addicted to their phones, which can add a lot but can also take away from life’s spontaneous moments. John Cleese’s character in the film “Clockwise” would have loved digital technology, right?

Experiencing situations firsthand, like being stranded in the middle of the jungle without gasoline, is scary but a great opportunity to fully depend on a stranger. Differences in opinion or background do not matter then. I believe that connections forged under such circumstances are resilient and can take a blow. Nowadays many things can polarize even the best of friends. Which is heartbreaking, if you ask me.

I hope that we can consciously focus on forging true connections amongst each other, especially in these turbulent times. Go old school and put away your phones for a while and see what happens, you might find laughter, fun, and new stories to tell.

Sometimes you meet people who don’t rely heavily on modern technology in their daily lives. People that thrive on pure connections, making their days meaningful. I have the privilege of knowing a hand full of such people in my life, who do not allow for distractions in whatever shape or form to compromise true connections. These people are intriguing and warm. Without knowing they give the lives of many people a silver lining.

Monique Bruining is Managing Director ICMS. The views expressed in this column are her own.

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