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Stranger 99, Day 99 - Meet Shyamal

Stranger 99, Day 99 – Meet Shyamal, the “Organizer for the Love of the Game”

I knew this day was going to be a busy one spent with my brother and his family. So, I wanted to meet today’s Stranger real early in the day. Fortunately (and very fun-ly), I met today’s Stranger while playing pick-up soccer in the morning. This was the first time I was playing with this big group of players; though, I have several friends who play regularly. There was probably a good 50 players out there for 9AM pick-up. My field was set with two teams with 9 players each (small-sided games). So, I felt pretty comfortable finding a player to meet today.

In fact, today’s Stranger is the organizer of these large pick-up soccer meet-ups. Since it was my first time playing, it was fitting that we meet.

Note: I did approach one other person prior to the Stranger of the Day. However, he felt too exhausted after game play to speak/ think coherently.

Meet Shyamal, 26

Who are you?

“I am a human-being that’s loves soccer. So, I organize all this stuff every week. I’m an immigrant to this country – a U.S. citizen now.”

“Just trying to, I guess, live my life the best I can. I was actually born in Kenya in Africa. Lived there for 12 years. Then, moved here, and yeah, been here ever since.”

I imagine organizing this type of thing is a lot of work. Why do you do it?

“Basically, because I want to keep playing. When I came to this, I wasn’t really doing the organizing. I was just part of the people. When one of the organizers had to leave, they needed some people to step up. I have a lot of free time usually, and I like playing soccer in that free time, so that’s pretty cool.”

“I get to organize and make sure other people can have fun and have a place to play, and we can keep this thing going for a relatively low cost. Basically, we’re not making money. But in Atlanta, it’s hard to find fields and things where you can just play for free, and have the equipment and stuff. We have to pay a little bit of money for that, but it’s relatively low.”

“But yeah, basically for the fun!”

I noticed that you’re an immigrant. Here, there’s just a plethora of different immigrants.

“Yeah, a lot of them are here, too. Soccer is, like, an immigrant sport, I guess, or like a sport that’s growing in America. But’s it’s big, obviously, in the rest of the world. That’s what a lot of these people bring when they come here – a love for soccer. It’s one of the things that kind of binds us all together. That’s what I find is pretty good – pretty good connections.”

A little bit outside of soccer, what are some of your other passions?

“So, I like movies, video games. Whenever I hang out with my friends, that’s what we usually do. Or, we’ll watch sports on TV. Video games, music, things like that. And then for my job, I work in a children’s hospital. I do software development for them. That’s pretty fulfilling, too.”

“So, I have two fulfilling sides of my life with soccer, and I guess, my actual work. But also, for fun, I’m a really big video game fan. That, too, whenever I get time.”

Yeah, I’ve met a couple video gamers including a professional. It’s pretty interesting hearing about all the stuff he wins.

“I really like single-player gaming. Games with stories and things. I like movies, too, but games with stories are really cool. Multi-player gaming, I’m just not very good. Unless it’s FIFA. I’m good at FIFA. Other than that, yeah, it’s tough.”

Anything about video games and movies and stuff that you really love? Is there a root cause to why you love these?

“I like, I guess, you get different experiences. So, I do like traveling and whenever that’s possible, that’s good to get different experiences. But when you just need to turn on the TV or go to the movies, and you can get a different experience. You can get an escapism, or you can get something very real. But it’s just easily accessible. It’s good. So, I like movies with a good story, a lot of good characters. Sometimes, I like those action movies, too, obviously. Usually, just good stories.”

I’ll start to wrap it up. You watch a lot of movies and some Marvel and super hero movies, so this will fit in great. Yesterday, I met Lindsey who was a big fan of comic book movies, super heroes, etc. So, I like to ask the Stranger of the Day, if you could ask anyone anything, effectively, tomorrow’s Stranger, what would you ask them? So, Lindsey wants to ask you if you were a villain, what super hero would you want to destroy, and why? (Thanks to Lindsey, Stranger 98)

“Any of the Marvel or DC super heroes? I would pick Superman.”

