Stranger 16, Day 16 – Meet Michelle, the “Thoughtful, ‘Serious’ Book Enthusiast”

Stranger 16, Day 16 - Meet Michelle

I was sitting at Starbucks working on some ads while keeping an eye around for someone I could interview. Not going to lie — I wasn’t “feeling” it today. However, I made a commitment… well, I have 84 more commitments.

Anyways, I spotted my Stranger today sitting outside in the beautiful weather. She was diligently reading a serious book (one that was thick, serious font on the cover, and what looked to be small font, too) — not exactly what I read. Haha. So I figured she was probably pretty intellectual which was interesting to me. I grabbed my stuff (I was sitting inside), and walked right up to her and asked if she’d like to take part in my project. She smiled and was up for it.

Yes! That right there just turned around my energy, and I was excited. I was excited to get to meet this Stranger.

Meet Michelle, 24

Who are you?

I’m from Johnson City, TN. I went to Wofford College for undergrad. I graduated May 2015. Didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but worked really hard to get a job at a consulting firm. Ended up getting extended the offer, so I was super excited. A little bit shocked because I was an English and Environmental Studies undergrad… double major. That’s why I’m in Atlanta. This is my home office. I guess that’s a really quick recap of how I got here.”

What are your passions? Your dreams?

Michelle takes a big breath in.

“I really like to read. I’ve always had an interest in that since high school. And I thought at some point that I might want to get my PhD. I haven’t really, I guess, given up on that — in literature. I haven’t really decided what that would do for me, but I’m kinda liking business as well. So it’s sort of like I have these two paths, and not really sure… business school is also an option.”

She smiles and is partially exasperated. “What was the beginning of the question?”

She continues, “I’ve also always wanted to run a half-marathon which I’m scheduled to do next April.” Her interest in running emanates from playing soccer growing up till college.

“Recently, since February or March, got really into yoga. I literally do it everyday now. Not something I thought I would ever do because I’m kind of a Type A personality that’s always going 1000%. It’s been super good for me, and I think I’ve gotten a lot stronger. Just overall well-being a lot better.”

She later added traveling, being outside, hiking, and COFFEE!

What type of reading do you like to read?

“Contemporary American Fiction. This is John Irving. He’s probably my favorite author,” as she points to the book. She tells me she’s trying to read more female authors as well.

Curious about the genre (I’m more of self-improvement and non-fiction), I asked her what she enjoys of the genre.

“There’s a lot of socioeconomic issues. You grow a lot in socioeconomic issues in the United States. You learn a lot about that. Also, I’m really into analyzing the text and seeing metaphors and symbols. Just getting really deep into the text. A lot of American fiction, you learn a lot about yourself and where you come from.”

Have you had any big life regrets?

Michelle sits there thinking and looking around.

“I try not to live with regret. It’s like cliche, but the things you regret the most are the things you don’t do. And I think I’m really afraid of that, so there’s definitely been times where I definitely would’ve.” She then mentions studying abroad at Wofford to countries like Turkey. She shared with me how several of her classmates cancelled traveling to Instanbul, Turkey due to instability in the region including the rise of ISIS.

“It was an amazing experience. One of my favorite places I’ve been.”

However, this wasn’t so much of a regret because she did end up going. So I asked her again if there was a regret she could think of.

“I think I might’ve limited myself. I loved my undergrad experience. It was incredible. It was where I was meant to be. But I think I limited myself. Back then, I didn’t think I could get into an Ivy League school… just really prestigious academic situations. I don’t know why. I didn’t even look.” She was the Valedictorian, and realizes she did well, and she laments how she could have expanded her options.

She admits she might’ve been afraid of what she “couldn’t” accomplish or how great she could’ve been.

Is there a big life lesson you’d like to share?

For the second question in a row, Michelle takes a breath and says, “these are really tough questions.” She ponders for a while longer.

“I’ve seen a lot of women get hurt in relationships. So I would say just ever thinking you need someone else to complete yourself.” Michelle admits she had not experienced this first-hand, but shares how she had several friends who went through “terrible” situations.

I asked her how she believes women and men could maintain their independence while still intertwining their lives. After all, that’s what happens in relationships, and what you want.

Melissa told me how she had been dating her boyfriend since she was 17 doing long-distance since graduating high school. For her, being apart was “one of the best things to happen to us. We don’t let our relationship take precedence over our independent dreams, but we find a way to remain in an important place in each other’s lives. Never crossed our minds to go to the same college.”

She and her boyfriend realize they must be in the same city at some point; however, “if for a while we have to be apart and come back together, that’s fine.”

She shares how if you start to do things because of another, you may end up resenting the other.

What do you love and admire most about yourself?

She stresses how these are “hard” questions. I smile. These probably aren’t hard as much as they can press for her to be vulnerable for a moment and think about herself.

“My mom has always told me that I’m a very thoughtful person. From her noticing that in me, that’s been something that I really hope to continue to be, and I’ve tried to put more into my life. I admire that about myself because I appreciate that in other people as well.”

She felt her thoughtfulness played a big role in being empathetic with others.

Given Michelle relayed what her mom thought, I was curious what she thought (or if she knew) her boyfriend loved and admired most about her. Her response, “I think he would say I’m a very optimistic person, a very positive person. Also, my drive…”

She said she would ask him this question later.

What is the most important part of your day? Your life? (Thanks Zasha, Stranger 15)

“Just happiness. It sounds easy, but we get caught up in the rat race. But at the end of the day, that’s all that actually matters — it’s making yourself happy. Everybody’s looking for that, too.”

I asked her what she does to strive for that happiness.

“I listen to a lot of podcasts. I listen to this one podcast. She’s big about making a to-do list at the beginning of your day. I definitely do that, and I know certain things are going to make me happy like if I exercise… over-arching goals of my life…” She shares about her grandmother having Alzheimer’s. She wants to focus on things everyday for the entire year including running and using the Charity Miles for Alzheimer’s.

“Everything that you do matters.”

She admits that today, she just wanted to read, and even thought, “maybe I’ll meet someone new”. Well, mission accomplished here!

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“If you could correct ONE wrong in the world, what would it be? That can be disease, hunger… it could be high-level, or something small for people to be more genuine. Anything.”

After the handshake.

Michelle was curious of the project, and admitted that she wanted to try it. She even suggested I “license” the project. It’s clear she saw the beauty of this endeavor, and how she, too, enjoys connecting with others.

After the first question I realized, too, that Michelle was not only open to talking to Strangers, but she wanted to share her thoughts even if she had to think about some of the answers. She’s very intelligent — that came across within the first several words. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised given her “serious” book.

Also, I think her story about coming out of college with double-majoring in subjects not typically associated with consulting is a great lesson for others. Having a degree is important, but the subject is less so. Working hard can bridge gaps.

I’m also smiling now recalling how she has said to herself that perhaps she would meet someone new today, and for 15 minutes, she did, and she got to share part of her story with the world. How cool is that?

Meet Michelle. No longer a Stranger.

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