Stranger 100, Day 100 - Meet Toccoa

Stranger 100, Day 100 – Meet Toccoa, the “Hard-working, Loving Mother”

Merry Christmas! Today… was an interesting day to find a Stranger. I didn’t intend on today being the last day when I started this journey 100 Days ago. However, it was/ is. I wanted to spend a lot of time with my family, so at some time, I needed to leave my family in search of a Stranger. I drove to two Starbucks nearby (the first was closed.) At the second Starbucks, I approached a couple, and they weren’t at all interested.

The second couple agreed. Or at least, the woman did. Unfortunately, the woman was actually underage. She’s got a fascinating story, and was emancipating from her parents. I still spoke to her, though, to meet her, and honestly, I wanted to share her story if only because I was worried about the sparse Strangers around. (Christmas has a lot of places closed.) However, as I drove away back to join my family, I realized that I wouldn’t normally share an under-aged story unless I have explicit O.K. from a parent/ guardian. So, I’ll share her story, but in a different way later. Onwards!

Where else can I count on to be open and full of Strangers in a city I don’t live in? Waffle House! Haha, perfect. I drove to a local Waffle House, parked, and saw a few servers outside. I approached one of them, and shared with her my journey. She happily accepted to be Stranger 100. This is her story.

Meet Toccoa, 30

Who are you?

“I am a server. And, I drive for Uber and Lyft. What else?”


“And I’m a mother. That’s about it.”

“… and an owner of a dog,” she laughs.

Tell me a little bit about being a mother. What’s that like?

“It’s exciting! I love my baby. She’s my best friend. She’s 10 — just turned 10.”

… And you have a dog…

We get interrupted. She has several coworkers who stop her trying to “put me to work! I gotta go!”

You drive Uber and Lyft.

“… and Waffle House!”

Why do you work so hard?

“I have a daughter. I’m the only parent,” she chuckles.

“I’m a single parent.”

What is a dream or aspiration that you have for your daughter?

“For her to do a lot better than me, and finish college. Finish college with a doctor’s degree!” she laughs!

“That’s my dream! I don’t want her to stop at Masters or Bachelors. I want her to get her doctor’s degree, and do whatever she wants in life.”

How do you do that for her now? How do you inspire her to do that?

“With the grades. We keep the grades up for school — can be a little easier for when you do go to college, you won’t be so hard. You won’t be so stressed out because you’ll be a little more ahead, than behind.”

I’m guessing, too, that seeing you work so hard inspires her.

“Yeah, because I don’t want her to do what I have to do. I don’t want her to work so many hours just to make ends meet when life can be easier. I want her to know that, not just see it… just see me struggling. We actually have talked — she’s my best friend — we talk about it. I tell her, ‘I don’t want you to struggle like mama.'” She laughs quietly.

“I don’t. It’s not a struggle, but I don’t want you to work so hard for something that can be a little easier if you just finish school. Whatever doctor…”

Seeing as today’s Christmas and everything, what is something that maybe you can’t just buy her? What is something that you want to give her that you can’t just buy?

“The only thing she wants that I can’t buy, by the grace of God, is a brother and sister. I can’t buy that!” she laughs. “And that’s what she wants, so… everything else, I’m blessed. I’m blessed to buy her everything she wants.”

Very cool. So, I like to ask the Stranger of the Day, if you could ask anyone anything, what would you ask anyone? Yesterday, I met a gentleman by the name of Shyamal, and he wants to, essentially, ask you, “What is something you’re planning to do or do do to make the future better for everyone?” (Thanks to Shyamal, Stranger 99)

“I pray. I pray a lot. I pray for everyone. I’ll pray for you when I leave. So, I will advise the world to keep praying for each other instead of being mad at each other. That’s what I advise the world. More prayers, and less hate. That’s all I want for the world to do.”

So what’s a question you’d like to ask anyone?

“I would like to ask…” She thinks.

“I guess, what would they do to change to make the world a better place. How can they help us be a better place?”

“Yeah, make this world a better place.”

After the handshake.

Today’s story is a little shorter. However, in what few precious moments I spent with her, and hopefully, you can read, she is an incredibly hard-working mother who loves her daughter dearly. She had just gotten off her shift, so many people kept asking her to stay longer or go to another location. She was exceptionally courteous, and I didn’t want to take up too much of her time because the minutes she spent with me were minutes she was not spending with her daughter. It is, after all, Christmas. I was so happy to have met her, and to wave her goodbye because I knew she was on her way to see her daughter who would no doubt have a big smile on her face to see her mother.

Today’s Stranger 100, Day 100. In a lot of ways, this was the perfect story. My earlier meet with the woman who was a little younger was great, too, and I do want to share her story in a more “age-okay” way. She was very mature, and had a big, big smile. However, today is Toccoa and her daughter’s. Toccoa’s story encapsulated much of this journey in her making time for a perfect Stranger like me while sharing her love for her daughter. That’s what motivates her. That’s why she works so hard.

Meet Toccoa. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 83, Day 83 - Meet Virginia

Stranger 83, Day 83 – Meet Virginia, the “Happy-Go-Lucky”

I met today’s Stranger while waiting in the lobby of Atlanta Tech Village. She was walking around the building for a moment before stopping in at the Octane coffee shop. That’s when I walked up to her while she was checking out. She gave me the curious look of what I wanted after I told her I wanted to ask her a random question. However, she was totally game for meeting, and so here goes…

Meet Virginia, 29

Who are you?

She gives me a funny face. “Hmm, I don’t know how to answer that.”

Though, she tries anyways, “I’m somebody that’s pretty happy-go-lucky. I have a lot of passions about a lot of different things.”

She continues, “I’m a nurse, so I have a lot of consideration for people in a lot of different ways. But even when I’m not working, I guess, I still consider people in different ways.”

You have a lot of passions for a lot of different things. So what are a few of those passions?

“Well, I guess, what I mean is I have a lot of passion for what I do at work — like caring about people and taking care of them.”

“But, I guess, anything I do like biking, kick-boxing, or boxing. When I start to do it, I really think about my goals. Like I start to have goals about what I’m trying to do. That’s what I mean.”

What’s a goal you’ve got right now?

“Actually, just started taking Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This will be a long, long term goal. Eventually, I want to be a black belt. But I just started so that’s going to take a while.”

“And then with biking, I actually, one of my other long-term goals is to do a Century, which is a competition to do a 100-mile race. So I’m going to do that.” She thinks some more.

“And then as far as my career, eventually, I’m going to go back to school. I want to do some travel nursing. So, I can see different things before I go back to school.”

Where do you want to travel?

“I guess for travel nursing, I would have to live in a certain area. I was thinking about definitely over in the west coast. I had some thoughts about Hawaii. That’d be fun. Maybe New York City. Maybe also in Puerto Rico or Bahamas. Like down in that area. But, I like to travel, so out of the country is always fun.”

You mentioned you like to care for people. What are the reasons you’re doing this and nursing? Where did you get this drive and motivations to care for others?

“It started with my family. I originally wanted to be an eye surgeon.” The moment she said that I felt my stomach turn thinking about surgery on an eyeball. Yowza!

“… because my grandmother was going blind. I learned very quickly after watching one surgery that I did not want to be an eye surgeon,” she laughs.

“Then, I started to think back on what I actually liked to do and what mattered to me most. I went through a lot of paths before I picked nursing. I picked nursing because I wanted to be able to do something if something happened to someone I cared about. It’s not too specialized, but it’s specialized enough where I would know how to save some lives for people that I cared about outside of the hospital setting.” That’s cool!

One of the very first things you mentioned to me about you was describing yourself as “happy-go-lucky”. How does that fit into everything?

“I’m not really sure. That’s just kind of how I’ve always been. I guess I get the feedback from people and people tell me, ‘oh, you smile a lot. You laugh a lot.’ Like I get that growing up. That’s my feedback, so that’s how I feel like I am.”

Virginia adds, “I like to take things seriously, but not to the point where it makes you miserable. I think, sometimes, you have to look on the positive side. I know it sounds kind of cheesy to say. It’s hard to do, but sometimes you just have to think positively. I like to exude that.”