It could be any super hero, any comic.

“That’s true. Well, I’d still probably still pick Superman. I like the super heroes that are… well, my favorite super hero is Batman. I kind of like that he’s someone is very real – a little more realistic, I guess, if you had to say that he doesn’t have super powers. I guess Superman is just too powerful. As someone who is very… very one-sided character where he is just purely good. You know what I mean? Like, he doesn’t have a gray character to himself. Other super heroes, I feel, like Batman, have a little bit of white in them. Black… or just gray side to them. So maybe him.”

“Best I can come up with!”

So, what’s a question you’d like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“You could ask who is their favorite soccer player, and why? Maybe. Or something better…”

Not sure if tomorrow’s Stranger will know soccer, but…

“That’s true.” He thinks for a moment.

“You could ask what they plan to do to make things better in the future for everyone else.”

“… Maybe. I guess that’ll be a good question that is kind of general.”

After the handshake.

Like I said, it was my first time truly playing with these guys aside from 6 or so other friends I knew. So, it was nice to speak with the organizer. This pick-up play is supposed to be geared for pretty competitive players, too (or at least, non-beginners), so I had to play some before actually being let in. Doesn’t hurt to meet the guy who runs it, too!

Shyamal was very nice and open to speaking with me. It’s hard work setting up these meet-ups, and ensuring we have a place to play week in, week out. Spending a few minutes to get to know the man behind the curtain is sometimes rare. Luckily, he plays and organizes this because he has a passion for soccer and enabling others to continue playing soccer. Much like we talked about the immigrants who were playing, we could all find a common ground that bounds us all together. Sometimes, that’s really all you need to create something as fun, as consistent as these pick-up games.

Meet Shyamal. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 98, Day 98 - Meet Lindsey

Stranger 98, Day 98 – Meet Lindsey, the “Super Fan”

I met today’s Stranger on my floor in the kitchen, like several other Strangers. Yes, there are that many people on my floor that I can continue to meet new Strangers, and still adhere to my rule of speaking to Strangers who have never read or heard about this journey.

She was casually making her breakfast when I approached her. Happily, she accepted, and luckily, it’s a slow day this Friday before Christmas weekend.

Meet Lindsey, 29

Lindsey’s birthday is next week, so happy birthday in advance!

Who are you?

“I’m Lindsey,” she laughs.

“I guess I am a sister — a baby sister. I have two older sisters. I actually work for my brother-in-law. So, my oldest sister — that’s her husband — she comes in one-day a-week on Tuesdays. I get to work and I get to still see my family, so it’s awesome.”

“I guess if someone’s to just like, ‘Okay, who are you?’ I’d be like, ‘I’m a fan.’ I have a lot of fandoms. I really like Star Wars. I really liked to read Marvel comic books. My dog’s name is Marvel. I am definitely a dog-lover. So, that’s, I guess, who I would be. Not really a short answer.”

Nah, that’s okay. That’s the beauty of that question. Thinking about you’re a fan of “fantasy” or… I don’t know. What do you love about the comic books, Star Wars, and the like?

“I like reading, in general. So, I read a lot of Star Wars. Not only have I seen all of the movies, seen all the cartoons, I like to read all of the books. I’m actually reading the book that’s almost one of the prequels to Rogue One right now. I like the fact that you can read about things, and encompass yourself with things that don’t exist. You know, like, spaceships and space battles and things like that and super heroes. If I could be a super hero, you know, that would be awesome! But I hate to feel like, sometimes, I think I would end up being more of a villain!” she laughs. “But, I like the aspect of, you know, people helping other people, coming together, using non-traditional ways.”

“I really love Miss Marvel — that’s actually my dog’s name — Miss Marvel. She, in the new comic book, she is like a younger, urban teenager. She encompasses these powers from the original Miss Marvel, and she basically has to take on this whole new life as a teenager similar to Spider-Man and things. You’re trying to deal with life, and also trying to not deal with being selfish. You know, helping other people as well; which is not normally everyone‘s human nature, especially as a teenager. So that’s probably the aspect. And it’s fun. Having friends that are into the same stuff you are. Going to Dragon Con, and things like that.”

