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I thought of the idea of buying a cooking class to get around more people and possibly make friends or at least learn how to cook so that I could make my own food.

The thing is that it seems all the cooking classes in my area are for couples? Like all the reviews say about how their were 4 couples at their class and the classes have tags like “Asian food” “couples” “dating” etc. I wonder if I could go by myself I noticed that all the classes currently have an even number of people signed up as if people are signing up in pairs. Also I don’t know anything about cooking and none of the classes say flat out “beginner cooking 101” they all have food themes like sushi or pasta or something and it doesn’t say if there are pre reqs so I’m worried that if I show up that I’ll drag the class behind and the 3 couples will get mad at me. Also I’m worried that if I go with 3 couples they aren’t gonna want to talk to me.
 

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Can you message the person running the class and ask them the things that are on your mind?
I’m not gonna go. The classes are labeled couples and literally none of the classes have an odd number of signups. If I showed up alone then everyone would be annoyed. And I’d probably feel terrible and left out. And besides, it’s small groups of 8 so if i go it’s a group of 7 and I am so awkward and weird that I would ruin 3 couples dates. I just don’t want to deal with any of that.

I’m just going to focus on going to a board game group I found out about a few weeks ago. I will also maybe sign up for a pottery class.
 

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Well if you can find a beginners cooking class that might be a good starting point. You can focus on the cooking instead of socializing and that way slowly get more relaxed.
You really do your best to put yourself out there man, you can be proud of your efforts, your luck will change you deserve it.
 

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Uhh I kind of hate to say this but here’s my honest experience:

A couple years ago, my therapist at the time suggested I go to a cooking class/demo. It was a small class at the local co-op. So I paid like 20$ to get in.

It was on a Saturday. I was feeling nervous, obviously because of SA. I went in and most people were already there sitting in pairs or small groups. I found a seat next to two middle aged women friends. We made some small talk but the class was mostly focused on watching the cook at the front cook.

My point here is that it wasn’t, at least in my experience, a good way to make friends. But maybe if you found a class that was repeating every week that could work. It’s just the problem was that people there already were with people they knew. This experience makes me question if therapists give good advice regarding making friends.
 

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I think probably some kind of game club would be better. You're not necessarily going to be socialising at a cooking class because the point is learning how to cook.

Edit: nevermind I see you already brought that up.
 

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Uhh I kind of hate to say this but here’s my honest experience:

A couple years ago, my therapist at the time suggested I go to a cooking class/demo. It was a small class at the local co-op. So I paid like 20$ to get in.

It was on a Saturday. I was feeling nervous, obviously because of SA. I went in and most people were already there sitting in pairs or small groups. I found a seat next to two middle aged women friends. We made some small talk but the class was mostly focused on watching the cook at the front cook.

My point here is that it wasn’t, at least in my experience, a good way to make friends. But maybe if you found a class that was repeating every week that could work. It’s just the problem was that people there already were with people they knew. This experience makes me question if therapists give good advice regarding making friends.
You raise the most important point of looking for activities that repeat every week. To be honest, I think expectations of immediately getting social into the social mix in your first visit, especially if you have social anxiety, are too far optimistic. It would be disappointing if therapists don't manage your expectations. Instead, usually as you keep going, not only will you have more chances of incidentally opening up to people, but you'll be a more familiar face and part of the "community" - especially considering how most people just come and go. [edit]To emphasise this, if it was an ongoing activity instead of a one off, I myself wouldn't be pushing at all to make friends during the first visit, and stead would expect this time to just be comfortable with the class itself.

As someone who hasn't had therapy, I'm highly skeptical of them based on experiences I hear from people like yourself. But regardless, from a social anxiety development perspective, going there was probably challenging enough for you. Congratulations on giving it a go.

There do exist activities that do naturally mix people up as part of the activity dynamics regardless of who you came in with. But the range of activities is very small - and I don't think cooking classes are one of them, unless if the particular class insists on switching partners.

For the majority of activities, the only way to be social is to assert yourself by opening up to people despite the dynamics of the activity. There is also the small window before the class where everyone is waiting to get in, for which you can open up some small talk with some people.
 