Thinking about how you’re a nurse, and how you like to exude positivity. From what I’ve heard from my nurse friends, there are difficult times as a nurse. So I’m curious how you are able to keep your positivity in otherwise difficult situations (that aren’t).

“Umm, yes, I would say it’s very difficult sometimes with certain people in the hospital while taking care of people. I always try to keep in mind that if it’s the patient that’s acting out, I always try to keep in mind that they’re stressed out in this situation. They’re not necessarily doing it towards me. So, I had to learn very quickly not to take things personally. I have to think about their situation. If it’s family members, it’s pretty much the same thing. Like, even if they’re not going through what the patient’s going through, they’re still stressed out for their loved one in that way.”

“I try to keep that in mind. I keep a smile. I like to kill them with kindness. How about that?”

But not actually kill them!

“Yes!” she laughs hysterically. Poor choice of words, but I get it. 😉

What makes you the most happy? (Thanks to Sunshine, Stranger 82)

“I would say…” she thinks about this. “Being around, and just having my friends and family and also my cat… makes me really happy. So we could be happy just being around my friends and family because they’ve got me through a lot through my many years of being on this earth.”

Anything they’ve done specifically that you use as a nurse?

“I think what I learned from them is just to listen. Because I guess, in our day and age, we spend a lot of time talking about things. So, I’ve learned from them how to listen to them because they listen to me when I’m venting about something.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“Maybe what motivates them to do what they do to try to make the world a better place.”

After the handshake.

We had fun taking her picture in different ways, and then, speaking for a few minutes about this journey. I mentioned to her that one of the inspirations of 100 Strangers, 100 Days was the frequency to which we see the same people all the time, but because we do not have to “work” with these people intentionally, we don’t connect often. I shared with her how we tend to do the courteous thing to wave hello or say hi, but nothing else. The rude thing would be to not do anything. Meanwhile, the awkward thing would be to say hi and go beyond the hello. Why is that? She points out that she felt that exact same way when I first approached her. Then, she caught herself and asked herself mentally why she felt this was awkward. So she very much understood the motivations behind this journey.

She also comments how she talks to Strangers all the time, but she does so because she “has to” as part of her job. However, there are many others she sees frequently who she knows nothing about. She thinks about this, and I can see it working in her mind. I can see her thinking about taking a leap to meet some of these Strangers with familiar faces she sees often.

It was only Virginia’s second time at this Octane coffee shop, she also tells me. Well, hopefully, maybe, we’ll see other again in the (near) future.

Meet Virginia. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 81, Day 81 - Meet Tesh

Stranger 81, Day 81 – Meet Tesh, the “Man Seeking ‘Obrima'”

I met today’s Stranger sitting at the “corridor” of the first floor of Atlanta Tech Village today. I wasn’t sure if I should walk around a while, but then saw this gentleman tip-tapping on his new MacBook wearing a Batman beanie and workout clothes. Hmm… seems like there’s a good story here, and boy was it! He was happy to jump in as today’s Stranger, and I’m glad I got to meet him.

Meet Tesh, 28

Who are you?

“Who am I? I’m a father of 10…” *pause* Eh?

“I’m joking! I’m joking!” Haha. You’re the first to pull a joke on that one, and it’s Day 81!

“Well, you know, I’m an inventor. I am an explorer. I’m an entrepreneur. In search of obrima. It’s a West African term. It means to search for a higher sense, or acclimation of one’s self. To a degree, yes, I am spiritual. So everyday, I seek to attain obrima. But, you know, in that attainment, that’s something that’s ongoing. You never really will reach it, not even on your dying day. But it does provide a sense of fulfillment because you’re looking to strive to get better. I don’t mean monetarily, but I mean holistically. To be a better person than the day before.”

“Obrima is also a brand. It’s a fashion brand that I’m building. My first runway fashion show that I modeled in was three years ago. And my current business partner is like a brother to me now. It was his first design competition. It was here in Atlanta. It was sponsored by Peroni, the Italian beer, and Milk Studios, which is a studio based in New York. I closed the show — an orange, unfinished blazer. It was a linen blazer. It was a spring collection, and I helped fund it, too. When we met, it was at the casting. Afriyie is my friend’s name — my business partner. He’s a self-taught designer. He finished middle school here, and he went on to move to Atlanta, actually. He used to work out of a boutique here in Atlanta in Midtown. He was a tailor — an in-house tailor.”

“Story told short, that’s where we…,” he pauses for a split-second before pivoting. “After that, we went to Charleston Fashion Week in March of 2013. He was an emerging designer out of a competition of 20. We were entering menswear for a holistic brand which so happens to be the market we were entering first. Out of 20 designers, we won… only male designer.”

“Fern Mallis, who’s the founder of New York Fashion Week, who was one of the judges, is one of our mentors. Now, we just won last year the Axe White Label Collective. So Axe, the body spray, partnered with Esquire Magazine, and they came up with a new product category to cater to more of an adult demographic. It is called, again, the White Label. By partnering with Esquire, they wanted to tell an authentic narrative. So they selected our brand. They selected Afriyie as a designer with demonstrable talent in a brand in American fashion, or fashion in general with high potential. So, it’s really neat. We were notified that we secured that.”

“Our mentors were Nick Sullivan, who is a fashion director of Esquire Magazine, John Legend, the musician, and Billy Reed, who today, is a quite close friend and mentor. Billy Reed is an American designer.”

“So, that’s one of my areas of interest. We’re pursuing that. That’s kind of one area on my walk… on my path.”

… towards obrima.

“Yeah, well, obrima came, again, I grew up Hindu. My religious affiliation, I don’t have a partial affiliation, but I just like the term.”

So, you’re doing a few different things — modeling, and you call yourself an inventor.

“Well, an entrepreneur. When I say that, I just seem to be very, very good at connecting dots. And by dots, I mean people. People with certain levels of skill sets, or interests by coming together, we can create something of value to us and to others.”

“Value and also it being strong and impactful in society. But in this case, this is in healthcare. We started a medical technology company. It’s call Lab Solutions. It’s a reference laboratory. It’s in Midtown, actually, right behind Atlantic Station on Northside Drive. We do a couple things. One is toxicology. With toxicology, we test to the nanogram with what’s called Liquid Chromatography Dual Mass Spectroscopy machines.” Pause here, and say that five times fast. Or just twice. Nope.

“They’re made by Agilent Technologies. They analyze urine specimen or liquid fluids to the milligram. It protects patients’ safety and compliance reasons, and also physician liability. So, practices nowadays because of adverse drug events or aversion, you name it, practices are looking for standard protocols or methodologies in place whether it’s a primary care physician, or an internist becomes a sole practitioner to multi-practice groups like a behavioral health center of psychiatrists. We test urine specimens to the nanogram, and we test for over 200 analytes. By analytes, we mean different drugs and different drug classes in order to provide a scope to what is in a patient’s system. Each physician or group practice or whatnot has their own standard protocol. That’s just one of our services. ”

“Another one is pharmacode genetics. The pharmacode genetics, we have an in-house genetics team. We create personalized drug therapy programs based off a patient’s genomic makeup. We all metabolize medications differently. How I digest an enzyme reacts to that medication… it could be toxic, right? So with these color-coded pharmacode genetic reports that are sent via fax, or we can do a bi-directional-EM interfacing with EMR (electronic medical records), these reports are done within 4-5 business days, and the physician can see — well, if certain medications they’re curious about are not working, the report can provide a possible alternative or an adjustment in dosing along with their current medication list. With pharmacode genetics, it can be a poly-pharmacy patient on multiple medications. Maybe the physician has a curiosity of just a certain type of patient. But it’s a great way. It’s progressive medicine, and it really helps save healthcare dollars, and of course, patient care… and the patient as a whole.”

“We also do some cancer genomic studies and testing. With a saliva sample, if you, as a patient, have a hereditary predisposition in your nuclear family (close blood relatives) have cancers of various forms — whether it’s breast, ureteral, colorectal — you name it — ovarian… we can predict the likelihood you have cancer, or if it’s already present in your body.”

“We’re working more towards a more… becoming more of a diagnostics lab. You know, progressive clinical tools to help enhance the clinical practice. So, we want to partner with physicians more than just extend a service. It’s more of a partnership and a service orientation.”

