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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 48, Day 48 - Meet Meg

Stranger 48, Day 48 – Meet Meg, the “Host”

Today, I got to meet the newest member (I think) to the Atlanta Tech Village community team. I remember her first day, and we briefly introduced, but that was it. Since then, we’ve said hello. That’s pretty much it. Today, I took the chance to meet her. I walked up to her to ask her if she’d like to be the Stranger of the Day to which she happily said yes and postponed learning how to bake white chocolate chip cookies. I’m usually not one to want to interrupt someone baking such deliciousness, but 5-7 minutes to get to know her might encourage her to slide a few cookies my way one day.

Meet Meg, 27

Who are you?

Meg smiles, and replies, “I’m Meg.”

“I am in physical therapy school. I’m the youngest of 7 kids — come from a big family. And I just love being with people.”

She adds, “… and being outside.”

What are your passions?

“My passions right now are…” We laugh as people in the lobby get wicked loud. (Borrowing that from my last two days from Boston.) I now hold my phone closer to her.

“… are healing people. So that’s what led me to physical therapy. I like the idea of being able to heal people with my hands and with my words and with my encouragement. I like to cook for people. I think hosting people can be really healing. I think a lot of people didn’t grow up in an environment where they get to do that well, and share meals with their family. I love just to have my buddies over and to cook for them. It’s really fun!”

We laugh some more as the people in the ATV lobby have somehow increased their volume.

What is your go-to dish to cook?

“I make really good chili. And I love making baked salads. But mostly, I just like baked vegetables. Chicken and vegetables.”

And the occasional cookie?

“Oh, cookies always. I guess that’s really my go-to dish. I used to deliver cookies to people.”

She’s learning out to do chocolate and white chocolate chip cookies, and she says she’s going to bring some in tomorrow. I definitely volunteered her to please share some with me.

What are your Dreams?

“My dreams… oh gosh…!”

Meg shares, “I would love to be doing a job that lets me heal people. I would love to do that all over the world. It’s my dream to have a really beautiful, welcoming home. It’s my dream to just be known for loving people well. And to be outside all the time.”

Do you think your best friends do love that about you very much? What are the top three things they would say about you?

“I would say understanding, funny, and adventurous.”

How does the adventurous play out? You like to be outside…

“I like to be outside. I just like to explore. I like exploring new places and doing new things. Just kind of the unknown is very interesting to me.”

Why is it interesting?

“Because I don’t know it yet! I want to know all of the things. It’s fun to discover them.”

How do you make time for that when you’re in school, you’re here at ATV, etc.?

She nods. “It’s a lot harder now than it was when I was just working.”

“… but I have a list of eight or nine things that help me to kind of get away from school and do my own things. I try to do two of them a week. It could be like 10 minutes of going on a walk somewhere new. Or it could be a whole morning exploring somewhere or reading a book. I’m trying to do two of those a week.”

She admits, “I don’t do that very well, though.”

What’s a lesson you want to share?

“Just to be kind, and to welcome people really well. You never know what someone is experiencing that day, and it’s always better to just assume the best of them than to jump to conclusions.”

“That’s like four different ones,” she laughs.

Why did you agree to accept this interview? (Thanks to Robbin, Stranger 47)

“Well, I’m at the end of my workday, and I didn’t really have anything going on. And I always see you, and I’ve never really gotten to talk to you.”

“… even though all I did was describe myself the whole time! Sorry!” She laughs big at this. I tell her it was less about me, and more (all) about her.

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

“If they could go anywhere in the world right, where would they go? And what’s the first thing they would do?”

After the handshake.

Okay, let’s be honest here… she agreed to share with me chocolate and white chocolate chip cookies. That’s pretty much a win. Add on top that I got to know her as today’s Stranger, that’s pretty much icing on the… cookie. 🙂

Now, I’ll run into Meg as I do around the office, and we’ll actually connect on something more than “hi”, smile, and go about our ways. I’m excited to have met yet another physical therapist. She like being a host, too, so it’s nice to know someone of such great value here at the office. (I seem to get hurt a little more often these days, and I’m always hungry.)