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You raise the most important point of looking for activities that repeat every week. To be honest, I think expectations of immediately getting social into the social mix in your first visit, especially if you have social anxiety, are too far optimistic. It would be disappointing if therapists don't manage your expectations. Instead, usually as you keep going, not only will you have more chances of incidentally opening up to people, but you'll be a more familiar face and part of the "community" - especially considering how most people just come and go. [edit]To emphasise this, if it was an ongoing activity instead of a one off, I myself wouldn't be pushing at all to make friends during the first visit, and stead would expect this time to just be comfortable with the class itself.

As someone who hasn't had therapy, I'm highly skeptical of them based on experiences I hear from people like yourself. But regardless, from a social anxiety development perspective, going there was probably challenging enough for you. Congratulations on giving it a go.

There do exist activities that do naturally mix people up as part of the activity dynamics regardless of who you came in with. But the range of activities is very small - and I don't think cooking classes are one of them, unless if the particular class insists on switching partners.

For the majority of activities, the only way to be social is to assert yourself by opening up to people despite the dynamics of the activity. There is also the small window before the class where everyone is waiting to get in, for which you can open up some small talk with some people.
Yeah… I think therapists means well but certain environments aren’t good for meeting friends. I’ve even heard of a story from the site of someone’s therapist suggesting they talk to people at the bus stop to socialize and make friends.
 

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I'd love to go to a cooking class cause I suck at it. I was never really taught to cook by my parents. But yeah it seems like these sorts of things are group activities for friends or family. It would be too uncomfortable to do that sort of thing alone. I'm sorry that didn't work out for you.
 

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Yeah… I think therapists means well but certain environments aren’t good for meeting friends. I’ve even heard of a story from the site of someone’s therapist suggesting they talk to people at the bus stop to socialize and make friends.
Being able to strike conversations at a bus stop is actually a good way to improve your conversational skills. I was doing this every week for the first couple of years into my self-improvement journey. So I know a thing or two in this area – it also got me traveling about, and so flipping my avoidance of people and crowded areas.

However, there’s a huge difference between having a satisfying engaging conversation and wanting to associate with each other beyond that conversation. Hopefully therefore, the therapist acknowledged this difference when making this suggestion.

Overall, I still think joining clubs/ activities as being better for befriending people, but if you have social anxiety then I also think you have to be strategic in how you approach it. And this is where I become skeptical of the skills of therapists.

I’m confident in their ability to explore the therapy aspect and things that fall within their training. But from reading of their help to forum members regarding making friends (which is distinct from exposure therapy), I can’t help feeling their advice is quite… basic and surface-level, and based more on more trial-and-error than a grander strategy.

Just to preface –it may very well be that there some therapists are very good at resolving friend making-issues, perhaps to the extent such patient would never frequent this form. But then, from what I’ve seen on the internet I’m not too inspired, with the advice still looks based more on trial-and-error than a more thought-out approach.

With cooking classes for instance, the therapist would ideally forewarn that social success is unlikely to happen on the first day (and potentially even counter-productive due to the Dunning-Kruger effect) and that a more realistic aim might be just getting comfortable with the dynamics of the class. Or perhaps the therapist can advise on how to overcome obstacles like those said in this thread.

It seems however that therapists actually say little more beyond going to the activity, make an effort being social, and hope for the best. This advice can easily be aimed at the average person. Unfortunately, for SA folk, it’s not enough to simply be within the vicinity of other people, or even sharing a common interest, and hoping that’s enough. If a therapist fails to even acknowledge these differences, let alone provide solutions, I’d understand that being disappointing.

For most activities, chances of an SA person being social successful largely depend on either blind luck, or already having average socialising skills. But again, there are a small number of specific activities that, depending on how you approach them, would not only be more inviting but would also enable social development. I usually recommend these, as the SA person can then transfer the attained skills towards other activities more suited to their personal interests.
 

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Being able to strike conversations at a bus stop is actually a good way to improve your conversational skills. I was doing this every week for the first couple of years into my self-improvement journey. So I know a thing or two in this area – it also got me traveling about, and so flipping my avoidance of people and crowded areas.