“So far, it’s good. We have a 10,000-sq foot standalone facility in Midtown. We service a lot of practices here in the Atlanta metro-area, and into South Carolina, North Carolina, and beyond.”

I think I’ve messed up some of the spelling. You’ll have to bear with me! Lots of background noise on my voice recording + complicated medical terms I’ve never heard = typos, likely. Yowza.

That’s… quite a bit. (“Yeah, I know,” he laughs.) You’ve got this fashion thing going on. You’ve got this life sciences/ health company. What’s driving this motivation for you?

“Honestly, it’s the people I work with. Who I work with that help me grow, and evolve, and become a better person. Not only with my decision-making and choices, but also from an educational standpoint. Learning from others. I’ve been fortunate to work with close family, close friends in order to progress myself, and my individual interest helps drive my personal growth. So that’s that.”

Has there been some way, some time where you’ve been maybe “kicked down”, and your friends (the people who drive you) have been there to help?

“Oh, all the time!”

“Here’s the thing when I say friends. A lot of this is the relationship that I have with, for example, one of my friends. He’s, I’d say, eight years older. There’s this sense as almost a guardian relation. So, you can be assessed more critically by someone who knows you so well, than someone else. Society today, you get too many trophies for coming in 2nd or 3rd. It’s this sense of a pat-on-the-back. Whereas, with my friend and the way of our interactions, it’s not always honky-dory. When it’s not, someone can come down on you. They’re comfortable in the way they approach you vivaciously. And, it, again, always hasn’t been that easy. And nothing is. Even with my brand. Yeah, sure, these accolades, these events and functions, even in the lab, you’re having to pitch what it is… your service offerings. You know how many physicians get approached for all types of things all the time, especially being private? Yeah, I’ve been told no. And do I get down? Absolutely. I’m a human, you know. I can sit here and say this, this, and the other, and all these wonderful things going on, but that doesn’t come without sacrifice. Are you kidding me? That doesn’t come without sacrifice. It comes with a certain amount of mental fortitude. Fight everyday. It’s not easy out there these days.”

“With the advent of social media, and the things society deems is whole. ‘By attaining this material thing, makes me a better person.’ Identifying with these sort of outfits… that’s not how society should be shaped. That’s not how we should be shaped as people. It’s so hard to connect these days. You’re already typecasted as soon as you walk out the door whether it’s your facial hair, whether you’re wearing a Batman cap, you know it doesn’t matter. What I’m saying is that societally, we have to work together to create a degree and sense of open awareness and order and structure, and just resonate with each other. Not saying that’s going to happen overnight, but you have to have an open mind initially for that to begin — that open dialogue.”

“I’ve judged others in my past, and I do it probably now. But I’m very much more aware, more conscious of just changing things that are habitual. Not that judging people is habitual, but anything in life whether it’s exercise — my regimen needs to change after a certain time.”

“Is that good?” he asks to check if he answered the question.

What is the most important personality quality that you think could allow you reach a new level in whatever it is you’re doing — your career, or like your art, or your work. What personality trait do you think matters the most for developing that way? (Thanks to Aaron, Stranger 80)

“As you’re reading that, the first trait that came to mind is perseverance. Perseverance is something that I resonate with that’s actually on my, framed on my bedroom wall at my family home in Spartanburg, South Carolina. It’s a man holding on with one hand — you know, those motivational quotes? Yeah, perseverance is a strong trigger — quality or trait — in order to continue to manifest, regardless of what may be attacking you in your life. I mean… it’s the one thing that keeps me going, you know?”

“So I would think anyone who is looking to further themselves and their pursuits, and have a sense of… fulfill their sense of purpose. Purpose is ever-lasting. It’s something that constantly changes instead of the effervescent. Yeah, I think that’s the strongest quality.”

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

He thinks about this one. First time! Then, he says, “So many I could ask…”

Tesh talks about adversity, and wants to ask this to tomorrow’s Stranger: “how to deal with adversity, you know, in order to have the most effective outcome. Yeah, that’ll be my question — how do you deal with adversity?”

After the handshake.

Wow. I won’t lie, this was a doozy of a write-up. There were so many technical terms, and so much background noise in my recording, and Tesh had a fair bit to say. There was so much to his story. Much of it, especially early on, was technical. I thought about abbreviating some of it, but it was very fascinating, especially, as I listen to Tesh again, and transcribe his story. Further, I ran into a friend later in the evening, and shared a little bit about Tesh. She, being interested in science and the human genome, was so intrigued into Tesh’s story. This only confirmed that I should transcribe as much detail as I could from my meet with Tesh.

Tesh was brilliant. I enjoyed listening to him, and how he could easily recant the various services and accomplishments of his fashion brand and his lab. He’s 28, and though, I did not ask about his background further, it’s clear he’s had some quality education both formally and informally as he’s learned on his own.

I also appreciated Tesh’s response to Aaron’s question regarding the personality trait. Tesh is well-versed in entrepreneurship, and how important and powerful perseverance is. He mentions purpose during our meet, too, which tells me that he, too, believe purpose can play a powerful roll in persevering. Don’t I know it…

So meet Tesh. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 65, Day 65 - Meet Victor

Stranger 65, Day 65 – Meet Victor, the “Always Learning”

Today, I waited a bit to find my Stranger of the day letting the search start late in the afternoon. I actually walked up to a man in his Navy fatigues, and he was interested. However, he was buying some Fitbit as part of some Craigslist deal at the moment. He said he was going to come back to me after he finalized his deal, but… he didn’t. Like a naval submarine, he disappeared and never resurfaced. Sadness.

So, I shifted gears into just sitting down at a table in Starbucks and working. There was a guy sitting at another table who I’ve seen before. Though, I didn’t want to interrupt his work then. I was thinking about asking someone else; though, I did make a mental note to meet him one day soon since I see him often. So I finally did ask him as he went to the bathroom. Kind of weird position for me to be in, but hey, it was convenient, and he happily accepted to be today’s Stranger.

Meet Victor, 27

Who are you?

“I’m a medical student here at DeKalb Medical Center. That’s what I do right now. I’m a 3rd year. Went to school here in Atlanta — went to Emory and Georgia Tech.”

I shared with him that I went to Georgia Tech undergrad before Emory for grad school.

“I started off at Emory. I did chemistry and mathematics there, and then I did electrical engineering at Tech. I did the dual-degree program. And then after that, I did medical school at St. Georges University in the Caribbean. But that’s only two years in the Caribbean, and then two years in the States.”

What brought you into the medical field?

“I’m in a family of physicians. My whole family are physicians. Made it easier for me to choose medicine, but also I’m very analytical. I love science, and I love to learn and help people.”

“I had a depression when I went to Georgia Tech. It is tough. I had to fix my depression, right? I was a super-nerd. I read books every week — read a book a week. So then I decided to read books on how to solve my problems. Kind of created this journey of self-development. Started exercising, meditation, stuff like that. I just wanted to emphasize the human aspect of it.”

I shared with him a little bit about Chloe’s story from yesterday, and how yoga was how she found her happiness and loving herself.

Victor responded, “yeah, yoga is amazing! Yoga can change you just as much as meditation in different ways.”

Thinking about all the books you’ve read, what are some of the books you’ve read that were really fascinating and why?

“Depends on what you want, or what you’re interested in. For me…”

“My favorite book/ novel that I’ve read — read it eight or nine times — is Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. It’s very short — like a novella. It’s like 90-100 pages. Just a great book. It’s about life. It’s about suffering. That’s pretty much what it’s about — life.”

“Another book that I read recently is by Thich Nhat Hanh. He’s a Vietnamese Buddhist monk. He wrote this book called Anger. Really, really helped me with my relationships with people. It really helped me understand happiness, and how it’s important to be happily yourself so you can make other people happy. Because when you’re in a bad mood, it’s hard to be patient with people, right? You have to take care of yourself. And then, when you have yourself taken care of, then you can listen to people, and you can help people that need it.”

Take some people who are extremely compassionate about helping others even if they’re toxic. How do you help that compassionate person?

