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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?”

Anything!

“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 98, Day 98 - Meet Lindsey

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

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

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

Meet Lindsey, 29

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

Who are you?

“I’m Lindsey,” she laughs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, my name!”

… and what would your super power be?

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

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

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

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

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

Well, maybe it’ll come to you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t know if that makes sense.”

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

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

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

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

Why do you think that is?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(It’s your turn.)

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

“If I could ask anyone anything… Hmm…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah!”

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

“The INSTANT WOMAN!”

After the handshake.

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

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

Meet Lindsey. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 96, Day 96 - Meet Alisha

Stranger 96, Day 96 – Meet Alisha, the “Smile That Serves”

Today’s Stranger is another one of the security personnel at my building (the other was Chandler, Stranger 13). I’ve always appreciated her smile as I left the building giving an energetic, “have a great weekend!” or “have a great evening!”

She’s always got a big smile on her face, so as I left today, I wanted to get to know her better.

Meet Alisha, 23

Who are you?

“I am a soldier of the United States Army Reserve. I’m a security guard at Securitas. I am a girlfriend of Stephen B. And I’m me, I guess!” She laughs with a big smile.

I’m curious, and this may seem like a silly question, but why are you part of the Reserves?

“I originally joined the Reserves because I wanted to be close to my family, and I felt like if I went active, I wouldn’t be able to just be there when they needed me there. But I could still serve my country. So, I originally saw it as the best of both worlds. I guess it kind of still worked itself out. I still got to deploy. I still get all of my treatments and everything’s covered.”

Yeah, you still get to serve your country. I like the way you said that. It’s pretty important to you.

“Definitely. My mom, my dad, my sister, grandpa, my great grandpa, all of us served.”

What do you love about America, and why do you want to continue serving?

“Well, I don’t know too much about other countries, but I know, here, there isn’t anything that I can’t do. I hear a lot that you can’t do that everywhere. Just the fact that I can do that here, and everyone else can do that, I just want to protect that part of the country.”

“It has its bad parts, but it also has really good parts.” She takes a pause to say goodbye to someone leaving. “Have a good day!” she says with a smile.

“I honor the part of the country that allows me to be myself. I will protect that part of the country.”

That’s awesome. So thinking about what you can do. What is something that you can/ want to do?

“Hmm. I think my dream is to work with inmates, and work on prison reform. I feel like you don’t always have to arrest someone for everything that they do. But there should be different avenues. Some things are just like a behaviorial thing. That’s what I want to do — figure out a way to create, like, a program where it’s not going to go… just showing you the better way of doing things, or helping you condition you to do it the better way.”

So when you think about that dream in helping them, what is something specific that you want to help with? What are some of things that you want do to help those already in jail?

“Them? They kind of already have some of the programs that I wanted to do — already in there. Like, helping them with education. Opening doors for, like, you know you’re about to get out soon within the next two years, there are programs you can start working or making connections to work. So you’re not just here stuck out on your own; you don’t know what you’re doing. I guess just to extend on that. Make more programs. Yeah.”

I also think about recidivism (a person’s relapse into criminal behavior). Sometimes, that happens because society “rejects” or ostracizes former-criminals preventing them to properly assimilate with society. I’m curious what are some things we can do as a society to enable/ “allow” or be open to them and help them into society.

“Well, from my experience, people who have a harder time getting back into society are people who are stamped with the word, ‘felon’. Because you can have a misdemeanor like you got arrested, it’s not as damaging as you being a felon. They would need to go through a program, or they need to go through something that has an equally as big stamp as ‘felon’ that is seen on the positive side. If they can find or make a program or a certificate or whatever it is that you need to do that can be seen as equally good as the opposite of how bad a felon is observed, then maybe they would probably be seen better in society. People would be more open to it. ‘Yes, you’re a felon, but you did this.'”

In a lot of ways, you like to serve others, and help them. What is something that someone could help you with?

“Hmm, if Sally Mae would wipe away all my student loans!”

Wait, what is that?

“If Sally Mae would wipe away all my student loans!” she laughs.

“That’s about it…” Haha “If they’d just vanish! If I woke up one day and they weren’t there. I’d love it.”

“But nothing. Just positivity. When people give and feed positivity that just keeps me going. I feed off people’s energy. As long as I’m seeing people smiling, and they’re happy, then I’m happy. When I see people cry, I’m like, ‘Oh no! What’s wrong?’ That’s probably the only thing I need. It’s just others to be good.”

Anything else that you really enjoy doing?

“Learning about new stuff.”

Anything in particular you’re learning right now?

“Right now? How to be healthy! That’s the journey me and my boyfriend are on. We’re trying to cut down on the fatty stuff… which is so hard! I don’t know how people just…” She sighs, and then chuckles.

“It’s a journey… But learning how to be physically and spiritually and all that other good stuff like cleansing ourselves and being better. And then, from there, just learning how to have fun. I’m a very serious person outside of the smiles and giggles, I’m pretty…” she motions with her hands ‘straight’.

“And he’s pretty serious, too, so that’s our, I guess, goal for this year. Or next year — to learn how to have fun.”

Any other thoughts? I’m curious… you have a boyfriend. How long have you guys been together?

“A year.”

What is something he would say that he loves about you?

“Hmm, my drive, and my smile. That’s probably it. That’s what he always says. He loves my drives — how ambitious I am about getting any and everything done. Even if it’s something as simple as laundry, we’re getting it done!” She laughs.

“That, and just the fact that I always want to smile.”

Well, thank you for smiling everyday when I see you.

After the handshake.

It was real nice to get to meet Alisha, and spend a few minutes doing so (vs. a few seconds saying goodnight). She was all smiles just as I know her. I thought it was fascinating that she was in the Reserves, too. She continues to want to serve others, and I felt that was inspiring. I would have never guessed her desire to help inmates. I’m curious why. Looks like I should ask her next time I see her. But hopefully, I won’t see her tomorrow, so she can finally get some time off. (She’s been working for 17 days straight, I think she said.)

Also, I somehow forgot to ask Alisha yesterday’s Stranger question, and for her question for tomorrow’s Stranger. D’oh! The other day, I forgot to press Record on the voice recorder. Today, forgot to ask her the Stranger question. So, I’ll have to relay yesterday’s question for tomorrow’s Stranger.

I think I was just caught up in Alisha’s energy and happiness. It’s quite infectious. 🙂

Meet Alisha. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 92, Day 92 - Meet Andrea and David

Stranger 92, Day 92 – Meet Andrea and David, the “Harmony of Structure and Free Spirit”

I met today’s Strangers (yes, a combo!) sitting next to me at Starbucks. They entered a while before I asked, but the husband sat at a different table while the wife sat next to me and interviewed a couple people. She was interviewing people for childcare service of sorts. Didn’t know what, but as she did so, I made up my mind that I wanted to flip the table a little bit and interview her. I wasn’t sure if I would ask her, though, or her husband. Then, after a no-show interviewee, her husband joined her at her table. Perfect! I’ll ask them both. They happily agreed, so this is how our meet goes…

Meet Andrea, 25, and David, 26

M(e): Starting with you, David, who are you?