However, there’s a huge difference between having a satisfying engaging conversation and wanting to associate with each other beyond that conversation. Hopefully therefore, the therapist acknowledged this difference when making this suggestion.

Overall, I still think joining clubs/ activities as being better for befriending people, but if you have social anxiety then I also think you have to be strategic in how you approach it. And this is where I become skeptical of the skills of therapists.

I’m confident in their ability to explore the therapy aspect and things that fall within their training. But from reading of their help to forum members regarding making friends (which is distinct from exposure therapy), I can’t help feeling their advice is quite… basic and surface-level, and based more on more trial-and-error than a grander strategy.

Just to preface –it may very well be that there some therapists are very good at resolving friend making-issues, perhaps to the extent such patient would never frequent this form. But then, from what I’ve seen on the internet I’m not too inspired, with the advice still looks based more on trial-and-error than a more thought-out approach.

With cooking classes for instance, the therapist would ideally forewarn that social success is unlikely to happen on the first day (and potentially even counter-productive due to the Dunning-Kruger effect) and that a more realistic aim might be just getting comfortable with the dynamics of the class. Or perhaps the therapist can advise on how to overcome obstacles like those said in this thread.

It seems however that therapists actually say little more beyond going to the activity, make an effort being social, and hope for the best. This advice can easily be aimed at the average person. Unfortunately, for SA folk, it’s not enough to simply be within the vicinity of other people, or even sharing a common interest, and hoping that’s enough. If a therapist fails to even acknowledge these differences, let alone provide solutions, I’d understand that being disappointing.

For most activities, chances of an SA person being social successful largely depend on either blind luck, or already having average socialising skills. But again, there are a small number of specific activities that, depending on how you approach them, would not only be more inviting but would also enable social development. I usually recommend these, as the SA person can then transfer the attained skills towards other activities more suited to their personal interests.
They (therapists) are like “oh yeah just go to some meetups.” They don’t have any answers for people who go to meetups but feel alone and disconnected. And they think exposure works all the time. Like my most recent past therapist told me about this one client she had who had SA to the point she couldn’t leave her house. So the therapist recommended her exposure exercises and now the client is doing well. Meanwhile this therapist barely had any ideas for me, someone with SA who works and goes outside but doesn’t have any friends or social life because… well I don’t know… of feeling disconnected, disengaged and stressed. Exposure isn’t working but she didn’t have any other ideas really.
 

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They (therapists) are like “oh yeah just go to some meetups.” They don’t have any answers for people who go to meetups but feel alone and disconnected. And they think exposure works all the time. Like my most recent past therapist told me about this one client she had who had SA to the point she couldn’t leave her house. So the therapist recommended her exposure exercises and now the client is doing well. Meanwhile this therapist barely had any ideas for me, someone with SA who works and goes outside but doesn’t have any friends or social life because… well I don’t know… of feeling disconnected, disengaged and stressed. Exposure isn’t working but she didn’t have any other ideas really.
I will give therapist credit for providing resources and also been trained to have levels of patience and care that even the most best-intentioned family members cannot provide. For coming out of the house it is within the control of the person, and very clear goals can be set up – thus from an exposure therapy perspective, the plan can be very straightforward.

Meetups may indeed count as “exposure therapy” because you’re in the presence of other people. But “making friends” is entirely different as you say. There are too many moving parts to consider, elements outside of your control, and social obstacles. For someone to help an SA person succeed, knowledge, patience, guidance and wisdom are essential because otherwise, non-success can disillusion against any sense of progress attained from the “exposure therapy” element.

But from the feedback I’ve seen, I’d be unsurprised if “making new friends” formed zero part of a therapist’s training, in regards to social anxiety. There's seemingly very little nuance, experience or wisdom behind their advice. They instead seem like things you could find on a 5 minute google search on how to make friends (without even been social anxiety specific), and then they seem lost if the SA person encounters problems – or outright blames the SA person. Having had to tackle these problems on my own, I honestly would expect more from a qualified professional.