I like how you might actually be a villain as you’re wearing a Darth Vader shirt. If you’re a villain or super hero, or whatever, what would your name be?

“Oh, my name!”

… and what would your super power be?

“I’ve never even thought about a name, though. It would probably have to, you know, how people have a name based on their power like the Flash or things like that. I would probably have to go with something being small.” She thinks.

“Like, I’m really short. Something along those lines of… I don’t know!” She’s unsure of how to answer this one admitting, “I’ll have to think about that one.”

“I always think that reading minds would be really cool, but I actually think that it would be terrible. Like ‘True Blood’ is one of the worst shows and books ever. But, she could hear people’s thoughts, and it ended up driving her crazy because you hear people all the time.”

“I would think being able to teleport because I really like Night Crawler. I live in the city. Traffic sucks, so why not have a power that would, at least, help you out on your day-to-day life. You’ve gotta save people sometimes, but you also gotta live.” she laughs. “If I could teleport, that would probably be awesome. Then you can just, you know, you have family who lives in one spot. Family lives in another spot, and you can just go all the time. It would never be, ‘Oh, I can’t go do this because I gotta get there. Gotta work in the morning’. Things like that. Kind of selfish reasons, but…!” She laughs. “Whatever!”

“I can’t think of a name. I don’t know…”

Well, maybe it’ll come to you.

“I’m going to be thinking about that forever now!”

The other side of that, you talked about being able to read minds was your first thought, right? Kind of like the rest of the super heroes, they kind of gotta figure out ways to control that. So in a lot of ways, maybe it’s reading minds, but not just being able to hear everything, but being able to control.

“Yeah, that would be so key!” She laughs again.

Is there something that you’re really, really good at, but you gotta kind of control how often you use that “super power”?

“Yeah, well, I do get really excited. My boyfriend is more…” She pauses before continuing, “I got him into the fandoms and the things like that. We kind of have different things we’re interested in. He does the stuff with me, and he rides dirt bikes. So, I have a dirt bike now. We do stuff like that.”

“I would think I’m very emotional when it comes to animals. It’s almost like… we had a squirrel that fell off a pole yesterday — right in our front yard. It’s like, you get so sad about that.”

“I’m like, ‘Why am I sad? It’s a squirrel’. So probably, maybe something like that that you’d have to tone down. It’s just a squirrel. There are a million squirrels. You can’t be so sad about this one squirrel.” She gives a big laugh.

“I don’t know if that makes sense.”

I think it does. Sometimes being empathetic or emotional about some things…

“Yeah, you can’t cry every time you see a trash bag on the ground and think it’s a dog.” I was a little lost at this. Huh?

“I had a friend who posted that the other day. They drove by, and she would start crying because she saw this dog on the ground, but it was a trash bag. She found out the next day it was a trash bag. Stuff like that.”

“I guess the older I get, the more emotional I get… and caring about things, I guess, more so.”

Why do you think that is?

“Well, I think, I’ve always cared about people. I talk about my family a lot. I’ve always cared a lot. I lost my dad. When you lose someone, it changes the way you think. So, you know, now more so, it’s like, ‘Oh, you always think that could be the last time I see that person.’ So you always kind of feel more empathetic. More emotional. ‘Oh, they’re so mad today, but I’m not going to be mad because you never know when you could not see that person again’ because it’s happened to you before. I think the older I get, the more I realize things like that.”

I guess, to that point, sometimes that can be tough balancing that, right? You want to be cognizant of this person is here. Be present in the moment. But at the same time, you can’t always be pulled towards that emotional side.

“It is definitely a pull.” She shares with me someone close to her who gets angry at personal relationships somewhat often. “Then, it’s kind of like, you don’t want to get into that situation of letting her anger or frustrations take on you.”