D(avid): I’m an open-source developer. Very much to my core. *he laughs* My passion is just enabling people to really get their message across online. That sort of thing. And freely making information flow. Just enabling people that don’t have the ability to get their voice heard. That’s kinda who I am.

M: Okay. Andrea, who are you?

A(ndrea): Oooh. That’s such a tough question. *she thinks about this for a moment* I don’t know. I can’t exactly describe myself the same way because I don’t… I bounced around so many different careers, so many different things just trying to figure out who I am, and where I fit into things. But for now, I’m the hiring manager with a company who provides childcare for children. I’ve worked with, actually, a lot of companies that work with children. So, I do a lot of work with kids, I guess. I enjoy learning a lot of different things.

M: So, I know you’re still trying to figure that out. *I turn towards David* I’m curious, David, if you could describe who she is, how would you do that?

D: Two words — free spirit. Very much. Yup. If something catches her eye that she really wants to try… At one point, I know you did real estate…

A: Oh yeah, I did!

D: … and at another point… She’s done a number of different things over the years. That’s the point I’m trying to get across. She does them well. If something really catches her eye, she will throw her whole being into that. Learn it. Master it. And if that’s something that she wants to keep going, she will. If not, she’ll move on.

A: 9 times out of 10, I tend to move on. *she laughs*

D: Well, you’ve stuck around with David!

A: *she laughs* Yeah, I did. There you go. One constant!

D: How long have you guys been married?

A: Not even a year. Uhh, past six, maybe seven months?

D: Since May.

M: So 7 months.

A: Yeah.

M: That works. He said that when something catches your eye, you kind of pour yourself into it.

A: Yeah!

M: What caught your eye about David?

A: Oohh, I don’t know. I ignored him for a long time. *David smiles and laughs* What was it? *she asks herself, and wonders*

M: Was it the “play hard to get” kind of ignoring?

A: No… When I was in school, I was just so wrapped up in what I wanted to do that I didn’t pay attention to dating and stuff like that. David pursued me first, and I guess it was just — he’s so sweetly innocent. *David makes a funny face at this, and shakes his head. Andrea laughs* He really just has such a passion and a culture for so many different things… Like other cultures, and I’m from Panama. We grew up in Indiana. So, meeting people who knew a lot about other countries and stuff like that, just wasn’t something you run into all the time. So, it was just that kind of worldly wanting to know about other things, and asking questions, and being so into music — and just a lot of the things that I was really into that I couldn’t really find. Not even in friend-groups that I had in Indiana.

M: So finally, when you did stop ignoring — quote ignoring — and start paying attention, what actually made you start noticing? What was that inflection point?

A: Like what made me quit ignoring?

M: Yes.

A: *she thinks* What was it?  Well, David was… he taught a ballroom club class thing in college which I found really interesting. But I think I started paying more attention to him because he started ignoring me a little bit. *she laughs* I guess was just like, “Oh, I guess he’s not interested anymore. I’m now interested.” It was just, like, on one of the first dates, we talked about the “Phantom of the Opera” and the different music there, and how the inflections change the music. Those kinds of discussions I never got to have with anybody else. I have a passion for so many different things, so finding someone who could kind of balance with me, and actually talk to me about those things is really what caught my attention.

M: *I turn to David* So was the whole ignoring her, was that part of the plan? Or did you actually drop it for a while, and then she came back?

D: Umm… it wasn’t part of the plan necessarily. *he sighs* Okay. So… The irony is I was never into a high-maintenance girl.

A: And I’m very high-maintenance.

D: And she’s very high-maintenance right now. *we all laugh* So when we first started dating, it was, “hey, this girl is really cute. Yeah. Great. We go out on dates or what have you.” But oftentimes, she would just want to — I’m quoting you here, Andrea — just be in the same room as me sort of thing, not doting on her constantly.

A: Really? You’re going to tell him this story? *she’s asking in a half-smile, sarcastic way*

D: Yes! So, I would be in my dorm room at the time. I would be in my dorm room just hacking on some project — coding something. Possibly homework, possibly not. I would be just so immersed in it, and I just kinda want to shut out everything else in the world at the time. Meanwhile, she would be coming over. I would hand her my Android tablet with an emulator on it. She’d play Pokemon on this big 10″ —

A: We’re both major geeks.

D: Yeah, yeah. So she would play on this big 10″ tablet that things were blown totally out of resolution, but she really enjoyed it.

A: It was fun.

D: And we would do that for hours.

A: It was because I appeared not high-maintenance.

D: Exactly!

A: … which wasn’t like a ploy.

D: Yeahhhh *he says this with a heavy dose of skepticism* It was a ploy. *we all laugh* I’m trapped now, but I don’t mind.

M: Well, cool. That’s really funny. I’m curious — so you’re an open-source developer. You’ve mentioned that you like to help others to get their voice heard. What is that voice that Andrea has that you want to maybe share, or really appreciate?

D: Hmm. There are so many ideas that flow with her that it’s hard to pin-point just one.

A: Yeah.

D: I guess one of the more recent ones… she has run into organization issues. Issues of organization, rather. And organizing her life, I’ve tried to apply technical solutions to that. It doesn’t sound like communication, per se, but it really is. It’s like a collaboration sort of issue mixed in there. I’m like, “Oh! Here’s this software to help! Let me help you set up this blogging engine at one point. Here are some documents on how to actually — blogs, best that I can find.” Just anything I can do to help her out. Try to help her make that voice heard, whether it’s real estate or working with kids or what have you.

A: I’m just really chaotic. So him helping me is like focusing in and really get ideas ironed out — really help. Otherwise, I’m just kind of like… all over the place.

M: So I’ll start to kind of wrap this up. I like to ask the Stranger of the Day — in this case, there are two of you — what would you like to ask anyone? Like, if you can ask a Stranger anything, what would you ask? You’ll both have that opportunity, but before, I’d like to ask you what Kathryn, who I met yesterday, wanted to ask you. She wanted to ask, “What is your secret talent?” (Thanks to Kathryn, Stranger 91)

A: Ohh! Wow. Umm… A secret talent… What do I keep secret? Hmm…

D: Not sure if it’s secret, but I’ve got an idea for you. *David smiles*

A: I don’t know! Like, what do I not tell people??

M: Well, do you want to say it, or do you want the other one say it for you?

A: I would like to hear your opinion.

D: Okay. Her secret talent is that she tends to be the queen bee. She has a hive of friends — not to say hive mind, everyone of singular mind, but more like she… People end up looking up to her almost like the matriarch of the group-sort of thing. Go up to her for approval. I’m not even sure how this happens. It just happens to occur like that. People just really enjoy her company. It’s not even anything benevolent or anything. They —

A: It’s just a connection.