In your case - hopefully, your therapist at least tried to explore what “feeling alone and disconnected” meant for you (e.g do you distance yourself from people? Are you just facing a brick wall? Are your expectations too high? Etc), and then advise on what you can do in the next meetup to focus on this issue specifically. In other words, you feeling disconnected while attending such meetups should be the therapist' starting point for investigation, not their maximum limit.

So in keeping with the types of activities, from a socialising perspective, I think the vast majority of activities fall into two categories – and conveniently you’ve provided an example for each one:

  1. "Socially-focused groups" - like meetups, whereby the theme is connecting with people. Whether this overcomes the obstacles in your cooking class really depends. Unfortunately, due to the nature of socially-focused groups, people will gravitate towards people who appeal to them and will start forming their own connections. Now if your social anxiety exudes perhaps an uninviting or even intimidating aura, that’s something you’d have to remedy quite quickly if you don’t want to end up being ostracised. Ideally people will have patience, particularly for mental-health based groups, but even these can fall standardised social dynamics. One-off/ ad-hoc meetings also add time pressure to get results, as you’re less guaranteed to see the people again.
  2. “Front-Facing classes” - everybody is isolated within the class, and focused towards the teacher. High social awareness is needed in order to be able to interact with others without potentially disrupting the whole class, or breaking the other person’s concentration. The main window of opportunity is when you are all standing at the door, waiting to go in. People think that because they have a common goal they’re also likely to connect with the people, but this is extremely difficult for an SA person without putting in the time.
Do therapists prewarn you of these obstacles? The truth is I don't know. But within these 2 categories I feel are the vast majority of activities, in some form or another. For these, I think you have to hit the ground running, as the learning curves are not only steep, but can also be not-so-forgiving with only small windows of opportunity.

Outside of these categories, only two activities (3 at a stretch) I think nurture the development of socialising skills. Having a plan and managing expectations are still highly recommended, but if the therapst told the SA person to “wing it”, I’d be more confident of their here than with other activities - afterwhich, they’d be more socially skilled for dealing with the above 2 categories.
 

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I just wanted to add to what @macky said about managing expectations. Working with my therapist I would come into session disappointed in myself and she would have to help me manage my expectations. I think this is one of the most important parts of the process.
 

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I will give therapist credit for providing resources and also been trained to have levels of patience and care that even the most best-intentioned family members cannot provide. For coming out of the house it is within the control of the person, and very clear goals can be set up – thus from an exposure therapy perspective, the plan can be very straightforward.

Meetups may indeed count as “exposure therapy” because you’re in the presence of other people. But “making friends” is entirely different as you say. There are too many moving parts to consider, elements outside of your control, and social obstacles. For someone to help an SA person succeed, knowledge, patience, guidance and wisdom are essential because otherwise, non-success can disillusion against any sense of progress attained from the “exposure therapy” element.

But from the feedback I’ve seen, I’d be unsurprised if “making new friends” formed zero part of a therapist’s training, in regards to social anxiety. There's seemingly very little nuance, experience or wisdom behind their advice. They instead seem like things you could find on a 5 minute google search on how to make friends (without even been social anxiety specific), and then they seem lost if the SA person encounters problems – or outright blames the SA person. Having had to tackle these problems on my own, I honestly would expect more from a qualified professional.

In your case - hopefully, your therapist at least tried to explore what “feeling alone and disconnected” meant for you (e.g do you distance yourself from people? Are you just facing a brick wall? Are your expectations too high? Etc), and then advise on what you can do in the next meetup to focus on this issue specifically. In other words, you feeling disconnected while attending such meetups should be the therapist' starting point for investigation, not their maximum limit.