“It’s also the thing of ‘you don’t miss calls from family’. If your family called you two times, and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh! I gotta call them back immediately!’ So definitely, things change. Like you said, it could be something my mom just wants to tell me something like, ‘Oh! You left something at the house.’ But they call you twice. You’re like, ‘Oh my goodness!’ You think the worst things just because you’ve been through a situation like that. So, it’s definitely a pull, and it’s definitely something you’re thinking about. It’s very strange. Only people who I’ve realized who have lost someone really close to them kind of know what you’re talking about.”

“And then, not that I want anyone to ever lose someone, but they realize, ‘Oh! I see what you were seeing’ kind of thing. Not that it’s good or bad, but I think it definitely puts things into perspective — for your life and what’s really important.'”

I’m going to use this as a segue. Start to wrap this up. I like to ask the Stranger of the Day (congrats, you’re number 98): if you could ask anyone anything, what would you ask them? Before you have that opportunity, I’ll ask you what the previous day’s Stranger. He proposed two scenarios. If you could live in a place where everything is perfect and happy. Everyone’s happy, but there isn’t much fun. Would you live in that vs. you’re living in the present where there’s a bit of sadness, a bit of hatred, as much as there is. But there is that fun component, but of course, you have to balance that. Which one of these lives would you want to live? (Thanks to Alvin, Stranger 97)

“That doesn’t even take me a second to think about to answer because I would choose the present. The reason is I’ve realized that, you know, just living and happy/ normal/ whatever may sound great, but that sounds like a zombie to me. Emotions. Feelings. That’s what makes us humans. Your ups and down. That’s really… the downs are what makes the ups so great.”

“So, I know I would always choose the present, not just somewhere that’s complacent, and fun, and mellow. I guess more so of a world, if that’s what he was intending. I would definitely pick something that was, yeah, the present. So I could feel what’s going on.”

(It’s your turn.)

“So for me, I mean… You know, I would love to ask… let me think.” She takes a moment to think to herself. “Hmm, that was a tough question.”

“If I could ask anyone anything… Hmm…”

“That last guy’s was so good! He must be a deep thinker. I’m going to take it more on the light and airy side of, you know, the things I’m into.”

“Everyone always asks if you could be one super hero, what would you be? Or what super power would you have? I’m going to ask if you had to be a villain and fight against one super hero, and you had to destroy them, who would it be? And why?”

“Because I want to take it on a different angle of the question. I don’t know!” She laughs. She’s wondering if tomorrow’s Stranger would have any idea.

Anymore thought as to what your super hero/ super villain name might be? Knowing how you said some of them would adopt their super power like the Flash or Super Man… your super power is about reading minds or teleportation.

“Umm, everyone always calls me Shorty. Like, that was just my nickname forever. But I would probably go with just something like, ‘Little Lindsey’. That’s what my mom calls me. It’s easy. It goes together. They can call me Double-L! I don’t know…” she laughs. Then, she exclaims, “There’s Double L!”

“… that’s a terrible one! But one day, I’m going to think of a good one, I’m going to find you, and I’m going to be like, ‘I found it!’ Finally. It’s going to be like a year from now! I don’t know. I’ve never thought of an actual name for myself.”

A lot of times, super heroes never really come up with them. It’s the newspaper.

“Yeah!”

So if I was the newspaper, maybe if you can teleport, I would call you INSTANT or something. Instant Woman!

“The INSTANT WOMAN!”

After the handshake.

Haha, I had fun getting to know Lindsey. She has so much energy in the morning, and she’s clearly passionate about comics. Won’t lie, I got pretty into thinking about the comics and the Marvel heroes as she was sharing. I have a lot of fun watching the movies and “experiencing” some of that world.

I noted how much Lindsey was laughing because she really had so much positive energy today. Perhaps because we’re heading into some holidays. She was great, and she gave me a little more pep and kick to my day. Had a real pleasure meeting her, and look forward to talking to her about the upcoming Marvel movies.

Meet Lindsey. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 64, Day 64 - Meet Chloe

Stranger 64, Day 64 – Meet Chloe, the “One at Peace”

Today’s Stranger is one of the karma students at my yoga student. She’s actually new as a karma student (volunteers some working hours in exchange of free yoga classes). I just met her today, and she was up for being today’s Stranger.