D: It’s a connection she makes. So that has to be her secret talent.

A: And in that thing, I guess, I’m on an emotional level with people. God, and yours… Hmm… what is yours…? *she’s thinking*

A: I think it’s kind of the way people feel of us. People don’t expect — because David comes off a little aloof *David makes a face at this like he’s thinking, “WHAT??”* and like, he’s not super engaged with people. But when he gets one-on-one time with people, they just — I mean — they just feel like they can tell the world to him, you know? He’s incredibly sincere. He just has this way of reaching people to the point they just automatically trust you. They feel like they can tell you anything, and it’s true. I think the talent is, you make people feel like they can utterly, completely trust you. And they do. I don’t know — does count as a talent?

M: Yeah! I think your secret talent is that you’re, I think, very authentic. And if you’re authentic, right, you don’t look like you’re someone that’s — *I’m thinking about saying, you don’t look like an a-hole, but I cut myself off* you can be relatable as well. People want to trust you, and let their voice be heard. And then, you turn around and also appreciate that, I think, and help share that. Help amplify that person’s abilities, whether it’s helping Andrea’s organizational skills, but that enables her to continue to be that leader with others. I think that’s it.

A: Yeah!

D: I feel like that’s an accurate description, yeah! *he laughs* I mean, that sounds self-serving to say that, but yeah. I would agree with that.

M: Very cool. Alright, so it’s up to you guys. Your turn. What question would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

A: Without any boundaries, what is it that you would go do right now? What is it that you’ve always wanted to do that you never let yourself do?

D: … where money and time is no object, that sort of thing?

A: Yeah, no option! Just, who do you want to be that day?

D: Trying to figure out a good one. What’s the motto or the aphorism, or otherwise, the saying that you live by? Some short term or phrase that encompasses how you live your daily life. What you strive to do — that sort of thing.

M: Alright, cool! That’s it!

After the handshakes.

Last Saturday morning, I met Travis and Briana (the combined Stranger 85) at the Toyota Service Center. It was nice to ask and meet two another couple today who I had never met or seen before. They were both real friendly, and still relatively newly weds.

To speaking with groups, it’s been fun to let each person speak of the other(s). It highlights, out loud, what the other person sees in the other. That, to me, is very fascinating. For David and Andrea, it was nice to hear how they kind of started out dating. Also, I could hear and see how they, in many ways, were in different places at the same time. When they did finally date, they weren’t “truly” themselves until later. This was apparent when they both touched on the high-maintenance part. But given time and that early investment in each other, they appreciated each other more and more. So despite having what would be “on paper” not a good fit, they grew to not only appreciate one another in different respects, but also overlooked/ appreciated the high-maintenance aspect. That’s important to realize here.

As a single guy, I’m caught in this swipe left/ swipe right world where we base our interactions (and the sometimes, the most important ones like who we date, and EEK! marry) on initial judgments. Yet, when you talk to some of the older generations, or yes, even to Strangers sitting next to us, the relationships that matter oftentimes stem from situations where we shed those judgments. That’s perhaps why dating online can be hard, and why we tend to value the “organic” day-to-day interactions or real-life meets. But in any case, allowing ourselves to be open to surprise (the good and the bad) yields a far more substantive life and network of relationships.

Side bar: I’m officiant’ing/ wedding minister’ing a third wedding coming up in early January. So I sometimes ask similar questions about how people meet which fascinates me. Could you not tell via this journey about meeting people? 🙂

Meet Andrea and David. No longer Strangers.

Stranger 91, Day 91 - Meet Kathryn

Stranger 91, Day 91 – Meet Kathryn, the “Always Bettering”

I finally met someone I had seen numerous times on my floor and throughout Atlanta Tech Village’s (ATV) halls for years. I joined my company just this year, but I have been in and out of ATV for years. So, I’ve seen today’s Stranger lots of times, including more recently as her company moved onto our floor. Truth is, I actually met her last week. Though, I only got her name as she left for a meeting. We made plans to finally meet today, and so this is where today’s Stranger story goes…

Meet Kathryn, 33

Who are you?

She’s quiet for a few seconds. “Oh man! What a hard question!!” she laughs.

She wants me to be more direct. “Does it have to be, or can I answer specifically? Or, what do you want?”

It’s up to you.

“My name is Kathryn.” She mentions her maiden name, too, which “aligns nicely” because it means 100 in Dutch. “Very much ties in with this.”

She continues, “My job is the COO at Rigor. And then, I would say who I am. I am enthusiastic. I’m really organized. I like to make things better. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention I’m super into triathlons, and nerd out on that.”

I’d like to ask questions about “what does making things better mean”, but also, “what drives you do this crazy thing of triathlons”. So, let’s start out with what does making things better mean?

She thinks about this. “Well, I’ll just turn it right into triathlons. I am taking a little break right now, but over the past seven years, I’ve done five or six Ironmans. So the distances are really long. It’s a race that takes you 11 hours to do, and 9-12 months to train for. So you have this big goal, but every single day, it gives you a reason to exercise. You can’t cheat the process. So you can’t, at the very last minute, say, ‘Oh my God! I’ve gotta get ready! Let me just cram it all in!’ You just have to be methodical about doing it a little bit every day.”

“I, for better or worse, see problems all around me.” She laughs. “Like, ‘Oh! That could be better. That could be better. That could be better!’ So making things better is like, ‘What’s the problem? What’s the pain we can fix either today, or what’s the big thing we need to work on that take a long time, but will move the needle long-term?'”

“Does that answer the question?” Sure!

You said you started doing triathlons for at least the last seven years.

“I think so, yeah.”

How’d you get into it?

“I… played sports growing up, including in college. Not anything special, but I played D3 softball. I was used to being a part of a team, and exercising with a purpose. I graduated, and I was kind of spinning my wheels a little bit because I wanted to be doing something, but I didn’t have a meaningful end goal, right? Like, being skinny only gets you so far,” she laughs.

“Like, you can be healthy without really pushing yourself. You can just, kind of like, check the box, and be like, ‘Yeah, I did cardio for 30 minutes’. So, I started running. That was really fun. I was training for running races. I had some friends that did triathlons, and I got injured running. So, it was a good time to add the cross-training of biking and swimming. And my dad was also a really big cyclist, which made it fun. I learned about riding, cycling with him. So that was fun. And then, started out slow. Did two sprint triathlons my first year. Just trying to finish. It’s funny because the swim is 500 meters. The Ironman swim is 2.5 miles. So it’s like SO much — but it just felt — I was like, ‘I’M NOT GOING TO MAKE IT! I’M NOT GOING TO MAKE IT!’ But then, you know, I just built on that over time. Then all of a sudden, you have this little thing that you’re doing Ironmans all the time.”