So in keeping with the types of activities, from a socialising perspective, I think the vast majority of activities fall into two categories – and conveniently you’ve provided an example for each one:

  1. "Socially-focused groups" - like meetups, whereby the theme is connecting with people. Whether this overcomes the obstacles in your cooking class really depends. Unfortunately, due to the nature of socially-focused groups, people will gravitate towards people who appeal to them and will start forming their own connections. Now if your social anxiety exudes perhaps an uninviting or even intimidating aura, that’s something you’d have to remedy quite quickly if you don’t want to end up being ostracised. Ideally people will have patience, particularly for mental-health based groups, but even these can fall standardised social dynamics. One-off/ ad-hoc meetings also add time pressure to get results, as you’re less guaranteed to see the people again.
  2. “Front-Facing classes” - everybody is isolated within the class, and focused towards the teacher. High social awareness is needed in order to be able to interact with others without potentially disrupting the whole class, or breaking the other person’s concentration. The main window of opportunity is when you are all standing at the door, waiting to go in. People think that because they have a common goal they’re also likely to connect with the people, but this is extremely difficult for an SA person without putting in the time.
Do therapists prewarn you of these obstacles? The truth is I don't know. But within these 2 categories I feel are the vast majority of activities, in some form or another. For these, I think you have to hit the ground running, as the learning curves are not only steep, but can also be not-so-forgiving with only small windows of opportunity.

Outside of these categories, only two activities (3 at a stretch) I think nurture the development of socialising skills. Having a plan and managing expectations are still highly recommended, but if the therapst told the SA person to “wing it”, I’d be more confident of their here than with other activities - afterwhich, they’d be more socially skilled for dealing with the above 2 categories.
Love this post, macky! Yes, it seems like therapists don’t quite get how people struggle to make friends. Textbook social anxiety, yes, they get that though.

“In your case - hopefully, your therapist at least tried to explore what “feeling alone and disconnected” meant for you (e.g do you distance yourself from people? Are you just facing a brick wall? Are your expectations too high? Etc), and then advise on what you can do in the next meetup to focus on this issue specifically. In other words, you feeling disconnected while attending such meetups should be the therapist' starting point for investigation, not their maximum limit.”

Replying to this… my previous therapist didn’t explore it enough now that you ask. She did mention expectations once or twice. She also asked if I’m autistic, which is a fair question. The answer is no.

In terms of activities where you make friends, as you mentioned, there is a steep learning curve. It feels like therapists can’t help much. They can suggest activities but if you can’t do whatever needs to be done at said activities to make friends then you won’t make any. A lot of friendship making seems to come naturally and be about “vibes.” That can’t really be taught, which is one of my main frustrations with therapy overall.

How about your experience making friends though? Do you ever feel disconnected or does it come naturally to you, apart from SA?
 

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Love this post, macky! Yes, it seems like therapists don’t quite get how people struggle to make friends. Textbook social anxiety, yes, they get that though.

“In your case - hopefully, your therapist at least tried to explore what “feeling alone and disconnected” meant for you (e.g do you distance yourself from people? Are you just facing a brick wall? Are your expectations too high? Etc), and then advise on what you can do in the next meetup to focus on this issue specifically. In other words, you feeling disconnected while attending such meetups should be the therapist' starting point for investigation, not their maximum limit.”

Replying to this… my previous therapist didn’t explore it enough now that you ask. She did mention expectations once or twice. She also asked if I’m autistic, which is a fair question. The answer is no.
Thanks for the compliment!

Autism – good question on her part. If you did have autism then that would certainly warrant “taking one step back”. Even if you don’t have autism, there’s probably useful insights that’s gone into its studies.

The fact the therapist didn’t clarify what was meant by “alone and disconnected”… is not too surprising. It’s easy to jump to assumptions. But when seeing how it can be interpreted in at least 3 different ways, I feel she should be expected to at least want further clarification on something you’re presenting as a blocker. Otherwise, there can’t be an effective one-size-fits-all remedy, and so your therapist’s suggestion would have to either be very generic and watered-down, or specific but with a 2-in-3 chance of being irrelevant. Unfortunately, the trust a patient has in the therapist’s due care would mean they’d be unlikely to call the therapist out on this –missing an opportunity to extract much more effective information.