“I struggle with this myself. In a relationship I’ve been in, this person couldn’t handle her own happiness very well. She’s very negative in ways. You have to be patient. When you find yourself in that respect, you have to be patient. And to other people, it might seem like, ‘that person’s walking all over you’. Maybe that’s the story you can create. Maybe you can create a narrative, but it’s really what you’re okay with. If it doesn’t bother you on the inside, if it doesn’t touch you deeply that this person is taking advantage of you… but that’s not really the right perspective. The correct perspective is that this person can’t help but hurt other people. When somebody can’t help but hurt other people, you have to understand that no matter who they’re with, they’re going to hurt the other person. It’s a pattern of behavior this person has. If you’re not going to help that person, then who will? The kind of behavior — toxic behavior — they can’t handle their own happiness. You have to steer them towards that. It’s a slow… very slow process, but it can be done. Most people have had a personal transformation where they’ve had struggles they’ve had to overcome. And you know you can’t define people on their behavior. Everybody’s changing. Nobody is granite or a rock or whatever. You can make a change.”

Any other lessons that you’ve learned that’s helped you? Maybe from another book, but in general.

“I’ve had a few experiences…” Victor starts.

“… sometimes, we become so focused. We focus on one thing, and then, it kind of changes our perspective on things. Once we focus on something, we become a different person in a way. So if you’re focused on meeting people, you really, really focus on it. It’ll change you in ways that you’ll be like, ‘wow, that was great!’ But it could be pretty much anything. You focus on anything, it’s going to change you. It really depends on what you value, what kind of person you want to be. My whole life I’ve been changing. I’ve always been changing — becoming a different person.”

What do you think you’re changing into right now?

“What I would like to… right now, my focus is on my relationships, medicine, and happiness. And the gym! So I guess there are four things. Just trying to focus and become just a better person. There’s not really better, right? But just more athletic. I like to be happier. I like my relationships going better. Would like to do well in medical school.”

Anything you strive for in a relationship? Something you really look out for when it comes to a new relationship?

“Again, everyone has similar experiences that sometimes, you’ll meet somebody, and you’re like, ‘okay, I’m going to give my best of this’. Sometimes, you meet somebody and you’re not really feeling it. But you go with the flow just to have fun or whatever. When you’re committed in a relationship, there’s going to be hardships no matter what. There’s no way around it. There’s going to be times when you’re disgusted, or you’re turned off. There will be times you’re going to get angry. You have to make a decision — are you going to leave the relationship based on the first little thing that comes up? Or are you going to be committed? The thing is, if you leave, then whenever a similar problem in another relationship that you’re in, it’s going to be a similar scenario. The problems that led to you leaving the first relationship is going to repeat itself in your next relationship. You’ll really need to come to terms with it… you have to really study what you think.”

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? (Thanks to Chloe, Stranger 64)

“I would say, I love my life. Yeah, I don’t really know what to say.” He thinks about this.

“I’m not bursting with joy at this moment, but yeah, I’d say my life has been really great. I’ve had a lot of great experiences. Different experiences. Had ups and downs. It’s been good. And what I think people could do to enjoy their life more… anything could work. Some people meditate. Some people pray. Some people do yoga. Some people play sports. Some people go out and just talk to people or hang out with friends. Play an instrument. Anything can make you happy. It depends… just finding out what does, and including that in your life.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

He starts out, “That’s a tough one.” All the other questions, he rolled straight into. This one, he wanted to make good, so he gave it more thought.

“What are the happiest moments of your life, and what are the saddest moments?”

After the handshake.

It was cool to meet a fellow alum of both Georgia Tech and Emory. We shared that in common. Meanwhile, I really enjoyed him sharing the two books. I’ve got a couple books in my queue to read after my current one (Primed to Perform), but I’ve added these to my queue. They sounded like actually a couple books that I want to buy a friend, so yeah… that’s cool.

The question about helping someone who is very compassionate with others even when those relationships may be toxic hits home for me. It’s partially for me to learn and think about, but it was also for me to think about how to help a friend of mine who I recently sat down with and talked about toxic relationships. I was more of the person that said, ‘hey, I think you should walk away’ citing reasons like ‘you have only so much energy and if you focus on helping those who don’t want to be helped, you’re wasting your time. In fact, you might not be helping someone who could truly use your compassion.’ It’s a tough one, but maybe one of these books Victor shares will help shed more light on how best to help others.

So there’s Victor. Look forward to seeing him in the near-future, and knowing who he actually is.

Meet Victor. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 52, Day 52 - Meet Rhonda

Stranger 52, Day 52 – Meet Rhonda, the “Candy and Chocolate Enthusiast”

I chipped my tooth back in high school when I got in a bad mountain biking accident. I got it bonded, but while eating some chewy candy (Airheads) last night, the bond loosened up after all these years to come off. It was odd missing so much of my front tooth today, but I got an appointment at the local dentist to get it fixed. I met an extremely friendly assistant while In The Chair, so I asked her if she’d like to be today’s Stranger. She said she liked to keep private, so declined. Darn.

As I was sitting there staring at the sun (okay, it was the light overhead) while drills and bonding agents were applied to my tooth, I was wondering where I would find my Stranger today. I didn’t have to wait too long as I was happily greeted by the billing woman — not just to collect my payment, either. She and I spoke on the phone, and she was so happy to meet me and asked me about what candy did me in. She then told me about her love for candy (and everyone else’s love in the office). She actually loves Tootsie Rolls of all types, but chocolate was her favorite. She also shared how her dog even loves chocolate. She excited told me that her dog would be celebrating his 14th birthday in two days. It dawned on me that she could be a perfect Stranger, so I asked, and she accepted.

Meet Rhonda, 52

First, can we take a moment to celebrate that Rhonda is 52 years young, and she is Stranger 52? Yeah, Rhonda and I high-fived about that, too. 🙂

Who are you?

“I’m a mother, grandmother, and a wife. I’m an animal lover. I love my dog. I love my family. I love job. I love nice people. I’m a happy person!”

What makes you happy? What makes you smile everyday?

“My family. Nice people.” She smiles.

“… just being alive.”

Everyone always says, “nice people”. What does “nice people” mean to you?

“What does nice people mean to me…” she ponders out loud.

“Seeing somebody do something for somebody else. Seeing somebody push a cart out of the way for a car to get into a space,” she says as she motions towards the parking lot.

“Seeing somebody opening the door for somebody else. Seeing somebody bend over and pick up a piece of trash. Seeing a younger person doing something for an older person… especially a younger man, younger kid doing something for an older person… because of all the junk going on in the world. I love having older people in the office so you can dote on the older people. That makes me happy.”

So you have how many children? and grandchildren?

She mentions how she has one direct child, and three “bonus” children that she came to love and have through her husband. Rhonda tells me about her kids, and their families. She details the family tree — in various stages of marriage and pregnancy.

She tells me how she’s close to her children and her grandchildren.

What is something you’ve done parenting and grandparenting to instill that “niceness”? That benevolence?

“I’ve never spanked my daughter,” she laughs.

“One thing is that we never say ‘shut up’. We don’t say the word. When my grandkids come to my house, they’re allowed to do anything and everything they want except for fights and screaming and yelling. In my house, there is no screaming or yelling because we didn’t do that when my daughter was growing up.”

“And we always share with one another. And we’re always polite to one another inside the house and outside the house. We treat each other with how we would want to be treated. I’m not a yeller.”

“I don’t yell at my daughter to do things, like, ‘STOP IT!'” though, she whisper-yells this. “I just don’t yell.”

Is there anything that you are really hoping for for your grandchildren as they grow older?

“I hope this world doesn’t become a bad place as people think that we’re heading. I hope it doesn’t become as bad as it seems it’s going to become.”

What is that “bad”? What is that “bad” that you’re thinking? What’s something that makes it bad?

“All that fighting that’s been going on with the police. And all the groups… all the hate and animosity between the different… I want to say generations, but it’s the different nationalities. I want see that. I want to see them come together versus getting worse. If it’s getting worse, I hope it’s after their time. I don’t want to see it get worse during their time. I hope they don’t have to live through that.”

“Some of the things we’ve already seen are not good things, and I don’t want to have to see it getting worse.” She shares how her grandson-in-law was in Afghanistan, and “that’s bad enough. I don’t want anything worse than that to be seen by my grandchildren.”