You’re working at a startup. You love triathlons. You love making things better. What do you see as the commonalities between doing the triathlons and, I guess, being the COO at a startup?

“It’s funny. So, I really believe that there’s stuff in your life that is always running parallel. Meaning, whatever I’m doing in triathlons, I’ll be learning from that, and be able to apply that to work, and vice versa. Same with relationships, too.”

“So to me, it’s good to remember in a startup, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. There’s always more work that you can do. You can pull an all-nighter every single night, and still not get all the work done. You just have to pace yourself. But, you also have to be consistent. If you work consistently all the time, it starts to build on itself. I feel like we’ve seen that at Rigor this year. There’s been super highs, and special things that have happened. More so, we’ve been working on, you know, finishing five projects per quarter. Now, finish every project. Now, you can build on that project — you’ve laid the framework or foundation. Let’s do the next iteration of that. If you do that consistently, over time, all of a sudden you turn around, and you’re like, ‘Holy shit! We have 40 people?!’ And everything is getting done the way we’re talking about it. I can’t believe a year ago, we didn’t even have team meetings.”

“It’s a lot like triathlon training to me because you don’t even realize it. But all of sudden, you’re like, ‘Holy shit! I’m running a marathon!’ Seems like a year ago, I was just doing a 10K.”

“So, it’s very similar to me.”

Kathryn and I laugh for a moment. As she shifts on the couch, the back cushion falls off causing us to laugh some more. Apparently, her laughing is quite strong.

So you love bettering things — making things better. You’re a triathlete, and grew up playing sports. Have you found, sometimes, it’s difficult to balance that sprint-sprint-sprint mentality? Curious as to what you do keep remembering to slow down. Or honing into that something that says, “Oh, I can’t always make everything better right now, even though I really freakin’ want to?”

“Like the couch breaking. This couch needs to be better!”

Haha, yes, exactly. Do you still sometimes struggle with, I guess, finding that balance?

“Uhh, all the time! But I think having — so for me, having important things, it creates tension, and it forces you to balance it. So, Rigor is important. Ironmans are important. My husband is important. Family is important. They’re all important, so I can’t do 100% of all of them. I have to stop working, so I can go home and see my husband. I have to stop working so I can get a workout in. I have to, sometimes, I have to work instead of workout. I think there’s a natural pull there that forces you to do different things.”

“One of the things I’m always working on is I have very high standards for myself. That translates into other areas. And also, I want to give 100% everytime, but that’s impossible.” She laughs. “So, sometimes, I make conscious decisions of, ‘Okay, for this stretch of time, this is going to be my priority. And for this other stretch of time, this will be my priority.'”

She asks me again, “Does this answer the question?” Sure!

So what is one thing you made better yesterday?

“Hmm,” she thinks.

I’ll allow you to cheat and pick throughout the week.

She laughs. “Well, I have 12 things I made better yesterday. But none of them are big, right?”

But does it have to be big? That is the question.

“It doesn’t have to be big. I guess that’s the point, right? Incremental.”

“So, I worked from home yesterday which is awesome. It was Rigor’s ‘Yoursday’. Thursday ‘Yoursday’. So you work from home — or, you can work from wherever. There are no internal meetings, which is awesome because you can get a lot of shit done. I talked to somebody on my team about doing a churn deep-dive review in January for 2016. That’s all about making it better — what have we learned?”

Kathryn shares with me another — “Small project, but I added leather ties to all of these utensils so we can that hang them on the wall of our house. We have a new house. So, it was a little project. Got it done!” She’s smiling big thinking about how great it was to accomplish this little project.

“And then, OH! I met with an executive coach yesterday who I’ve been working with. Every session is about, ‘how can I be a better leader? Communicate better? Be more patient with myself and others?’ So…”

Cool. I guess since we’re ending the year, I don’t know how you feel about New Year’s resolutions, but what do you feel you want to really get better at next year?

“It’s funny that we’re doing this. One of the things that I want to get better at is public speaking… which I don’t like doing.” She smiles shyly about this. “So that’s one thing.”

“I don’t actually do the New Year’s resolution thing that much. Because for me, the goal setting and achieving is really fluid. Some people are like, ‘here’s the goal, and I’m going to achieve it’. I know it sounds weird. Yes, I do Ironmans, but I don’t work that way. It’s more about every day getting better, and the right things happen. It’s fluid.”

She asks me how I feel about New Year’s resolutions. I mention how I felt for those like she and I, our resolutions are much more fluid. If we want to do something or challenge ourselves, we typically just go for it (this journey being an example of that). I felt that for some people, having a clear date to start and an actionable plan helps them get started. Then, as they progress through whatever resolution or challenge, it becomes more habitual.

She agrees, “Becomes like a habit. There is value, though, in sometimes you get so into it, that it’s easy to get distracted — so knowing what’s important. Those bigger goals help you decide what’s important.”

So, I like to ask the Stranger of the Day (that’s you), if you could ask anyone any question, effectively tomorrow’s Stranger, what would you ask? Before you have your turn, John, from yesterday, he wants to ask you —

“So does it pay forward to the next person? Ooh! That’s so fun!”

John wanted ask you if you could do one thing different, what would you do? And why? (Thanks to John, Stranger 90)

“If I could do one thing different…” She thinks about this.

“That’s a really broad question.” More thinking. “Umm…”

“I don’t want to miss my chance. I will say similar to the thing about goals and kind of being fluid, I believe that everybody’s doing the best they can in the moment. Even though I’ve messed some stuff up, I don’t look back and say, ‘Oh, these were mistakes’. And I kind of think if you want to be doing something different, you should just start doing it.” She laughs, “No sympathy!”

“But I would say if I were to do something different, I wish that sometimes I could let things go more. This is broken. I wish this didn’t bother me.” She motions to the couch piece that fell over earlier. But by doing so, she knocked off an adjacent piece. Haha. “Now, I broke another piece of the couch. Like why is the couch broken?!” Hahaha. She thinks it’s maybe actually a daybed.

“So, if I could do one thing differently, I would let go of little stuff more.”

Has that affected you day-to-day on certain things?

“Sometimes, I’m late because I’m like, ‘ah! I gotta get this place clean!’ So yeah.”

You’re turn! If you could ask a Stranger anything… what would you ask?

“This is a reused question. We went to Buttermilk Kitchen on Tuesday. We started this tradition when we have somebody new on the client success team, we go to Buttermilk Kitchen, and we have some really cheesy but fun get-to-know-you questions. So we ask — these aren’t all my questions, but we ask, ‘what’s one of your favorite holiday memories? If you could travel to one country, where would it be and why? And then, what’s your secret talent?'”

“So I think what’s your secret talent? Just to whoever’s next.”

She asks me who is John so she can “thank him for his question.”

After the handshake.