But at least she set expectations – ideally before you went ahead, in addition to explaining a negative experience. Managing expectations should also form part of the therapist’s plan for this week. I only sat this because there have been people I’ve helped, and each week I said “for this week, I would just like for you to do X task(s). And as long as you’re making a genuine positive effort elsewhere, doing that task is all I require for this week”.
In terms of activities where you make friends, as you mentioned, there is a steep learning curve. It feels like therapists can’t help much. They can suggest activities but if you can’t do whatever needs to be done at said activities to make friends then you won’t make any. A lot of friendship making seems to come naturally and be about “vibes.” That can’t really be taught, which is one of my main frustrations with therapy overall.
I agree that it is very difficult to teach how to “vibe” or build rapport if that has historically been difficult for you. Magic scripts or formulae for guaranteeing rapport are certainly over-ambitious, but there are concepts that patients could be made aware of. Again however, the subject of making friends seem to fall almost completely outside the therapy “curriculum”.

With that being said – how much of our ability to learn to “vibe” is impeded by social anxiety. Mainly involving a fear of judgment this can both have negative manifestations and also repress our thoughts and personality. That in itself creates a cycle where we’re regressing ourselves – both due to the anxiety aspects itself and also as a means of mitigating triggers – further adds to the anxiety. Hence building rapport is very difficult if we’re repressing ourselves, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

But from this, I’ve observed that feeling less anxious around particular people also comes with increased rapport – whether it be because the other person is welcoming, patient, sharing a commonality or just taking the lead. I hesitate to say the following but, but from what I’ve heard, many SA people are more social when intoxicated. Though fear less ideal a solution, it does raise the question of where these social skills come from – and whether they can be invoked even when sober.

I do think for many SA people, innate social skills are suppressed, via inhibition and anxiety, rather than non-existent. Granular level focus can have its place, but effective exposure and guidance strategy can indeed nurture exponentially development. From what I’ve observed, people then tend to “blossom” in these areas and be more comfortable in themselves, without much micro-managing. But again, you’d need an overarching strategy and wisdom in order to support such an initiative - and I’m not sure I’ve seen enough to convince me therapists can be counted on.

But I don’t want to turn this into a therapy-bashing thread, especially as I have no first hand experience. Certainly people can have more deeper problems for their social issues – including those leading to anti-social tendences that hinder receptive to the social opportunities. For such case, therapy is very recommendable for getting to the bottom of.
How about your experience making friends though? Do you ever feel disconnected or does it come naturally to you, apart from SA?
Short answer is - to be honest, nowadays I wouldn’t have problems making new friends if I wanted to. I’m aware this is contra to the forum, let alone this thread – but any issues I have pale in comparison to many people on this forum, and I won’t pretend otherwise. So I’ll try summarising – apologies in advance for the large holes and skimming over key details.

It never came naturally however – growing up, I was never friendless because, for several reasons and circumstances, somebody would always take me “under their wing”. Shyness and anxiety would always make me feel disconnected in not being able to “click” with people. More importantly and was evasive to the point of lying to people and losing friends, and also effecting my education – and my bad uni grade will always be a reminder of this.

But also midway through uni, I decided to make an effort in overcoming my anxieties, through the use of advice on the internet. I’ve already mentioned my bus stop encounters, which ironically also took time that should have been focused on studying for my degree, but there you go!

Guess the main catalyst was starting salsa dancing. I took another dance lesson for actually learning to dance, but joining the salsa lessons were admittedly because I thought the female interaction would aid my bus stop conversations. Understandably this was a big challenge at first, but slowly I became assimilated into the community. Then after a particular point I improved exponentially dance-wise, which socially ended up taking things to a whole other level that was probably a story in of itself. But to summarise - basically, it enhanced my social opportunities to where concepts I learned are easily transferrable, and so I guess I can make new friends if I want to.

So yeah, depending on what you mean by “disconnected”, it's comparatively minute compared to many on here. I do have cases of not clicking with some people, and also feeling disconnected in large groups, especially where there are more socially dominant people. Approaching strangers randomly is still challenging, but I've come to learn isn't really important anyway. I can also still be quite evasive at times (and get teased for it).

But upon discovering the online SA community, I realised how fortunate I was that my self-development journey took me down the path it did, and also that my anxiety was never as severe as many people. Hopefully, my intention is to contribute towards improving others' lives. I'm also intrigued in how others have successfully tackled these issues.
 
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