Jokes aside, Meg is such an enthusiastic and nice person making her a great fit with the rest of the ATV team. The Life Lesson she shared echoes what a few other Strangers have said. Namely, we do not know what is going on in others’ lives, so to be receptive and respectful to others as we meet them.

Meet Meg. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 39, Day 39 - Meet Megan

Stranger 39, Day 39 – Meet Megan, the “Planner and People Gatherer”

So I’ve spent the last couple days at a trade show/ conference. It’s been fun meeting all sorts of people, especially the vendors around me. One of the people working a booth across from my company’s is a super friendly woman. We’ve been joking back and forth quite a bit between conference sessions and speaking to attendees as they inquire about my company’s product and services.

The woman across the way is great — smart, energetic, and she can dish out the jokes almost as much as I can. Okay, maybe not as much — I’m probably too wound up for really anyone to catch up. In any case, she’s been fantastic to be booth neighbors, so I wanted to get to know her.

Meet Megan, 33

Who are you?

“That’s a complicated question… right off the bat!”

“I am a daughter and a sister first. I am a dog lover. I am a rabid Ohio State fan. I am an event manager — by trade, by character, by everything. So my neuroses and anal retentiveness come in handy — I get paid for it. I am a person who tries to make everyone’s experience better.”

What are your passions? Is it event planning? Making people’s experiences better? What are your passions?

“I would say… not that I am two different people. At my core, my passions are the people I love and care about. They are number one no matter what. I will do just about anything for them. But event management is definitely a passion of mine.”

“I joined [her company] at the time there was a lot of  growth opportunity for them and their event portfolio and how we were approaching events. over the years, I’ve seen it grow in leaps in bounds. I get real totally geeked out by it. I love it. At it’s core, we’re bringing people together; so it’s really cool to be the one to facilitate that. On top of it, to make sure it’s an awesome experience for them. That they leave thinking it was a valuable time. It’s not that they go and buy my product or anything like that… it’s just that they had a really good time, and got what they came for.”

What is the key to running a great event?

“Thinking of the other person. A lot of people plan events and even sessions at conferences with, ‘what do I want to tell people? What do I want out of this?’ If you do that, it’s going to be fairly evident and self-serving. So if you put yourself in the participants’ shoes, why are they coming? What’s going to make it valuable for them? What could you do to go above and beyond so these little things that they’re going to notice that are going to go to advance their experience. You put yourself in their shoes — that’s the first step to success. You do that, you’re using the right guiding principles.”

What’s another guiding principle of yours, or like a Life Lesson?

“Life Lessons… I used to have a saying that I lived by that. It’s definitely not mind, but ‘in the end, it’s okay. If it’s not okay, then it’s not the end’ or something probably much more poetic than that, but that’s the gist of it. Having grown up a little bit since I adopted that, I think I’ve realized that there’s not ‘the end’. There’s no finite end to anything… till there is, and then… you’re done.” She laughs.

I ask her what about these books, I’m reading. They seem to have ends. She laughs. “Those have ends.”

“I think my guiding principles, is to just do me. Do my best. Again, try to leave every place or every person a little bit better than when I came. Do what I can.”

So we last spent the last day across from each other [at the conference we’re at], what is that one thing, that one impression you want me to have of you?

Megan mentions how I’ve seen her “adorable dog” from her desktop background (and her foot was in the picture, too) — “your life is instantly better.”

Then, she mentions how she got me a demo and introduction with one of the Principals at her company. So she’s already done what she’s passionate about — bringing people together. “I facilitated a connection.”

Megan continues, “Make you stop the next time you go into an event.” I will definitely ask myself, “WWMD — What Would Megan Do?”

Do you have any Dreams? If so, what are they?