Yesterday, I met John who I’ve seen on my floor countless times. Today, I got a chance to meet Kathryn who I’ve seen throughout the years at ATV. I think, sometimes, that after a while of not meeting someone you see a lot, people tend to think it’d be awkward to finally meet. At least, I’ve noticed that I’ve felt that way in the past. Well, better late than never, as they say, and I’m glad I got a chance to sit down with Kathryn to actually get to know her.

Kathryn’s “always finding ways to do things better” mentality is very similar to my own. I’m always looking for ways to improve something, most especially myself. I love challenges, and Kathryn does, too. I think her thinking about all the stuff she even did yesterday to “do better” was very interesting. I liked how she could point out even the “small” things that she did better. Too often, we think we have to make do something big to make a difference or to talk about. However, even the smallest things can make a big difference. That can be a hello to a Stranger, a smile to a friend, or yes, leather ties on home decor. The details can sometimes affect someone’s entire outlook on the day which can then affect a whole week, and so on. Think: ripple effect.

When Kathryn talked about how she had challenges and goals set and achieved fluidly, it crystallized in my head about this notion of those who are easy to set in motion changes vs. those who need a little more structure. This was a simple, quick revelation, and one that I truly believe is common for people. There’s a spectrum here of those who can just start things at any time, and those who need more motivation. There’s not necessarily a good or bad to this. In fact, sometimes, it may involve extenuating circumstances that affects the abilities of someone to make change — think along the lines of resources, processes, and priorities.

I’m curious to hear more of how Kathryn finds ways to improve things. It could be valuable to think as an entrepreneur.

Meet Kathryn. No longer a Stranger.

Strangers 89, Day 89 - Meet Morgan and Xavier

Stranger 89, Day 89 – Meet Morgan and Xavier, the “Ambitious Friends”

I met today’s Strangers (yes, there are two!) at a shop near my office. I needed to stay in the area for a holiday party tonight, so decided to go venturing after work to find someone. I haven’t met someone while shopping, per se, on this journey. So I gave myself a challenge to go talk to someone. Well, it didn’t take long as I asked the first people I met while in the store nearby. And instead of asking one of them to be the Stranger of the Day, they both happily accepted to be the combined Stranger 89.

Meet Xavier, 30 and Morgan, 34

Starting out with you, Morgan, who are you?

“Who am I? I am an ambitious person. Very optimistic who believes in anything and everything is possible.”

Xavier, who are you?

“I’m a curious African American male… in a society that is being questioned daily. I have a lot of ambitions. I’m a father. And I’m a business owner.”

So you both said you’re ambitious. I’m curious. What is ambition for you? What does that mean? And how are you living that today?

Xavier starts, “For me, ambition means a drive to achieve something way greater than the norm, or the day-to-day, or your current state, right? I’m trying to achieve that by my business endeavors, and also, by my personal challenges of myself. So like, not actually going out and speaking to 89 Strangers on Days…” Morgan and I are laughing at this. “…but you know, in my own way helping out people, reaching different humans… not of my types. You know, trying to kind of better the world through my efforts… in an attempt.”

Morgan answers, “What is ambition…? I think ambition is kind of a mindset or perspective — understanding that each of us has the power to really manifest anything we want and desire. It’s all about the way that I kind of go about being ambitious is not having fear. Being able to believe that I can really do anything and everything. I can make a connection with anybody. I can connect, and create anything I want, and have the life that I want as well. That’s what ambition is.”

You guys seem like friends… unless you guys are really Strangers and just started talking, but sounds like that doesn’t happen. So of Xavier, what he defines as ambition (he has a son and everything), how do you think he’s living ambitiously and portraying that for his son? (Directed towards Morgan)

“Well, when you have kids, you have to have that focus, right? So I think all about being a parent, all about focusing time and energy. Even having a kid. Connect with someone, you guys fall in love, or whatever. Make that connection. It’s all about focusing that energy and time in who you are and who that person is in the moment, and you manifest this child. So I think that in itself carries on what he’s able to take his dreams and aspirations, and kind of line them with his child. That makes him ambitious.”

Morgan looks over at Xavier and starts laughing. I look over at Xavier, too, and note how Morgan had a lot of good words to say about him.

Xavier says, “I think he said some good things, but that was good… he hit it on the head.”

So how does he instill ambition in his life and helping others? (Directed to Xavier about Morgan)

“Well, I definitely think that he strives to be an anomaly, right? So very, very, very smart guy. So many big, different ideas. So on any day, he could be trying those ideas. So like now, he owns a store online, and working on a haircut product line. Even in my job, I’m in IT. I can give him a problem, and he gives me a solution. I think he’s always pushing his self to be successful, and to achieve, and to connect, and really make an impact.”

I like to ask the Stranger of the Day (this case, both of you), if you can ask anyone anything — if you could ask a Stranger anything, and get away from the same questions… cut through the crap — what would you ask? Before you get your chance to ask tomorrow’s Stranger, yesterday, Kelley wants to ask you are you doing everything you can today to be happy? And what are a couple things you did today to do that? (Thanks to Kelley, Stranger 88)

Xavier starts out, “Yes, I am. I have all types of goals and timelines, right? So, I’m constantly in a position in a job where I’m constantly being challenged. Intellectually, I’m being pushed and driven to expand. Personally, I’m always working on my business. That’s my bigger role. It’s a mental health agency. I want to reach out to African American youths in low equality areas. Of course, there’s a business behind that that you have to do things day-by-day to get closer and closer to that goal. Constantly working on myself, personally. Paperwork-wise. Working on the business. Always improving everything that’s involved with myself. So if it’s a relationship, with friends, with a sibling or parent… potential employee or friend. So every opportunity, I’m taking advantage of.”

So are you doing everything that you can to be happy? And what are a couple things you did today? (Directed to Morgan this time.)

“Yeah! I think part of the secret to being happy is kind of focusing on the right aspect of where you are in your life. I think so often, we make the mistake of trying to look ahead, and not really just living in the moment. So I’ve made a habit to almost tap into the emotion — being excited, being enthusiastic, being happy… all of the great emotions. Tapping into those, and give a moment no matter what. Realizing that if I do that, my path is that much more in line, and that much more enjoyable. You know what I mean? I’m able to appreciate people more. Notice more things and more people. More parts of my life. Able to grow, and just really tap into what life is all about.”

Like I said, it’s your turn now. If you could ask a question to anyone, effectively tomorrow’s Stranger, what would you like to ask?

Morgan asks, “the question I would like to ask is what is your story? Simple as that.”

Xavier?

“So cliche, right?” Morgan starts laughing.

“… not yours, but what I’m about to say. What can you do to make this world a better place? Literally. Like what physical action can you do? What thought, what gesture? What can you do? One thing to make this world a better place.”

“… and have you done it! So it’s like two parts.” It’s like one of those test questions with multiple parts. Got it!

After the handshakes.