Meet Chloe, 24

Who are you?

“I can answer that in anyway?” Yup!

“Well, I’m Chloe. I moved here 2.5 months ago from San Francisco, California. I’m here today because I started karma student-training. I did the new student special about a month and half ago, and it expired. I just wanted to continue practicing yoga, and it’s free when I become student and just do this — it’s four hours a week, maybe even less. And that’s just working here long-term.”

“Doing that. Moved here just to have a new environment. I’m working in the film industry right now. I’m doing some background and standing-in… photo-doubling right now. I’m still a student, and I’m going back to school to finish up my degree in communications and theater. And I just love life! That’s who I am!” She smiles.

What about life do you love? What wakes you up?

“So earlier this year, I went through a spell of depression again. When you’ve gone through that darkness, not sure if you have before or if you have family and friends who have gone through that thing, you kind of re-evaluate life, and why are you still standing here? What happened? It was a terrible break-up, and I moved back home. What saved me was yoga. That’s what gets me up every morning — the art of meditation. The art of movement. I don’t see anything in life to be sad about now that I’ve gone through depression so many times. It’s just that everyday process of finding that happiness, finding what you appreciate… I can’t even imagine why I was so sad back then.”

How did you find your happiness?

“I was living out in Monterrey with my boyfriend at the time, and things didn’t work out. I moved back home with my parents just to rebuild myself. I went back to therapy. Knew that I wanted to do something active, but I didn’t know what it was — just to get that energy out. Took one yoga class. At first, I hated it. It was too peaceful for me. I wanted something to punch… more aggressive. Couple weeks passed by since I took that first class, and I kept going. I went every day for a week. Actually, my best friend was the one who turned me to it. She was starting teacher’s training around that time, too. I found peace. I found hope again. I found I could love myself again without another person. Without having to rely on other people’s judgments. So it was yoga, and basically hiking and nature. Just being away from what made me so sad. Helped me rebuild myself and love myself, and be happy again.”

When you think about some future relationship, how do you make sure that you don’t get pulled back into relying on another?

“The relationship this year was for quite a long time in my 20s. I think that’s just going to be another bridge I’m going to have to cross and figure out when that happens. I’ve been dating since then, but it’s not like an easy to walk through. It’s an everyday battle whether it be finding someone to date or just be friends with. There’s no easy answers with that. It’s an everyday thing. I work on loving myself everyday. It’s not like I wake up and say I love myself. I have to work through that.”

So you moved back to Atlanta. Is this where your parents live?

“No. I moved around a lot.” She tells me how she’s lived in a northern suburb for six years as a child before moving to California. “So most of my life has been in California. Last place I lived was San Francisco.”

You’re doing some film stuff here. Is that why you came here?

“At home, I was feeling better about myself. Loving myself. Basically, I got to a point where I got very comfortable at the end of the summer. I just didn’t find a calling out there, I guess. Yes, it’s California, and Hollywood there. So living is really high. Traffic… just all these other factors didn’t make me feel like I needed to be in California in that type of place in my life. I do have family that’s still here that are in the film industry, and they said, ‘why not just try it out?'”

“That was September. I was supposed to stay maybe October. Ended up loving it. I moved a lot more of my stuff over here. Shipped my car. Just diving deep into this film industry, and wanting to make it work.”

I tell Chloe that I’m one of the few, the proud, the Native Atlantan. So I offered her what I could do to navigate Atlanta — great barbecue, greatest pizza place, etc.

“I’m still figuring out Atlanta most of the the time. Monday through Friday, I’m on set. Lately, I have been going to the Virginia Highlands. It’s just about doing stuff in Atlanta when i do have the chance. Sometimes in the beginning, I just find myself decompressing — doing laundry, getting rest. Right now, I’m fine!”

She definitely has me as a resource whenever she needs it. I’m like a great Atlanta tour guide.

