Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Strangers you meet

It amazes me sometimes how many people stop me at night thinking I need inspiration and they should just randomly offer it. Do I seem that sad said or lost? Consider last week. I was on my way home when a young man approached me and decided to share his story. "Think beyond the solar system, dream beyond horizon". He explained he decided to take on body building just three months ago. He bulked up and now is so proud of his physique he wanted to share his story with the world. "You're talking to a short orange man"- he said- "People used to mock me, but I wouldn't let it stop me". He did have oddly dyed hair and his skin was covered in spray tan. He was 19 years of age, yet as he said something prompted him to travel and share what he felt was his life experience.  Random conversations like that, about life and purpose as strange as they may be used to happen to me a lot. Some of the strangers I've met became friends or at least known faces or permanent fixtures in my life. I have always tried to take something out of these encounters, because I have always believed no matter how eccentric and strange they may be there is always something for me to learn. So I try to cast my judgments aside, engage and interact with them within their perspective. Even the homeless man who believes he makes the leaves dance on the wind and when he cries his tears makes it rain, because he approaches me with nothing but kindness. Somehow over the years I've ended up with a more settled lifestyle. Not by choice- I used to enjoy new experiences and people, but then I realized that I've been doing the same things on the same nights with the same faces for the last five years. When did I get so predictable and boring?  Some of my friends enjoyed going to the same karaoke every Saturday, predictability gives them comfort. And as much as I love being there and seeing them, I don't want to have a sense that you can flash my life forward 10 years and know exactly how it played out. I guess this is my life-hate relationship with routines. I don't want to have a feeling that a reason I'm doing something is because I've always done it. That I can't think bigger, "beyond the solar system", that I leave stones unturned  and paths unexplored. One of the most inspirating conversations I've had in Gainesville was with a stranger after all. It was 2004. I was on my way to an honors society induction ceremony, rolling down University Avenue for many blocks to get to Mellow Mushroom,  a pizza place that is no longer there. And I met a stranger. He was a soldier who just got back from Iraq. He returned to Gainesville to see his daughter whose name NOVA he tattooed on his arm. I don't remember his name, but I remember hers. We talked about some of the things he has seen, life and what drove him and what brought me here from Poland. About how limited I felt in Poland and how lonely and how he pointed out there may be times I would feel like that again. I was opening myself up to people and life and it's the human experiences I valued and remembered the most. I ended up not going to my own induction ceremony, because we were talking for a good hour and a half. And I think life has a way of reminding me I don't do enough random things and meet random people anymore- in a big way. Living downtown, I rarely have the need to step out of my neighborhood. I'm not on the bus that much anymore and although  I like adventures finding me I will not go out of my way to look for them. I used to have a broad circle of friends, now I mostly see the same faces in the same places.

Until I was waiting on a bus one day. A stranger was sitting on a bench waiting for a different route. We talked for a few minutes, I left him with my card and we both boarded our buses. Just a random conversation that made me feel good, with someone you will never meet again. Until you do. The next day I was getting a haircut at the mall when he approached me to say hello. I needed to buy gifts for my family in Poland and I guess he was killing time when I was picking calendars. And then, not a fan of coffee himself, he watched me drink coffee. We shared life stories. It was interesting for me to meet someone who felt so different from me and most of the people I bumped into around town. A positive and enriching experience I thought, reminded me of how and who I used to be. Someone you will never meet again, I thought, yet somebody who gave me something positive. Until you do. The next day he was attending the same play I was. Isn't this life really strange?

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