First, it was nice to venture out of my normalcy for a moment and go into a store I’ve never been to. (I’m not very fashionable.) I wasn’t sure how people in a store shopping would react to me, but Morgan and Xavier were fantastic. They were smiling and laughing at each other at first, but were totally game to spend a few minutes to chat.

This journey has been great in highlighting how we (especially I) can connect with complete Strangers. Morgan and Xavier are both ambitious business owners and entrepreneurs. I am an entrepreneur. Morgan has an web store. My best bud has a company catering to web stores. They’re both ambitious, and Morgan, especially, talked much about connections with people. Well, this journey is all about inspiring connections. The common threads here were numerous, and I appreciated both these men opening up and allowing me to get to know them. Now, to help make connections with them and my bud.

Meet Morgan and Xavier. No longer Strangers.

Stranger 87, Day 87 - Meet Emily

Stranger 87, Day 87 – Meet Emily, the “Beginning of an Adventure”

I met today’s Stranger partially in the stairwell in my office as I was heading downstairs carrying a bunch of stuff. Except, I didn’t really say much given I was on the move with a bunch of props for a startup showcase on the first floor. As I was done setting up my company’s little booth, I was back upstairs looking for a Stranger to talk to. I had actually asked a police officer to be it earlier on in the day. The police officer agreed, but then, she kind of (definitely) disappeared. Not sure why, but didn’t see her again. Sadness.

I then met a gentleman at ATV who I’ve been wanting to get to know. I was torn if he should be the Stranger of the Day given he actually heard about this from others in the building. Alas, he would not be it.

So as I walked around on my floor, I went back to the kitchen to which I ran into the woman who I had met in the stairwell so briefly. I asked her if she had a moment to talk, and shared with her this journey. She happily accepted to be today’s Stranger.

Meet Emily, 23

Emily just had a birthday, so let’s wish her a happy birthday. (HAPPY BIRTHDAY!)

Who are you?

“Trying to figure that out still.”

“Hmm, who am I? I guess on a surface level like when you meet a Stranger, you’re like, ‘oh, this is what I do. Blah, blah, blah.’ Work in Atlanta Tech Village for a company called Engage Media. We do pharmaceutical marketing. So I do that. But… I like making people laugh, and drinking wine, and traveling.” She laughs lightly.

“I like photography. Yeah. Always looking for some kind of adventure. So, I guess that’s who I am.”

What’s an adventure you’ve got going on right now, or you’re thinking about going on?

“So, my girlfriend lives in Chicago. Trying to figure out — we’ve been doing long-distance since the end of July. I’m considering possibly moving there. That’s kind of a big one that’s very present in my life right now because it’s a huge life change. But it’s one that I feel like a lot of things in the universe are leading me in that direction. So I think the time is coming up, but I don’t know. There’s a lot of things to figure out logistically, but it’s one that’s very present right now.”

Where were you born and raised?

“Nashville, TN. I’ve been in Atlanta since 2012. I came here to go to school at Oglethorpe.”

How’d you meet your girlfriend?

“We were sorority sisters,” she starts to smile. “So a little controversial, I guess!”

“Yeah, we’ve been best friends since freshman year. Then, our senior year… I don’t know… Kind of grew into something more than that. The rest has been history.”

I have a buddy who is in Chicago right now for work. I just saw pictures with the crazy snow…

“Yeah, I know. She sent me this picture yesterday with our other best friend — was in town because she works for Kraft-Hines. Their headquarters is there. So she’s there for work a decent amount. They built a snowman yesterday. Sent me a picture. That’s crazy.”

So when it comes to the photography, what do you like to take photographs of?

“I got into it because my dad’s a street photographer. My dad is super talented.” She mentions how she’ll share with me her dad’s website.

“It’s something he kind of stumbled into. It’s kind of how I initially got into it. He gave me one of his old cameras. I liked it a little bit growing up.” She pauses and points out, “This is kind of taking the long way around to your question.”

“I liked it a little bit growing up, especially when I traveled. So now… I don’t know. I’m trying to find my voice in photography right now. Most of it is just about my travels. But I like taking pictures of people. I’m really into architectural pictures right now. I like street art pictures. So it’s kind of it. I’m just now kind of started taking it a little more seriously recently.”

“… yeah,” she laughs.

Do you have a picture that you’ve taken that you really love? Perhaps of people. Can you recall one of those pictures? What was so great about it? Describe one of your favorite pictures.

“One of them that I’m really loving right now is actually a picture of this church I found in Chicago. My girlfriend, she lives in Lincoln Park.”

“It was one day that we’re just like basically walking everywhere just to kind of check out the city. It was the second or third time that I’d been there. We just found this church. I took a picture of the front door, and it ended up having this really cool… really vibrant color that I didn’t really see when I was first there. But I like how it turned out.”

“There’s actually another picture that’s my screen saver. Made me think about it when I got a text.” She was referring to her phone getting a text just now.

“There was one when I was traveling for work in New York. We go there pretty often.” She mentions how one of her biggest clients is in the City. “We had stayed out really late the night before. We passed out in my boss’s friend’s house who lived in Brooklyn. Had to take a cab ride back 6 in the morning. I’m like waking up to make it from Brooklyn to Manhattan to be able to pack and shower and catch our flight. I had this picture on my phone of this sunrise coming over Manhattan that I’m just in love with because one, the colors are just really pretty, but also because it was just a really ridiculous night!” She laughs recalling the night and morning.

We also talked briefly about the Chicago boat tour. Very, very cool tour… on a boat… of the great buildings around Chicago. She hopes to do it in the spring or summer next year — not in the winter now.

What are some of your other passions?

“I really love the outdoors. I went to a camp in the mountains of North Carolina growing up. And then later, while I was in college, I was a counselor there. So being in the mountains, in particular, is one of those…” she thinks. “Whenever I’m off-center or off-aligned from myself, that’s where I go as a retreat. Just being outdoors, in general, but in particular, there. Love that. Really into yoga. Trying to find more time to do that now.”

“Those are kind of some of my passions. I work a lot, too, though. So having hobbies is tough!” she laughs.

So balance is a critical thing, right?

“Trying to find balance, yeah.”

When you think about finding that balance because you work a lot, you love photography, you’re thinking about maybe Chicago… how else do you find your balance in the day-to-day? Is it through yoga?

“Yeah, that’s one of those things that I’m more consciously trying to bring into my life. Trying to carve out at least once a week actually going to the studio to do yoga. Or, do a meditation class there. So I’d say probably that right now.”

“I’ve also been trying to be really conscious about writing it out. Sometimes, I think I’m too busy to do that. I literally, about a month ago, wrote out on a legal notepad, ‘what do you want?’ and just wrote. I’m still trying to figure that out, but I’m trying to be more conscious about how I’m evaluating how I am right now. 23. Yeah, I’m really young. But it’s also kind of a weird age, too — trying to figure out what you want, where you’ve been. Nobody takes you seriously. It’s kind of a weird place to be.”