Why do you think people discriminate in private, and why do you think when you’re riding on MARTA, nobody has that anger and frustration out in public? They’re not yelling at each other, calling each other names? Why do they do it in private? (Thanks to Even, Stranger 51)

“I think it’s because they feel more comfortable. They feel that they can get away with it versus being in public. It’s ‘okay’ to do it in private versus doing it in public. They can get away with it, and nobody’s going to know it. It’s ‘okay’ to do it in your private life, but it’s not okay to do it in public life. You’re seen differently in public. People are going to judge you. Where if you do it in your private life, who’s there to judge you? I think that’s why.”

“… because they’re not ready to be judged. The people that do do it in public life, don’t really care if they’re judged or not.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“Why do you think there’s so much animosity and hate in this world? Why can’t we get along? Why we can’t unite as one front and be happy?”

“… why is there such a problem. We’re all God’s children.”

One last question — if you’re dog could speak, what would he say to you tonight?

“If my dog could speak, what would he say tonight…?”

“First of all, he would tell me he loves me. And then he would say, ‘take me to the doctor, and make it so that I can jump higher on the couch and in the bed.'” Rhonda laughs.

“‘… and can I have some more chocolate and cheese?'”

After the handshake.

Thanks to Rhonda for allowing me (us) to get to know her! She had a very happy, bright personality while helping me close out at the dentist, and that same bright spirit carried on through our conversation. She’s the paradigm of a grandmother as she speaks lovingly of her children, her grandchildren, and even her dog. She was an open book, and I’m sure she would have shared so much more if I asked, but I didn’t want to take up too much of her time while she was working.

So meet Rhonda, and be sure to say happy birthday to her dog in a couple days — in your head or as a Comment below.

Meet Rhonda. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 47, Day 47 - Meet Robbin

Stranger 47, Day 47 – Meet Robbin, the “Discoverer”

Was still in Boston when I decided to meet my Stranger for the day, and I did so waiting in line for the best lobster rolls in the city – Neptune Oyster Bar in the Northend. This was based off the recommendation from a local Bostonian who I had a meeting with this morning, and he was right!

I got to the spot 15 minutes early, and there was already a line to get in (hadn’t opened yet). I happened to meet the man in front of me who was in town from Shanghai. Perfect! I could now get some more international Strangers involved! So here we go…

Meet Robbin, 34

What are you doing here in Boston?

“Traveling… traveling for fun.”

Robbin’s in Boston for a couple nights before leaving for NYC.

Who are you?

“Who am I?” he asks me. He wonders what do I mean.

“I’m Robbin.” I go on to tell him that the purpose of this question is to see how he wants to share who he is with me. At this time, his friend who has lived in Boston for the last year comes up.

What are your passions?

“Passions…” Robbin thinks.

“Discover. Visit the universities, schools, hospitals because I work in the medical industry. Meet more people who are intelligent, smart, have vision…”

What fascinates you about the medical field?

“Because most of my family to my grandma and my mom… they were doctors. So I’ve been familiar with medicine since I was young. I used to spend a lot of time in the hospital when I was in the general school. That’s why I’m interested.”

“Secondly, the Chinese medical history is not that well. Few changes. So I’m working multinational exchange. Making exchanges of the education programs. I think it’s helpful, and good for the industry.”

What are the schools you’re visiting here?

“M.I.T. and Harvard.” At least, those were the ones here. Robbin’s also visiting university hospitals in southern California like University of Southern California. I suggest he visit Emory University in Atlanta, and stop by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

How many times have you been to the U.S.?

“Four trips. Four long trips.” He’s going to be here in the States for 10 days.

“I just came from Canada. I started driving from Chicago, and went to Canada – Toronto and Ottawa and Montreal. Then, here. Today, I’ll go to New York.” He also describes going to visit Niagara Falls.

What are your favorite cities?

“My favorite cities are on the East side. Boston! I think Washington, D.C. as well, but not New York.” He laughs. He’s got enough “busy” in Shanghai, and doesn’t need another one in NYC even though he’s going today.

“Actually, West side is pretty good for traveling and flights.” Robbin is referring to California, specifically. “The people there… their kindness. They’re not in a hurry. So, it’s much better than the East.”

He admits, “It’s a different way. In the age of minds, I think maybe the East is better… for business, for education programs.”

What do you think is something we should learn in America from China?

“Something to learn?” he confirms with me.

“It’s difficult. We’re coming from a different socialism. Different culture and background… education background. So, if you want to say, ‘what’s the things you want to learn from China?’, maybe practice.”

“How to practice in a quick way, a fast way. But this is kind of tricky because everything comes true by outfits in China. So, they can move wherever they want to go. But here, is different. If you need to change, you need some power, some substantial power to change.” Robbin is sharing with me how powerful the government in China is. When they want to get things done, things get done very quickly without much bureaucracy.

So, are you going to get the lobster roll here?

“I think so. My last lunch in Boston, so why not?”

What can you do to make the world a better place? (Thanks to Jason, Stranger 46)

“What can I do to make the world a better place?”

“You know, medical… oh, it’s about making the world better!” He laughs.

“But it’s not that general to say medical because there’s a lot of tricky things in medical. If this is rising to give more drugs to patients, maybe I don’t think so. If it’s the best side of GMO is linking to cancer, yes, I agree. But you still need to do more research. So, one of my goals to make the world better.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“Why they agree to accept your interview?”

“I think it’s something they have inspiration. This is kind of in the spirit of the city. People living here, but they can gather other cultures, personalities together. Maybe this is kind of the point of this city.”

After the handshake.

Admittedly, there was a little bit of stumbling through the language barrier. If I only studied back in China school better then maybe I could have spoken to Robbin in Chinese. I hope I did him justice by transcribing what he said as well as he meant to (or at least in the spirit of).

Robbin was a great Stranger. He was very happy to meet me, as was his friend. In fact, after our meet, Neptune opened up, and we were shuffling in. He then turned to me asked if I wanted to eat with him and his friend to which I happily accepted. We had our amazing lobster rolls + massive platter of oysters, shrimp, clams, lobster + some corn pancake and crab spread and caviar. It was quite the weekday lunch.

I enjoyed getting to know him and his friend better. What a great experience to just meet someone not from this country. Not only was he open to speaking with me, but he and his friend happily accepted me into their party for lunch. How often does that happen?? This will go down as one of my favorite traveling experiences, let alone Stranger experiences.

It’s kind of sad to think that I may never see Robbin and his friend Viona again (hope I spelled her name right!). That’s what happens. People come and go, but you realize the beauty of people everywhere. I enjoyed so much getting to know them… Strangers in a different city… from a different country. And yet, we happily ate together, shared some laughs, and went about our ways like good friends.

Meet Robin. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 34, Day 34 - Meet Reese

Stranger 34, Day 34 – Meet Reese, the “‘Practicer’ of What She Preaches”

Today, I added to my list my 7th rejection (total, first today). This Stranger was flatly uninterested. Won’t lie, I was shaking a little because of the rejection. It’s never easy. So it took me a little while to walk around and muster the courage to try again.

As I walked around, I spotted a young woman who intrigued me the moment she sat down. Why? Well because she had a second monitor tethered to her laptop. I’m a nerd so I find lugging dual monitors to a Starbucks friggin’ awesome. I walked up to her, gave her my little pitch, and she was excited to do it. This was great because despite her looking very busy in the glow of two monitors, she took a few minutes to talk to me… a Stranger.

Meet Reese, 23

Who are you?

“Wow… who am I?” she asks.

“I’m a recent graduate who is still figuring out her life!” Reese laughs. She’s actually here in Atlanta on a business trip and visiting her brother. Otherwise, she lives in Dallas, TX.

“I have a job which I don’t plan on staying for forever, or that much longer. So just kind of figuring out what I want to do.”

What is it that you might want to do?

“So, I studied biology. I was pre-med, and then I work in consulting — nothing to do with science. So I want to back to school and be in more of the medical field. That’s my passion.” Reese smiles and laughs.

I make the comment that I noticed her two screens with the common black laptop that consultants have. She laughs and says, “Now, I’m just spoiled — I can’t just use one screen.”