Looking at where you are today compared to where you were even 10 months ago or even 3-5 years ago. What piece of advice would you give yourself?

“That I come first. That I can’t forget that I need to love myself, and always have hope. That I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, and I didn’t honestly know that word and what love meant until everything happened this year, I guess. Loving yourself isn’t selfish at all. It’s okay to tell people how much you love yourself. It’s okay to show people that you love your body, your spirit, your mind. It’s okay to be vocal. It’s okay to tell people how you feel and not feel ashamed. It’s okay to let people in. It’s okay just to live your life. You don’t necessarily need to follow a set plan. Sometimes, you kind of take each day for what it is and go along with the flow. Yeah…”

What is it that you think is impossible that if someone was to show you the way, that you would believe is possible? (Thanks to Chris, Stranger 63)

She pauses to think.

“Whatever that I feel is impossible right now…” She breathes deeply.

“Since I am from California, a liberal state, right now, this one, especially since this election just happened, I find it kind of impossible for me to kind of understand the conservative side. Sometimes, I find it hard to wake up in the morning, and be like, ‘it’s going to be a better day’. I do live in a household of conservatives, and we’re just not understanding each other — both sides. I guess that’s where I’m stuck right now. How do I inhabit a place or I love the work, and I can’t necessarily feel like I belong? Because I am the minority here. At home, I feel like I see the world. So it’s like two polar opposites right now. Kind of wading through the waters how I’m supposed to feel like I do belong. I don’t want to live in a place where I don’t, you know?”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“I just want to ask… do you love yourself? Do you love your life? Do you love what you’re doing? And if you’re not loving yourself or what you’re doing, what can you do?”

After the handshake.

I like how Chloe really found a place for herself… or rather, she found that it’s not only “okay” to love herself, but she should. It’s perhaps a simple thing thinking about it, but so often, we are our own harshest critics. Yet, that criticism doesn’t come with enough constructive criticism and positivity. We’ll laugh that we’re not good at something, and just leave it at that. For Chloe, she battled a tough time earlier this year, and it really put her in position to be happy with herself. Not only that, but she put herself first knowing that she’s the one person she’ll have to hang out with for the rest of her life.

I also liked her answer to Chris’s question from yesterday. It wasn’t so much about the answer as much as she understood it, and answered in a pretty succinct way. I was wondering about Chris question if today’s Stranger would be able to provide an answer, let alone one within our conversation. Though, I do hope that Chloe realizes that despite being a “red state”, there are many, many people who share beliefs much like she does. Plus, the studio is one with a fantastic community of yogis, so I feel she’ll feel she belongs, and is surrounded with people of similar values and interests.

Meet Chloe. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 57, Day 57 - Meet Claudia

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

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.

Stranger 23, Day 23 - Meet Erin

Stranger 23, Day 23 – Meet Erin, the “Dagorhir Enthusiast”

I’m discovering that despite being a part of this journey for more than three weeks, I’m still very much nervous about asking a Stranger to talk to me and share their story. It took me a few hours of being out in public thinking about this person or that person to ask before actually asking someone. When I did, I asked someone I initially was judging. I saw him, and thought him to be very strange sunbathing shirtless on a bench at a park with a big full-on beard. That’s when I realized that instead of judging him, I should get to know him.

Well, I asked him if he’d be my Stranger for today, but after hearing about the website, he cited, “disinterested”, and put his hand up. Well, okay. Next! (You thought he was going to be the Stranger, didn’t you?)

As I was driving off to meet a friend soon, an irregular scene caught the corner of my eye. In fact, I pretty much u-turned to check it out. At first, I thought it was a re-enactment of the Civil War, but realized it was more like soldiers from the midieval ties battling it out. So as I stood there on the “battlefield” watching, I was able to speak to one of the fighters and ask what this was. She told me it was like Game of Thrones but with foam weapons (foam sword, foam-tipped arrows, etc.). It was fascinating, so I asked her to be the Stranger of Day 23 to which she was happy to be.

