Stranger 57, Day 57 – Meet Claudia, the “Open Listener”

Stranger 57, Day 57 - Meet Claudia

I met today’s Stranger at yoga. She’s in several of the classes I take. Heck, I’ve even taken roll before class, and learned her name, but nothing else. I’ve said so little about her, that it was high time I got to meet her.

Meet Claudia, 21

Who are you?

“Who am I? Good question…”

“Well, I’m Claudia. I’m from the Dominican Republic. I recently here to Atlanta in May for school. My brother’s lived here for about 10 years.”

She thinks some more. “I don’t know… who am I? I don’t really know who I am, to be honest. I’m trying to figure that out. I feel like we all are all the time. And… I like to act. I feel like it’s very therapeutic for me. For a period of time, I was in a really dark place emotionally, and that brought me out in a way. I’m trying meditation and yoga as well — helps me feel spiritual and better about myself and about the world.”

“… and yeah. I go to school for business. I started school for medicine, but I felt it wasn’t what I wanted for my life. I felt stuck. Like that was in my path, so I tried to find something different, and here I am now!” She smiles.

So you said you’re trying to find yourself. How are you going about doing that?

“Spirituality. Trying to find…. I mean, I’ve read up on different kinds of — Buddhism. Different types of religion. Trying to find a way through there, but I’m not sure yet.”

“I said acting really helps me. It just feels like you get to be whoever you want to be, or somebody really different. In a way it helps you find different things about different people, and put them all together in one.”

“Studying people, studying everything around me. Trying to figure out what I like, what I don’t like. And how the world affects me. And what do I want out of that.”

Thinking about how the world affects you, how does the world affect you in a negative way?

“Sometimes, it can be disappointing. I felt for a really long time like I don’t really fit into anywhere. I felt like a misfit most of my life, and I still do. When I was a kid, I used to think when you’re older, that feeling will go away. But it didn’t really go away.” She pauses for a moment, and asks me what the question was again. I can tell that this little bit could’ve actually been a much longer deeper conversation — one I hope to have with her one day.

After repeating the question, Claudia responds, “With all that’s going on like right now with the whole Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton kind of thing. That affects me in a sense that it feels like there’s a huge division in the world. It feels like there’s a lot of hate in the world. That affects me because makes me feel a little unsafe as to where I am and what’s going on. What my world is going to look like in the future and for my kids. It makes me a little sad.”

“People around me affect me.”

How does it affect you in a positive way?

“Beauty. I think there’s a lot of beauty in the world. A lot of beauty I haven’t seen. A lot of beauty there is to be seen. So it makes me a little curious as to where it’s going to take me — what I haven’t seen and what there is to see. So I’m excited, and it makes me… excited about the future.” She smiles and laughs.

What’s something beautiful that you’ve seen yesterday?

Claudia thinks about what she did yesterday.

“Yesterday, I spent some time with somebody that I didn’t know that well, and it surprised me because he was very educated. We talked about politics. He’s actually… I support Clinton, and he was a Donald Trump supporter. I was very curious as to why he was there mentally, and why he stood by Donald Trump. And his points, he just surprised me about how educated he actually was about the whole ordeal. He had really valid points, and I thought that was beautiful because of different perspectives. The fact that we can be totally different, so kind of like see equally in some sort of way.”

Is there a key to that to be able to have very different views, but being able to be open to it and listen?

“I think it’s just listening. I feel like if you give people a chance and try to listen to what they have to say, they might surprise you.”

“You might end up being more similar than you actually think. Just listen and being open to what they have to say. Not closing yourself off just because it seems like what they’re saying doesn’t make sense.”

How do you maintain your relationships with people? (Thanks to Joey, Stranger 56)

“I don’t talk to people everyday, but I try to stay in contact in kind of like, when I do speak to them, I try to… the most important things going on in their life, and make sure that I know how they’re doing… emotionally — what’s affecting them the most, and how they’re doing with everything.”

Is there a preferred method that you’ve been maintaining some of that?

“Preferred method… not really. If I remember things that have been going on the past couple months or stuff like that, and we haven’t talked about it a lot, I ask them about that. Just try to make sure I keep in mind the important things that are going on in their lives. Try to bring them up as much as I can just to make sure…”

What’s a question you’d like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What makes you feel alive?” She smiles to end.

After the handshake.

I’ve realized there are so many people in my yoga classes who are effectively Strangers, and I see them over and over and over again. I can easily make 100 Strangers, 100 Days solely focused on the people at work, at yoga, and at Starbucks — my three main places outside of home. (I hope not to meet Strangers at my home, though, it’s unfortunately happened before.)

I didn’t realize Claudia only moved to America this year. Heck, I didn’t know she was from outside the U.S. That was a fact that jumped out at me for whatever reason. Another part about Claudia that I didn’t know was how she’s felt like a misfit for most of her life. As I mentioned above, she seemed to get absorbed into this feeling to which I hope to get to know her better. The good part, I think, is that she’s seems to be feeling more comfortable and more “fit” at the yoga studio we go to. She’s a great cultural fit with the yoga studio’s community, and so I really do hope she feels more included. This journey is about community. It’s about connecting with one another. Happily, I feel more connected with Claudia, and hope she feels the same.

And as part of her own journey to realize who she is, I hope she realizes who she is soon in her own way. Now, that’ll change as we all do over time. So for now, I hope she realizes who she is — a curious person… a young woman making real, authentic connections with those around her. She’s a person looking to make a positive effect on the world from every interaction — large or small. As part of her curiosity is an eagerness to have perspective, which is sometimes a rare thing today, but it helps for her to connect and, indeed, be empathetic to those around her. Oftentimes, it’s not about “fitting in”. Being a misfit can be a beautiful thing, and I think it’s this eagerness to gain perspective that enables her to not fit in with the status quo. Instead, she’s going to (and she is) effortlessly weaving the everyday into her own life.

I think of “fitting in” as being “normal” — stress the “I think”. And to that, I don’t remember who told me this or where I read this (don’t even think I know the exact quote), however, don’t be “normal”. Be you.

Meet Claudia. No longer a Stranger.

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