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  • Writer's pictureSiria Contreras

Keeping the World Small

Years ago, I used to love the closing line that one of my ex-colleagues, now a good friend, used to include as the closing of his correspondence with me and likely others.

“Let’s keep the world small.”

This signature line always made me smile.

Along the lines of “don’t be a stranger”, it also represented collaborations, partnerships, ideas, and being part of defining what was next. It also meant community--a word that has been a constant in my life. I’ve often been called a community-builder, however most of my community-building has been a bit unintentional. I tend to be good at building and maintaining friendships easily, and somehow those that I bring into my world understand that I can be busy and that I won’t always answer my phone, but I will get back to them. One of the things that I became aware of though quite some time is the power of bringing people together and that I had an ability to not only intro them to each other, but to get them collaborating towards a common goal.

I’ve shared in the past that in many ways, I am careful and considerate as to what I call upon people for as I never want to lead them down a doomed path or something that I won’t follow through on. I’m very lucky as most of those in my world are always quick to say yes to at the very least meeting up to hear an idea of mine. I don’t actually share even a quarter of my ideas broadly as I tend to stick to those that I know I will bring to fruition before I involve anyone. I know that I can get people excited to participate in something even when it’s not yet entirely defined, yet I try not to do this until I myself am ready to commit to the idea. That is what keeps people saying yes. This, if you haven’t learned it yet, is very important for professional relationships as well as conducting business.

“Keeping the world small” has of course served me well, yet one of the things that I realized, especially in the last year, is that I actually like to “keep my world large”. I never want to run out of new people to meet, new places to see, new cultures to learn about, new authors to explore, new music to listen to, new films to watch, or finding new ways of doing things. I’m fine with change and new, of course I like my tried and true as well and will always have a fondness of that from the past, but new or rather “new-to-me” is good too.

There was a time in my early twenties to my early thirties that I was starting to feel like anytime I left my home I was constantly running into someone I knew either from my professional world or from my music nightlife side and while it was nice to see familiar faces constantly, I really wondered how a city (Los Angeles) with nearly four million residents could feel so small. If I traveled to New York or Austin, the same thing was starting to happen--or I’d meet new people in new places, who knew some of the others in my circles, once again making my world small. Funny enough, I wasn’t on this trip, but a good friend and his wife were traveling in Iceland during a film festival and went off to explore for a bit, meeting by happen-stance another person who became a good friend of mine that I’d met in a completely unrelated way and I ended up having both become a part of Consciously Studio, not knowing that they had met in the past in such an interesting way--interesting as they were both living in L.A. beach cities and had never met there, but it took traveling internationally amongst thousands of other people to cross paths only to be brought together later again by me. This is an example of some of those constant interesting moments in my life that start with my world being large, later becoming quite small again.

One of my favorite digital activations of last year was the Window-Swap project, which via user-submitted views of their own windows from various countries and cities you were able to get a new view of someone else’s window. I liked it for its simplicity and the quiet power behind this simple exercise. There is nothing else about the owner of the view or even the location, just the view for you to take in like a work of art, leaving you to imagine what the life of the person who looks out at that view each day is like and what life in that city or town might also be like. Some of the views are in countries experiencing tremendous tumult and their citizens great duress, however when you look out the window all you really feel is peace and if you’re of the more curious variety of humans, perhaps a sense of wonder. Even this experience is one of taking a large world and making it small again. Even if you haven’t visited one of the locations whose views are featured at the time that you visit the site (the views and cities change constantly) if anyone is speaking about say, Kviv, Ukraine you will at least have this memory of having looked out a window onto that location should anyone reference it in conversation. In a way, while not having physically travelled there, you have been there in a way that encyclopedias, postcards, and even Google image results could never quite as effectively transport you.

One of the biggest wins if we call it that, which is how I do see it, of this pandemic is that it tethered all of of us and made us more accessible than ever for the most part. It didn’t matter who you were, your social status, your occupation, nor your location the inability to travel or for most to even go into the office, film set, music stage, etc. to work and instead we all were forced to adapt to “working” from home, gave us all back hours typically lost to commuting, in-person socializing, and other out-in-the-world activities that are usually the schedule blockers that keep us inaccessible. This past year, I’m willing to bet that you probably actually spent some quality time, much more than usual, with family, friends, and long-lost acquaintances from all over the world? International communications felt even easier than ever. If we took out those actually responsible for fortifying international relations on an official country-by-country scale, I would go as far as to say that this pandemic actually did some of its own uniting of the nations and improving international dialogue at least among the citizens of the world. Will it be enough to drive any real change? We’ll all find out together.

My own daily interactions while they have for many years included the international, have also become quite fun when it comes to asking everyone on video calls where they are based at the moment. We had an uber-talented young musical artist joining us from Hong Kong on Friday, and my call before that had, aside from those of us all over the U.S., folks in Amsterdam, Germany, Portugal, Puerto Rico, and Poland. That is the new everyday norm and I’m definitely here for it.

Don’t be fooled, I still quite enjoy being inaccessible sometimes, or often, the truth is pandemic or no pandemic I will likely always be a bit busier than most, it’s what I need personally, but sometimes my inaccessibility is due to me blocking out much needed time for me, myself, and I.

My ways of being inaccessible are sometimes small--i.e. I’m terrible at answering my phone, I would say (and in all fairness, it’s true) that I’m almost always on mute as I’m in meetings most of the day, however I have always not been a big phone person. Unless you’re a member of my immediate family, a really good friend of mine, we work together, or we’re in a relationship I’m probably not going to answer my phone. I much prefer text messages. If you email me, I’ll get back to you faster than if you DM me on Instagram or PM me on Facebook. This, I think all started back when my world was feeling small and I didn’t want to be as accessible.

I sometimes also just need the world to just consist of me and music and scenic views.

My love of solo road trips is one haven that even during the pandemic, I’ve found ways to still embark on safely, opting for short day trips where I can disconnect from the rest of the world and technology for a bit. While daytime is great, I actually much prefer driving in the stillness of night with sometimes loud music,--but don’t worry, I don’t do those as often, as I know that, unfortunately traveling as a woman alone in unknown areas may not be the wisest, but that’s another write-up for another day. I don’t mind roadtrips with others, ideally just one or two other people max, as I’m likely one of the easiest people to travel with, but I really very much love my time on my own in my car with nothing else to distract me but good music. These moments can be examples of making the world really small, but in actuality I might notice my surroundings even more and it gives me a new appreciation for both new and old routes.

While the idea of making my world small might make me cringe at times, that is in actuality what is needed to continue to drive change and/or recalibrate the world at large as well as various industries. However, it is that larger world perspective and how small adjustments affect everything on a global scale that we should not lose sight of as we all come together to build, rebuild, innovate, and pave new paths forward.


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