Meet Erin, 23

What is this about? (+ some more background info)

Erin told me this was called Dagorhir. As I said before, it’s foam fighting meets Game of Thrones. Erin was new to the local Atlanta chapter, and she was part of the “Militia” unit. To others in the Games, she was known as “Skelec***”.

For the younger audiences, I’ve censored the name, but if you’re old enough, you can probably figure it out. The Militia unit is made up of monsters, and the like. There’s actually a whole story behind the many units to which I would do terrible in trying to rehearse for you.

How did you get into Dagorhir?

“One of my friends really introduced to me, and I was really into it because I saw the movie Role Models.” While not the same, but you can see what Erin was referring to in this LAIRE scene — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RH0zWG3Crzs.

Is this one of your biggest passions?

“I’d say it’s my favorite hobby. I’m pretty new into it, but definitely enjoy coming out here and fighting. I like going to the big national events. They do a lot of camping and hanging out.”

So what are your passions? Dreams?

“I do special effects make-up for the film industry. I just moved to Atlanta a month and a half ago. I work out of a studio here.”

I asked her if she did anything I would recognize, but she’s been sworn to secrecy. I’m getting a sense from others in the film industry that they’re like in the CIA — all secrets.

Then, I met Erin’s boyfriend, Alex. Alex was a big guy wearing a skull mask of sorts. He was real friendly and offered me a chance to jump into the fray. With my neck pain and an upcoming meet with friend, I wasn’t able to partake. Perhaps soon when I’m recovered.

Alex explained some of the rules of Dagorhir including what is a “death”. In this case, any touch by a sword or arrow around the body (or back) is a kill — no headshots. If you get struck in the arm, you have to remove your arm. I don’t remember what happens if you lose both arms, but if you lose both legs, you die. I’m immediately thinking about the black knight scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Erin continued to talk about breaking into the film industry, so I asked her what advice she would like to share, or the best advice she’s received.

“Go for it, and be really persistent. Don’t let things discourage you. For every 100 no’s, you’ll get a yes. Eventually, you have to latch on and go for it.”

What makes you feel most alive?

Erin thought about this question for awhile. “That’s a tough one. I’ve never been asked that question before. That’s a good Stranger question to ask.”

She thinks some more…

“I guess doing all this stuff. I feel like camping and hiking and being out in nature. Getting away from all the technology and all the everyday stuff. To take a step back and reflect on everything.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“I like those kind of questions you jump over small-talk, and go after the ‘meat’ questions.”

“I always like to hear where 3 places somebody would like to see before they die, or 3 things that are on their bucket list… whether it’s someplace they want to see, or where they want to go. You find out some of the unexpected things from people.”

After the handshake.

I got to meet many of Erin’s friends who were immensely friendly, and wanted me to join in on the battles. I was really tempted, but I had to meet up with a friend and my neck is still recovering from the muscle strain. I stayed and watched a bit of the battles and found it very interesting. They were a tight group of friends even when whacking each other pretty hard with these foam weapons. They were foam, yes, but the foam was surrounding some hard, fixed object.

Something about this scene made me really appreciate, too, this liberated feeling to got out there and have fun doing what you love with a community that loves the same thing. Perhaps because I could see myself as Sean William Scott or Paul Rudd in the movie Role Models years before –judging like I did with the first man before. In fact, how Sean and Paul felt in the movie was how I felt watching the movie. But I needed to come around like they did. Now, I find it utterly beautiful there are so many people enacting on their passions — battling it out on a Sunday afternoon with foam weapons, running groups, improv and various acting gigs, and even projects like interviewing Strangers.

Plus, I did my normal weekend stuff already, so to stumble on Erin and her friends was something out of the ordinary for me, and it was nice to venture outside my normalcy.

I appreciated Erin for taking a moment to share with me her story, but also show me the world of Dagorhir (and her friends). So this interview was a little shorter because I didn’t want to hold her back from battling. She loved it, and I didn’t want to get in her way. Not that she seemed to mind at all to stay behind to talk to me — that’s how great the whole community was.

So meet Erin. No Longer a Stranger.