What are your passions? Do you have any dreams, and if so, what are they?

“In college, this answer probably would have been so different. In college, I was an athlete, so my passions were ‘be successful in swimming’. That life is over, so my passions now really are being healthy and fit. Being successful in my job and strive to do better — always challenging myself. I’m the type of person who is never content with the current state, so I always push to do better. So my dream is to go to grad school — P.A. school is what I want to do — and become a Physician Assistant while being active and fit and healthy!”

I ask Reese what she’s learned to stay healthy and fit while she’s consulting, especially while on the road. This was a comment many asked me when I was consulting, so was curious of her advice.

“Luckily, I don’t have the Monday through Thursday travel that most consultants do. Mine are more sporadic,” Reese starts before I point out that we’re speaking while she’s on the road on a Thursday night. Haha

“Yeah, I haven’t traveled in a bit, though. It’s nice every time I do. So normally, it’s pretty easy. I like working out in the mornings — that’s what I do. But even while I’ve been here, I’ve been able to work out everyday. I think just being disciplined. I could work forever. I could work all night long. Knowing when to stop and just take an hour break and get some endorphins running…”

Why do you want to get into the medical field? Why do you want to be a P.A.?

“I’m a very caring person. I’m very giving, so I want to help others, really.”

“… in a more meaningful way for me. Meaningful is more ‘hands-on’. Someone is struggling, needs help, I want to be there for them. Consulting, I’m helping people, but it’s a different way. It’s more for business. That’s just who I am, I guess!”

Is there anyone who has been a great influence for why you want to help?

“My mother is a super caring person, but I haven’t had any doctors in the family. I would say my mom has influenced me.”

Do you recall any times in the past when she was really, really caring for you? What comes up?

“I call her everyday. We’re super close. Anytime I have a problem, she’s there regardless of what time it is. The first thing that comes to mind…” Reese thinks.

“One time, I was in India. So time change is like 12 hours. I got stuck in a situation. I call her, and it’s like 2AM for her, and she almost booked a flight to come out to me. She’s just a really caring person that always wants to be there. I want to do that.”

Right now, you’re not a P.A., but how do you exercise that caring personality for friends or even Strangers?

“With my friends now, I think I’m a pretty caring person. I think with Strangers, too, just because you don’t have an emotional bond with them, you still don’t want anything bad to happen to anyone. So I might not feel emotionally connected to them, but I still think I would want to help them. Anyone here, if something happen to them, I would try to help them possibly.”

Have you ever had a Life-Defining Moment?

“I don’t know… that’s a tough question. Nothing comes to mind. Just a lot of different experiences jumbled together. All the experiences I’ve been through have made me to where I am, really. Even the ones that have been tough, but at the moment, even horrible, just works out.”

She mentioned she had some really tough moments that likely put her to where she is now, especially one, but she wasn’t up to telling me. No prob! I can appreciate that different people share different things — that’s the beauty of talking to others.

Is there a common misperception about you that you would like to dispel?

“That’s a good one. I don’t know what people who don’t know me think of me. Hard to answer.”

I ask her what about the people who may know her even just for a short time.

“I pretty much am a pretty open person. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I think people that know me for a short period of time still will get to see the real me for the most part. If I’m made, they might see it. If I’m sad, or I’m happy… I usually show those emotions. I don’t hold back necessarily.”

I share with her how a lot of people used to think of me as an “asshole” because I was pretty “intense” before or how I was very driven, and it sometimes rubbed others the wrong way.

She related… “I’m a very intense person. I’m kind of competitive… I’m very competitive,” Reese laughs. “… so people might think I’m competing against them, when I may not necessarily be competing against them. I might just be competing against myself. Just wanting the best for myself. Not that I want the worst for the other person. It’s just… I’m hard on myself, so they might think I’m rude or too competitive.”

“I sometimes think people think I’m judging them — ‘why is she being so intense about the stupidest or the smallest thing.’ I can just take a chill pill-kind of thing. I can see that.”

How do I get your job? (Thanks to Jarvis, Stranger 33)

“I would love to ask a P.A. how do I get your job!” Reese laughs.

Thinking about this from a consultant’s perspective… “I think you need to have good interpersonal skills. For my actual job, we work with this software, so you would just need to get training in that software. Once you get training in that, and pass a series of interviews, and have the right skills to be a consultant… definitely driven. Definitely not afraid to work overtime. We put in a lot of hours, but really, you can speak to clients and have that customer service, I think you can have my job.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“If you had unlimited resources, what would you love to do?”

“So unlimited resources meaning money, time, anything. What’s your favorite, most passionate… biggest thing you want to do?” Reese says it doesn’t have to be work-related. It could be anything like a “personal experience”.

After the handshake.

As we decided on how to take her picture, she seemed pretty excited to do a running pose. She used to swim all the time in college, but since, she’s running more. Also, running was a reflection of her today — “go, go, go!” Ha, I like it.

After our talk, a man came into Starbucks and was talking about losing his wallet but needed to get to some other part of town, but needed money. I’m hugely skeptical of these situations especially when someone starts layering in detail after detail. I didn’t know what this man was talking about, but it was clear he wanted money. Well, let Reese practice exactly what she told me just minutes earlier — if someone needed help here, she would do what she could. So here, I watch Reese as she dug into her purse and brandish a couple dollar bills.

Where I am highly skeptical, Reese probably saw what I saw, but she let her optimism of people (and yes, a Stranger) and her care for others win. She does what she says. She sees someone in need (whether a ride is the real need or something else), she helps. So here I am now typing this and wondering if speaking to Strangers will motivate me to be more like Reese. Will I start to see the light of people rather than continue to paint Strangers’ situations in dark based on skepticism? I’ll noodle on this for a while…


Reese, you’re going to make a great P.A. if you continue to care about others, no matter who they are, where you are, and how you get over misperceptions you (we) have.

Meet Reese. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 25, Day 25 - Meet Renice

Stranger 25, Day 25 – Meet Renice, the “Loyal Friend”

This fantastic Atlanta has me outside a lot on the patio of the local Starbucks, and I meet some great people just chilling and catching some sun. I am completely unconcerned about interviewing a ton of people from Starbucks because these are my “everyday” people. Today, same thing — got a chance to meet a highly energetic, happy woman as she caught some rays while waiting for her car service to be done. From the moment I asked her if she’d like to be my “Stranger for the Day” (that sounds weird, but it’s funny), I knew she was going to be full of energy and a great connection.

So let me let you…

Meet Renice, 30 (like “Venice” but with an “R”)

Who are you?

Renice laughs… “What do you mean?! I don’t know what answer you’re looking for!”

“I am a…” Renice breaks out laughing again as she thinks. “I am genuine, but strong, independent 30-year-old female.”

“… who enjoys helping other people, and extremely loyal to my friends. My friends and family mean everything to me.”

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

“My career… I’m already living my dream sort of. I love my career — I’m a Physician Assistant. I’m actually transitioning from orthopedic surgery to plastic surgery. It’s probably the biggest decision in my life up to this date. I love my job. I love my boss. I love what I do, but I was just presented a new opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. And I really believe I’ll be able to cultivate it to be my dream job essentially.

I ask her what her passions are.

“My passions are… I enjoying being a good friend. I love hanging out with my friends and my family. My sister is my best friend. Although, she does live in Australia, we still talk everyday. I like exercising a lot, just finding new ways to stay healthy. I love… animals!” She’s laughing again as she says, “animals”. She tells me she’s thinking about her cat, and how her friends refer to her as a “cat lady”. Though, to be fair, she’s only got one cat. Don’t think one qualifies her, just yet.

“Lately I’ve been trying to be passionate about this… living in the moment.”

How do you do that?

“Whenever my thoughts start focusing on worries and fears about the future… such as money, still being single at 30, what if this job decision is the incorrect one?… I just try to redirect my thoughts. Let those thoughts come and pass, and then redirect my focus on ‘what are you doing today, and enjoying this moment today.’ Enjoy who you’re with and being present with who you’re with.”

I share with her how several Strangers have mentioned similar realizations and efforts to live in the moment.

“It’s all part of being human, and being Americans — our culture is just so fast-paced. It’s so easy to get caught up into materialistic things and worries over things you just can’t control. A lot of it is about pushing that control and being present.”