“I don’t know if I have any dreams in the sense of, ‘I want to be an astronaut when I grow up’ or anything like that. I don’t think I’m a grown-up, yet, 100%. I don’t know if you ever ultimately are, but I would just like to (this is real cheesy), I just want to be happy. I don’t need a million dollars. I want to love what I do, and believe in what I do. I want to be with people that I love and cherish. And eating is good, too, so… that one minor detail… above and beyond… doing what I love. My degree is about event management. I’m not going anywhere else! So, I’m fortunate in that regard. I have an amazing family, and not even just my mom, and my brother, and my dad, but… there’s about 100 of us that get together every other year, so I’m very close to 100 of them, and I’m incredibly fortunate because of that. I think I’m in a good place. I just want to keep growing myself, and challenge myself in that way. But I don’t think there’s this utopia that I’m working towards or anything like that.”

So what’s another way that you challenge yourself?

A lot of stuff going on at work is challenging, not that the work in and of itself is challenging, but I’m challenging myself to grow and do different things there. I also, similar to your project you’re doing here, I challenge myself to do what I call ‘the 12 for 12’. So it’s similarity in the name, but one philanthropic something per month for a year. I’ve done this before, and it can be something, ‘I’m on a committee to plan a charity event’, so it can be something as involved as that. Or in Chicago in the winter time, there’s a lot of homeless people. I buy McDonalds gift certificates and hand those out. It can be something big and involved, something very small, and just, again, try to make a difference. Do something that it’s not about me. And having to think and come up with 12 things to do, one let’s you know all of these amazing causes that are out there. But also, it brings you down a little bit. Reminds you that life is good, and that there are other people who could use your help a little bit. It’s important to take time out of your busy work, your busy life, and kind of give back to the greater good, or the greater world out there.”

One of the challenges I think about when giving back is that there’s so much to do. There’s so much help that is needed. Where do you find that line to say today’s enough? Where do you define that line to say this is enough? At what point is handing out McDonald’s gift cards… you just handed out 12. Why not 15 or 10?

“I think part of it is that there is no end, so you just keep doing good. It’s not like at the end of this year, ‘alright, never going to do anything good for anybody else, so I’m good with my life.’ But I just kind of approach it, giving of yourself doesn’t mean giving up yourself. So if it starts to be too much of a sacrifice on me where my work is being neglected. My family and friends are being neglected… and I mean truly neglected, not ‘sorry, I can’t hang out with you because I’m doing something else’. I think that’s when you have to take a look at your priorities, and if you’re okay with that, then maybe you just shift things. And I am that person that I don’t want to win the lottery because I won’t know what to do with the money. I’d be so crippled by who to help, and how much. That would be a burden to me. Spend $50 McDonalds gift cards, I’ll buy 10 $5 ones. Done. So I approach it very tactically just because otherwise, if you purchase too emotionally, there will be no end.”

So this is a great transition and segue into the Stranger’s question from yesterday… You have 10 grand. You can’t keep it. Who or what do you give it to, and why? You’ve got to do it in 24 hours.

“I would give…” She thinks about this for a while.

“I would break it up, and not give it all to one place or one person. I would give some of it to my brother. He is a journalist, and in the days of the inter-webs and everything connected. He held true to his morals and refused to write for anything except for a newspaper. He felt that was the one place he could be truly unbiased and could be a sports journalist and not write op-eds and opinion pieces or things like that. Because of that, journalists don’t make a ton of money, but I’m proud of him because he’s held true to his convictions even though it comes at a price.”

“I would donate money to a breast cancer organization. I have, unfortunately, many people in my life affected by breast cancer, specifically. So that’s why I would choose that instead of the American Cancer Society that is bigger and more generic.”

“I would also donate some money to some sort of animal rescue just because I’m a softy when it comes to stuff like that.”

“I would give money to an Alzheimer’s foundation.” I ask her how she would break out $10K across all the orgs.