“It’s also an exciting, optimistic time in life.”

When you think about this long-distance thing, what do you think has been key to being successful at it so far?

Emily thinks. “I think just having an open line of communication. That seems to be really basic, but I think it’s important for us to acknowledge that it’s really hard. It’s not easy.”

“… especially, she’s studying at Second City to be a comedian.” Whoa! That place is great! “So that was really hard initially. Scheduling online, but making that a priority. This is when we’re going to talk or whatever.”

“We also like little things like we make sure to text throughout the day. Send articles to each other. We’re both really politically-minded people. ‘Here’s an article. Read this. Whatever. Here’s this Tina Fey thing.’ Little things go a long way, I guess.”

What motivates you? What gets you out of bed everyday? (Thanks to Jumin, Stranger 86)

“Growth. I’m one of those people who can’t stand staying still. It can be my Achilles heel in a lot of ways. I’m always trying to push to the next thing. Sometimes, my downfall is I do that too quickly. I put a lot of pressure on myself to really try reaching the next thing quickly. So I think probably growth. Whether that’s at work, or spiritually, or, you know, if my relationships/ friendships… I think growth is probably it.”

“At least, that’s the way that’s naturally coming to me now.”

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

“So this is me kind of being cheesy, but I love Sheryl Sandberg. One of my mantras that I’ll look at it at moments when I’m stuck — which I hate. This mantra comes to me and it’s from her book Lean In — what would you do if you weren’t afraid? So that’s my — it’s hers, but it’s something that’s very present in my life.”

After the handshake.

I thought it was super cool (yes, “super cool”) that Emily’s girlfriend is studying to be a comedian at Chicago’s famous Second City. I’ve been there a couple times, and had a great time both visits. After our talk, we also realized we went to the same yoga studio, but just different locations. (Small world!)

She also shared how she appreciated strong, funny women similar to Sheryl Sandberg and Tina Fey. Kind of made sense then that Emily’s girlfriend also represented the qualities Emily was inspired by and is naturally drawn to. I thought that was cool.

Throughout our talk, Emily was so well measured. She spoke well. Perhaps because she made the comment that because she’s young that people don’t take her seriously. However, I got a different sense from her. Yeah, she’s young, but the sense that I got was that she was very much bright, mature, and thoughtful.

So meet Emily. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 85, Day 85 - Meet Travis and Briana

Stranger 85, Day 85 – Meet Travis and Briana, the “Couple Who Builds On Each Other”

I got up this morning to take my car to get its regular 120K service at the local Toyota dealership. As I was finishing up some other work, I noticed a couple sitting next to me. I was thinking all morning about potentially meeting my Stranger this morning at the dealership. It’d be different than my normalcy. So as I noticed the couple next to me, I decided that today would be the day I would speak to a couple Strangers as part of today’s meet. Though, I would count them as a single Stranger much like I have when speaking to multiple people before.

They happily accepted to be Stranger(s) 85.

Also, our talk was a constant back and forth, so I’m changing up the style to better reflect our meet.

Meet Travis, 28, and Briana, 34

M(e): Who are you?

T(ravis): So, I am a 5th-year PhD student in a neuroscience program.

We get interrupted for a little while as my service advisor comes to tell me some news.

T continues: Male. Obviously. *Haha, yes, obviously.* White male from Ohio. I guess if you want to ask for some personality traits as well what makes me a person.

M: However you want to go.

T: I would say I’m a very curious person. Very compassionate person. I consider myself very open-minded. Very interested to learn about people’s cultures and backgrounds. I’m just kind of curious about life, in general — just kind of like the driving force for me being in science as well.

*I turn to Briana.*

M: Who are you?

B: My turn?

T: She’s a little more shy than me, I think.

B(riana): So, yeah, I’m Briana. Regulatory coordinator in continuing medical education. That’s pretty much it for right now.

T: I can describe her maybe.

M: Describe her, and then, you can describe him.

T: She’s very sweet and a soft-hearted person. She’s very compassionate. I said I was compassionate, she’s very compassionate. She’s the one who keeps me tame and focused, I think. She’s very loving. So yeah, just a very… a great force to have around and keep you balanced.

M: How else would you describe him outside of what he said?

B: He’s doing great.

B: … this is awkward. *Haha, maybe just a little. She’s a little shy.* Yeah.

T: She agrees with me.

B: Yeah, I agree with all his stuff… of what he said about himself.

M: Okay.

T: She’s just more nervous.

M: How’d you guys meet?

B: We met at a Halloween party, sort of. Then, I became friends with his lab mate, and hung out with her a bunch. Then, I met him again after meeting him at the Halloween party through her and other friends.

T: So it was a random, like very disconnected friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend, you know? It was a long line and chain of people. We seemingly kept ending up at the same place.

B: Yeah. We were at several occasions together. And then, we started dating and stuff

T: Yeah, so, it was interesting. We met at this Halloween party, but just briefly. She was actually seeing a friend of mine, but he kept saying, ‘Man, I met this girl, but like, she’d be great for you! She’d really be good for you!’ I was like, “oh okay.” So it was this awkward “my best friend’s dating this girl kind of, but he keeps saying, ‘man, she’s great for you!'” *he’s laughing* Okay! So we met, and we all agreed that it’s better for me. *He keeps laughing, and she’s smiling* So it all worked out. We’re still best friends. It’s all good.

M: So, when did you guys meet?

B: That was Halloween of 2015.

T: So just a little over a year ago. It was our first interaction.

M: What were you guys dressed as?

B: At the first meeting? He was the Incredible Hul– Or he was the Sexy Hulk? Slutty Hulk? *Travis is laughing hysterically*

M: The Slutty Hulk?

B: Slutty Incredible Hulk… *Travis is still laughing.*

T: We were an Avengers group. So, let’s just call it that.

B: He was like painted green. And he just had these little shorts on. His best friend, the guy who I dated for a very short time, he painted his whole body green.

T chimes in: Well, no…

B: Well, all the visible parts, I guess.

M: Real best friends…

B: I was supposedly, sort of Cleopatra because I was with one of my friends who was my house mate. He was dressed as Caesar, so I was Cleopatra at that party.

M: So let’s be honest — was it the shorts? *they both laugh, especially Briana* Were you like, “you had me at your shorts.”

T: They were pretty impressive shorts.

B: Yeah, maybe… *she’s laughing*

M: So how long until you guys went on your first date?

B: Between Halloween and our first date?

T: Well, our first date was… Julllyyy?

B: At the sandwich bar?

T: Yes, at the sandwich bar.

B: Sort of. No, yeah… I guess July. So it was sort of… March, but then sort of July. So…

B: It took a long time between the Halloween party and where we are now. We started officially, Facebook officially, dating in August.

M: Oh, well, that’s the only thing that counts really.