She continues, “it’s easier said than done, right?”

How did you make this transition from being a PA in orthopedics to plastic surgery?

“Because I’ve only been a PA for 5 years, and I’ve done orthopedic surgery since I got out of school. So when I moved back to Atlanta, I was in this huge transitional period and I got this job. I just have an amazing boss that I work really well with. I love what I do. I love my patients. I love working with my boss.”

“I’ve been feeling like I was in a rut so I was kind of looking for a change, but just didn’t really know what that was. I never considered leaving my job just because I was happy. So why would I leave? I wouldn’t ever look for another orthopedic job.” She shares how her new boss reached out to her about this new position, and the she had worked with the boss long ago. It took Renice two weeks to think about it and “soul-searching”, and she decided that it was “probably a good career move for me for the future.”

“BUT! It’s hard leaving people that you really enjoy working with for another group you know you’re going to enjoy working with.”

“I just feel this loyalty to them, but I need to do what’s best for me.”

We talked about this loyalty piece as she’s mentioned it several times in our short conversation so far. Plus, I was curious about how she maintains loyalty while still looking out for herself and still seek out new opportunities and friends.

“Jobs and friends are kind of different. I pride myself on being a good employee and as a good friend. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve got to learn and find out… I’m not going to put my energy into a friendship that is not being reciprocated, or I’m not getting anything positive from that. I’ve realized, ‘why am I making all this effort to be a good friend to them, if I don’t feel like I’m not getting the same in return?’ I understand everybody’s doing the best that they can, but if they’re not making me feel good about who I am then I don’t really want them in my life. I’ll separate myself from that situation.”

“Job situations are different though because it’s been very equal for the past few years.”

Is there a reason for why loyalty is such a big piece for you?

“I don’t know. My friends have always described me as that. It’s just who I am.” She laughs that she wished there was something “life-defining” for her, but that’s just who she is. I don’t think she needs a life-defining moment.

She shares how she has had a few bad break-ups in the past and other “stuff in my life”. She appreciates the many people who stuck around with her through everything. She seems extremely grateful to her friends who have always been with her.

What’s important for friends to keep in mind to being a good friend for others during times of hardship?

“Communication is key for any type of relationship — whether it’s working or friendship or love interests. I think that for me, I just make a huge effort to communicate and listen. Listening is key. So I listen with my friends for when they want to talk. If they don’t want to talk, then I don’t.”

She shares how even if her friends just needs a body sitting next to them, she’ll do that.

“Try to be in tune with what they are needing at that time.”

“Also, it’s important to not always put others first. Put your needs first because you can get caught up.” I think the key part to Renice’s advice here is the importance of taking care of herself so that she can take care of others.

Do you have a big life lesson you’d like to share?

Renice thinks about this one for a while.

“I think the biggest thing I’ve come to terms with — no matter in life what mistakes you might’ve made in the past… for me, I was in a relationship for a very long time with the wrong time. I wanted it to work so badly, and I moved across states to be with him, and the relationship crumbled apart. For so long, it was so hard for me to accept…”

“You wasted so much time… I was really hard on myself for ‘why didn’t you get out when you knew it probably wasn’t right deep down inside, and why are we trying to make something work? Why are you trying so hard that you’re trying to make something work that you knew wasn’t right?’ And I really had to learn that you can’t blame yourself. That was life. All you can do is move forward and take away who you’ve become since that, and now you know what it is you do want and what it is you don’t want. Try not to focus on that time being ‘wasted’ time. Time is all you have essentially, so try not to look at it as a waste.”

She laughs again almost as if she’s trying to brighten the talk again.

What do you love and admire most about yourself?

“I love that I’m very compassionate, and I love that I’m extremely loyal. And I also do love that I’m a straight-shooter. I’m pretty much going to tell you what I think… whether you want to hear it or not!” Haha, she laughs. “I’m just pretty direct.”

I share with her how when I first approached her and she answered, “yeah!” I immediately felt she was going to give me a straight answer — she’ll either be all up for it, or flat out “no!”.

What is a common misperception about you that you wished people who know about you? (What you’d like to dispel?)

Renice was pretty quick, “I think I already know the answer to this question.”

“I get really frustrated because I do have a strong, very direct, straight forward-type of personality. I feel a lot of people forget that I still have feelings that I’m actually a pretty sensitive person.”

“… yeah, that bothers me. Yeah, I’m honest, and I don’t play games with people and life. But I’m still human and have feelings! Doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m always this extremely strong person.”

We talked about this for a moment especially given her straight-forwardness, she probably appreciates that, too. For her speaking to others and when she receives, she needs balance of being honest with empathy.

“I try to do that with other people — I try to consider their feelings. Even though I’m going to tell them how I feel, I try to communicate that in a way that’s respectful of them. I feel like some people when they first meet me, they’re like, ‘oh Renice will just tell you what it is’, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care. It means I care.”

What is your biggest fear? (Thanks to Jacqui, Stranger 24)

“Being alone.”

“… or not finding my person in life. Right now, that’s my biggest fear. Because I’m at that point and age where every single one of my friends have found their person. So my biggest fear is that I’ll never find that person, and I’ll just always be alone when I want to share a life with someone.”

I didn’t want to downplay her fear, but I did point out that she’d always have her cat. She breaks out into laughter — “EXACTLY!”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“If you could change one decision in your life, what would it be? And why!?”

After the handshake.

Renice is a bundle of energy. She’s incredibly happy even as she shares some more intimate details of her life like her biggest fears. Each question ends with laughing and smiling. She is the type of person who gives me so much energy while connecting with Strangers.

I definitely don’t think she’s going to be alone… not even for very long. Her energy is great, she’s bright, and she’s got a passion in her life — mainly, her career. Also, I love that she said “career” vs. “job”.

Meet Renice. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 19, Day 19 - Meet Rickey

Stranger 19, Day 19 – Meet Rickey, the “Passionate Medical Dreamer”

So I’ve had a rough 8+ days so far having severely strained my neck. In fact, last night was real difficult to sleep — one of the most painful sleeps I’ve ever had. I was in so much pain, I thought about going to the ER, but was able to knock myself out briefly and make it to 8AM to go to the nearest Urgent Care facility. It was at Urgent Care where I would meet today’s Stranger.

Real quick about the Stranger, he was actually my x-ray technologist. That is, he took x-rays of my neck. While I was standing there getting my x-rays taken, the technologist was very friendly and mentioned to me that while he was entering my personal information, he noticed we had the exact same birthday. Fast forward a couple x-rays and couple minutes later, I shared with him 100 Strangers, 100 Days, and asked if he wanted to be the Stranger for the day. Not surprisingly because of his energy and kindness and openness, he was up for it.

Meet Rickey, 31

Who are you?

(I have to paraphrase for the first few questions because I had neither my notepad and pen, nor my phone to record the interview when I started getting to know Rickey.)

“I’m a husband. Former military serviceman. I’m a father of two.”

Rickey expands on his military experience, “… in the Air Force… spent eight years in there… worked on a lot of fighter planes, I did drones that you see out there on TV — worked on those. And now, I’m a student and working at Smartcare.”

He mentions to me how he was actually born in Germany to military parents. Also, he shares how he became an x-ray technologist — simplistically it was easy for him to get into, and has been a great gateway into the medical field. (More on this later with his dream.)

After hearing more about his military experience, I wanted to dive right into what he’s learned. What’s a Life Lesson you’d like to share?

“Connect and get to know those in a similar situation as you.” Rickey explains how he learned to connect with those he served with in the military. He cited the 12-hour days, 6-days-a-week schedule while serving, and how it really forced him to get to know his colleagues very well. He goes on to share how he was able to connect with them and learn about their diverse backgrounds and upbringings.

Today, Rickey still keeps up with many of his fellow service men.

What was a Life-Defining Moment for you?

“Becoming a father for the first-time.” Rickey’s quick to say this, and I realized in that very moment of 2-3 seconds of answering that there was a strong appreciation and gravity of becoming a father.

He shares how it was at this moment that he had to provide for someone else, not just himself.

Looking back at your time in the military and fatherhood, how has one impacted the other?