“I would break it up. Maybe a $1000 to each of the organizations or something. Some fair split.”

“And the last one would be a domestic violence fund.” I ask her why.

Megan responds, “Alzheimer’s… my grandmother had Alzheimer’s, and it’s one of the saddest things to witness. Some days she would know exactly who she was, where she was, who you were, and other days, she’d be terrified — she had no idea what was around her. And then there were some days where she would say she was going to have lunch with the Clintons. Never happened, but sure why not? If that’s your world right now or not. It was awful. My grandfather… it tore him apart. Watching… you try to separate the disease from the person, but when you walk in and your own mother doesn’t recognize you, that hurts. So it’s an awful, awful thing for everyone involved to go through.” (Thanks to Erik, Stranger 38)

“Domestic violence… I am actually a victim of domestic violence in college. Since then, just working to… it’s a lot of stuff that’s being talked about right now — just rape culture. With the Standford rape case that happened… everyone thinks that rape is forcible sex by some creepy stranger who jumps on you from the alley. Most of the time, it’s not. So educating people, making it okay for victims to come forward. It sounds a little cliche because so many people are saying it. But they’re saying it because it’s true. You can walk around naked, and that does not give people the right to do things. That you did not consent to. So just really educating people on what domestic violence is. What is okay, and what is not okay. As a victim, what your rights are. How to protect yourself. Things like that. I think a lot of people chalk it up to locker room talk, or boys will be boys in college. Or girls were drunk at a sorority party, that’s just what happens. That’s not. And it’s also not only attractive 21-year-olds this happens to… women and men of every age, race, demographic out there. So once people start really start looking at the root cause, and what’s going on there, that’s where you start solving that problem. So there’s a lot of work to do there.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What is the one defining moment in your life?” — Perfect! This is a common question I like to ask Strangers anyways.

After the handshake.

It was great to meet Megan on a deeper level other than play catch with our stress ball give-aways. We’ve gotten along well as booth neighbors, and we’ve been helping each other out with people as they walk by — pulling and pushing people between our booths. Sometimes literally… ha.

Anyways, I got a better understanding of her role at her company, but also why she’s both doing it and successful at it. Her passion is about the people and creating great experiences for people. Her role as an events marketing manager at her company fits her well. Even as she talks about the money she’d give away to the different organizations and people (the answer to Erik’s question, yesterday’s Stranger) highlights the people who influence her and how she wants to support those close to her. Even then, she wants to split the money between entities — to be able to provide EACH person or organization with some value and greater opportunity than before her. I could see why she’s a people person and why she does what she does. It’s all rooted in the people actually closest to her and how they’ve influenced her life.

Meet Megan. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 18, Day 18 - Meet Katherine

Stranger 18, Day 18 – Meet Katherine, the “Communicator”

Today’s Stranger is actually a “pseudo-Stranger”. I met her a while ago while crossing the street. She was with a mutual friend. After we met, I spoke to her about possible contract work, but it didn’t work. We’re taking another stab at it, but the opportunity to get to know her was also too good to pass up. Luckily, she was open to being a relative Stranger given we didn’t know each other on a personal level.

Meet Katherine, 33

Who are you?

Katherine’s laughing already. I think she’s partially nervous, but also a lot excited about this. It’s definitely not something she’s used to.

She asks me, “professionally or personally?” I, of course, shrug my shoulders. I’d rather her lead me.

“I am a 32-year-old. Engaged. Communications professional. From Florida. Transplant to Atlanta 2008. Very social person, but I also like my downtime.”

What are your passions? What are your dreams?

“My business since the new year… I became an entrepreneur myself. It’s a passion. To provide senior-level communications support to developing businesses, growing businesses. Worked with a lot of big ones before, but now I want to help all the other guys get big. I’m really passionate about my friends and family. I’m the constant party-hoster. So I always throw the annual holiday party. I throw every baby, bachelorette, and bridal shower for all of my friends.”