“Definitely being in the military made me a better father. When I first started… when I first became a father, I was doing military, and I sucked at it. My oldest daughter, she’ll tell you, ‘you weren’t good at it’, and for the most part, she wasn’t either!” He laughs at this.

“The military forced me to become an adult. Forced me to be a man, and to handle my responsibilities the correct way. And so now, I’m better for it — a better person, a better father.”

Do you have any big life regrets?

“Not in the sense of ‘I wish I could have done this better’, but definitely I would’ve joined the military before college. Student loans are RIDICULOUS right now.”

I ask him if there’s anything else… any other life regrets that might come to mind. Rickey responds, “Not really. I like the way life’s played out for me. It’s good. I joined the military — got school paid for. I’m married. I’m happy. I have two daughters. They’re wonderful, they’re great. I love life!”

What’s a good lesson or teachable moment for anyone who’s expecting to be a father?

“Patience.” He smiles and laughs briefly.

“Patience is a virtue. Just be patient.” He shares how his first year with his first daughter was really “trying”. He became a father to his first daughter when she was 7, so after the infant and toddler years. It was with his second daughter (first biological) that he really appreciated the need to be patient.

Rickey then adds, “it’s a beautiful experience — watching your kids grow. How they come into their personalities…” He smiles and holds his hand to his chin like he’s recalling his children’s growth.

What did you dream about last night? (Thanks to Katherine, Stranger 18)

Rickey laughs and thinks about this for a second before telling me how he was dreaming of what his next step would be. He’s appreciated his current position and opportunity, but it’s clear he’s looking for something bigger next. I realize for a second that I should build on this, but before I can, he wanted to ask his question to tomorrow’s Stranger…

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“Where have you been?” This was an interesting question… seems like Rickey is as intrigued about how people respond to an otherwise uncommon question. I’m now very curious how tomorrow’s Stranger responds to this. I’ll have to make sure I ask in an incredulous tone, not possessive boyfriend kind of way. Haha

Now, stepping back, I asked him what was his dream.

“My dream is to finish x-ray school, and go back to get my bachelor’s. Then from there, enroll in PA school. My goal is to become a surgical PA.”

“I like how the body works. In x-ray, we’re in the back, we don’t get to see the action. They call us in to take a picture, then we go back out so the doctor can finish whatever it is. I like to see how the body works. I want to see the inside — I want to touch and feel the organs, and to put it all back together. That intrigues me.”

This was fun to learn about Rickey. As he describes this dream and goal, his face lights up and he’s using hand gestures. For a moment, I ignore the pictures in my head of organs (no thanks), and I stare and absorb what he’s sharing with me. He’s sharing a real passion and interest with me. You can see this in his facial expression. You can hear it in his voice. You can see it in how his whole body moves to show me how he would operate.


After the handshake.

The final question about Rickey’s dream was special. Or rather, his response was special. This. This is what’s so special about connecting with Strangers — with a simple question, you can see how people are so optimistic and excited about their futures. They’re excited about something that they love, and they want to share that excitement. Indeed, I felt the excitement with Rickey, too.

The moment we met, I realized Rickey’s kindness, and some energy about his happiness with life. He didn’t seem like he was content with his life to stay this way forever, but instead, he seemed like he had a realization that he was on his path. It was… something interesting to just hear his progression over the last several years through the military, through fatherhood, through studies, and beyond. I’m thrilled I got to know him better, and I wish there was a way to have captured and transcribed his energy and passion as he described his Dream.

Meet Rickey. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 17, Day 17 - Meet Jennifer

Stranger 17, Day 17 – Meet Jennifer, the “Empathetic Nursing Student”

I was a little worried if I was going to meet a Stranger today. I actually met a couple people who turned me down for the interview. The picture requirement is the biggest reason people reject this project, but even then, most have been open. But today, I was a bit worried after having two decline late in the day. So as I sat at Starbucks, I was wondering and looking around frequently for who would be open. Well, I didn’t have to look too hard as the woman in front of me was open to meet.

I originally was hesitant to ask her as she sat in front of me with a spread of school materials. Her book was about 7″ thick and she had a gallon-sized ziplock bag full of markers. She had two drinks and was alternating pen colors as she took notes. Yeah, I wasn’t sure if she would be too busy, but I asked anyways. And sure enough, she was busy and had to run. However, she was also interested in the project and wanted to take a few minutes to connect. Awesome. Sooo…

Meet Jennifer, 33

Before we began, I noticed Jennifer had a cool necklace around her, so I asked her about it.

“It’s an EKG pattern… for the heart rate monitor. Symbol of me being in nursing school.”

Curious, I asked her who gave it to her.

“Bought it for myself,” she laughed. “It’s a treat for myself for having a great semester and being really proud of where I am in my life right now, and what I’m doing for my future career.” I feel like she laughed at first because I might’ve thought something like a necklace would have been a gift from someone. However, I actually really love how she bought it for her as a treat to herself, and, this is key, for being proud of all that she’s achieved and will achieve.

Who are you?

“I’m human! I consider myself a citizen of the universe. I’m multi-faceted, and I can be friends with many different people. I can do many different things — multi-talented. So I think that translates really well into healthcare because I can relate to many different people.” She’s laughing again. I immediately love her spirit.

How did you get into nursing school?

“I started out as a Fine Arts major. That was my undergrad. I worked my 9-5 jobs, but I’ve always had an affinity for healthcare. I’ve always been fascinated with the body and the anatomy and disease processes. I wasn’t attracted to the medical aspect of healthcare. I was more into the nursing aspect, and being able to spend time with people on a 1-on-1 level. You can really care for people. I’m a nurturing person by nature, so healthcare always appealed to me. I was told by family and friends I should be a nurse, but I never wanted to do it because of school. But here I am doing it trying not to jump off a bridge in the process!” Haha, okay.

I can tell she works real hard, and she’s got a great spirit about her. In fact, I told her she seems very proud to which she responded, “I really am. This is really the first time. I’m can be a very indecisive person… very unsure of some things in life, but nursing is one thing that I have absolution.”

“…just a lot of good people in healthcare I’ve come across. I’ve met nurses in the process who really influenced me to become a nurse, too. Just being able to change someone’s life in even the most little way just by having a conversation with them or doing them one little gesture. Something different that changes their entire day… even making them laugh.”

She goes on to explain the power and ubiquity of nursing, “Everyone thinks healthcare is this really complicated thing, but it’s really not. It really starts with compassionate and looking out for people.”

Is that the key piece for you to being a good nurse? Compassion?

“I think that’s a necessary factor — you need that initial caring and compassion. School comes with studying, and you can learn to be a nurse. In fact, in WWII, there were women that were housewives that were being trained as nurses because of the shortage in healthcare. That’s the case right now. There are women who are getting second careers. There are men getting second careers… realizing after years and years that this is their calling. It’s really awesome to think about it. Everyone can be nurses. A mom can be a nurse. Anytime you extend compassion and caring to someone else, you’re basically nursing them.”

I really enjoyed how she could vocalize her feelings about nursing.

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

“I think if people took one moment out of their day to just put someone else before themselves, I think the world would be a better place in general.”

A lot of people could be self-servicing, but there’s a lot people can do for one another by being compassionate and empathetic.

If you could correct ONE wrong in the world, what would it be? (Thanks to Michelle, Stranger 16)

“… probably the lack of empathy. You just see it all the time in everybody… not having consideration or kindness for your fellow human-beings.”

Not surprised that her answer to Michelle’s question was grounded in her Life Lesson.

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What is everyone’s fascination with pumpkin-spiced lattes and pumpkin beers?” She’s cracking up about this, but this question came out of her mouth so fast that it’s clearly been on her mind. I’m laughing hard at this and wondering if tomorrow’s Stranger will have an answer.

After the handshake.

I’m so appreciative of Jennifer sharing part of her story. She was in a rush, but still made time to share her story… and in many ways, helping me out as I was on the verge of striking out today. With all the hard work she puts in, she maintains a great spirit. I also felt pulled into nursing with how she described why nursing for her and how we could all be nurses in some way.

Another great thing: Jennifer comes to Starbucks often, so I’ll see her soon.

Meet Jennifer. No longer a Stranger.