Katherine adds, “so I’m passionate about the people I love.”

What’s the key ingredient to a great party?

“The people!” Right. I’d be surprised if she answered in any other way. However, she did share…

“Of course, great themes and costumes don’t hurt.”

What’s been one of your favorite themed parties so far?

“I threw a baby shower for my best friends last year. They love Star Wars, so their baby (10-months-old now, named Lucas — named after Luke Skywalker?) had a Star Wars themed baby shower. There was Luke Skywater for the water… photo booth with the different characters. It was really cool. The whole Star Wars theme.”

“… and they liked it a lot, too.” she added. I wouldn’t have doubted. It’s Star Wars with babies!

What’s been one of your biggest life regrets?

She took some time to answer this one — thinking.

Katherine sighed, “I don’t want to sound so cliche, but I do think that you shouldn’t regret anything because every single thing that has happened to you has brought you to exactly who you are. So I can’t think of a regret because even if it was a hard thing or a bad thing, I’ve always grown from it.”

What’s been a Life-Defining Moment for you?

“Choosing to be an entrepreneur. It really was.”

She mentioned she was going to be “cheesy” here.

“I’m a Cancer. So Cancer’s are known for stability and consistency… all those things. I’m very much that way, and against that nature, I knew that this was my calling. I knew that I wanted to do this. It wasn’t something that I thought about a really long time, but it was maybe a couple months. I said, ‘yeah, that’s what I want to do’. So the first couple months, I was, ‘yeah, I’m really doing this!’ Many of my family and friends were surprised, not because they didn’t think I could. But I usually take the safe track, the predictable track. But I think they were even more proud of me because of that.”

What’s a Life Lesson you’d like to share?

“There’s no wrong turn.”

What is something that you love or admire about yourself?

“My strength,” Katherine states confidently.

“… my persistence and strength… as an entrepreneur and in life, in general… I think the entrepreneurial path follows life. There are ups and downs. Sometimes you get the lead and the sale, and sometimes you don’t. I think you have to have a lot of strength to carry on and know what you’re worth and what you can do. In life and professionally, that’s something that I’ve, with time, found, and what I’m most proud of.”

Was there a time when this AHA! moment came to you that you had the strength to go it alone?

“Something doesn’t develop out of nowhere. It’s always in you, right?” Katherine responds at first.

She then adds, “I’ve had moments of it. I had self-doubt at times, but it’s been in this year that it really solidified, and I said, ‘yeah, I’m doing what I need to do, and I’m not going to doubt myself.’ So probably this past spring… just a few months into my entrepreneur adventure.”

What was great about Katherine’s response was that she had this realization only AFTER making the jump into entrepreneurship.

“They say to lean into the discomfort. It’s not an easy thing. You know, you have to trust in yourself. You’re the only one looking out for yourself. It’s where you test your limits. I really think everyone should do it at some point in their life. That’s why I love working with entrepreneurs — because I know exactly what it takes.”

What is everyone’s fascination with pumpkin-spiced lattes and pumpkin beers? (Thanks to Jennifer, Stranger 17)

Katherine is laughing pretty hysterically at this.

“Oh man, I used to be so addicted to those things!”

“I think it’s like anything… when something is there all the time, and they can’t have it everyday, it’s something special. Add to it that pumpkin’s just awesome…! I think the hype and people get excited that they better get it while they can.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What did you dream about last night?”

After the handshake.

I like Katherine’s energy and her confidence. She’s certainly got a lot of enthusiasm for her entrepreneurial endeavor, and she’s got some good hard skills in marketing and communications to enhance her abilities.

An illustration of her playfulness and confidence — she was worried about her picture. I took several of them to see which one she’d like, and she ended up picking an image that had the most wind causing her hair to blow across her face. It’s somewhat silly, and is a great reflection of her fun personality.

So meet Katherine. No longer a Stranger.