T: Yup! If it’s not on Facebook, it doesn’t matter.

B: And then, we went to the same Halloween that the girl who hosted the Halloween party which is one of his friends — she’s from his program. She hosted another Halloween party this year, so we went to the same one hosted by the same girl.

T: … One year. But between the October and August, there was a lot of just like dating casual.

B: Yeah.

T: … spending time together, but that was really us officially dating.

B: … from August, yeah.

M: Well, you’re here at Toyota at 7AM on a Saturday, so I’m going to take it that this is real serious. They say there’s this “airport test”, but I kind of go with the “7AM at Toyota test”.

T: Yeah, I think that’s a fair assumption. *Briana is laughing hysterically next to us* I’ll agree to that.

M: What are a couple of your passions? I’ll let you guys kind of talk…

T: Passions… So, at this point, I’ll make it on the superficial level. I’m passionate about science, obviously. That’s why I do it.

M: And you have a tattoo of it on your arm. *It’s of some chemical bonds, I believe*

T: Yeah, exactly. *He chuckles for a moment* It’s the discovery part. It’s the creativity of coming up with ideas. Testing them. Seeing something for the first time that no one else in the world has seen before. This type of thing is really an intrinsic drive for me to get up everyday and to go to work, and do these things that I do. Keeps me motivated and keeps me focused. On kind of the outer level, I would say discovery is what I’m passionate about. Going a little bit deeper, is more passionate about, significant others. Kind of developing this relationship.

M: Aww. *I look at Briana.*

T: Well, you know, we come to this test! *Briana laughs* You know, it’s to the point now where I kind of get in this bubble where I was just doing work all the time, all the time, all the time. I was like I need step out in a way and discover things outside of that — not just sitting in a lab all day. Like in the last year is when I’ve been trying to work on personal relationship cultivation, things like that. So I’m getting more passionate about other people… about others and developing these relationships, and not just clicking and working all the time in the lab. Something I’m passionate about now is making sure that I’m not doing that all the time. I’m doing other things with people and developing relationships.

B: So, let’s see. I’m passionate about a lot of things. *Travis nods* I’m very excited about change, and evolving education that we can do as individuals. And then us… relationships whether it’s parent-to-child or brother-sister or these types of relationships *she motions to herself and Travis*, but also on a national scale within a company, national scale within a state. All the different ways we can identify little areas of improvement and slowly make them. That’s something I’m just becoming passionate about based on my current work, and also seeing our nation and how it’s developing, whether it’s backwards or forwards. That type of thing, I think, is really exciting. Both in that current way but also when I’m learning about our history or like right now, I’m reading about dead bodies, actually. And all the different things I can learn about those. I really like learning, but I’m really excited about problem-solving and change, specifically. How change happens, and how people can embrace change. How you can kind of… right now, I would say my current passions are communication issues and process improvement issues. I think everything from whatever’s happening now to the Palestine conflict can be taken down to communication and process issues, and identifying where those little areas of potential change and intervention are, is really exciting. That’s what I’m excited about right now. Might be something different tomorrow. *Travis takes a sip of coffee from his bottle*

T: That just kind of reminded me because my brain’s slowly waking up. But yeah, and also to say education is something I’m passionate about. Not just for myself, but educating people on all social, political world issues just so everyone can make an informed opinion about whatever they feel strongly about. Let’s say educating one’s self to looking at educating school children — first graders, second graders — teaching them correct information, not just biased, personal, influenced beliefs, or something like that. To an old grandma that’s going to be voting (or this election or whatever), they kind of understand the situation. Look at the issues, not just from one side, but both sides. We’re all guilty and biased in beliefs — some more than others, sometimes. I think it’s important to educate yourself about the issue and all the components to it. I’d say I’m passionate about education on all issues.

B: I’d latch onto one thing to that. In terms of informing the populace or informing ourselves, I think education from first grade to grandmother, I think the most important thing is critical thinking. Like facilitating critical thinking, creative thinking in the mind from the young to the old. That, going back to the change thing, that people that are quite old and set in their ways can still learn and change. I think embracing that idea as a people can help us a lot. I just think much more than filling up somebody’s brain with information, I think that critical thinking is just so important. So no matter what is thrown at them, they can take it, process it, and be able to make a decision from that material. That’s another thing I feel passionate about. There you go!

*we laugh. Travis takes another sip of his coffee*

M: How do you guys communicate and support one another?

T: I got one more thing about the passion thing that I wanted to speak about. One more thing. *Briana is laughing hysterically again* Is that okay?

T: So the other thing… like I said I’m slowly waking up. I’m drinking my coffee. Every time I take a sip, I’m like, “oh yeah…”

M: Every sip is one more enlightenment.

T: Yeah, it is. I’m going to have one more enlightenment here before I go. *he takes another sip* MMmmm. Something else I’ve become more aware about/ aware of and possibly more passionate about is sustainability as far as climate change. How, what can I do at an individual level and also what nations can be doing to kind of reduce waste, reduce emissions. Thinking about the future of the planet where I think it’s starting to become something that’s more and more critical. You know, the more and more I read about it and think about it — reducing carbon footprints. Even just learning about sustainability. How do I grow my own food a bit, and playing around with these things is something I’m becoming more passionate about. That’s important.

B: So our question now is how we communicate and support each other… You can go ahead.

T: She kind of already touched on it a bit with her passion. She’s really good at communicating, but I’m relatively poor, sometimes, at communicating. I think it’s like one way that we — what? *He looks over at Briana who made a little face at this*

B: No, keep going.

T: So when I get mad, I used to not talk much. Kind of more of a cold person sometimes. But like, I’d say that’s something I’ve worked on quite a bit. Our communication — just open communication — addressing issues immediately helps support each other because we can move and progress through things fast and get over things. Move forward quickly where it’s not holding on to things and not talking about it for days, and this type of thing where I think could really be destructive. *He looks at her again inquisitively. Briana laughs a little* Is it? No?

B: You also have to talk about how we support each other.

T: Oh! *Briana laughs*

M: Or, you, Briana%2

Stranger 84, Day 84 - Meet Chawanis

Stranger 84, Day 84 – Meet Chawanis, the “Woman Finding Flexibility”

I met today’s Stranger before yoga class. To be honest, I wasn’t feeling like meeting someone today after learning I had lost my wallet this afternoon. No clue where it is, sadly. So I was in a rather… unhappy mood. There wasn’t anything else I could do about my now-lost wallet. However, I set myself a challenge to meet 100 Strangers in 100 Days, and today’s Stranger was super friendly and smiling. When you meet someone like her, you find a happy place to keep charging ahead.

Meet Chawanis, 37

She had to think a little bit on her age. We laugh about this.

Who are you?

“I am a wife — 12 years. I’m a mom to two fur babies — two German shepherd mixes. I am a therapist focusing on substance abuse and mental health issues. I have a private practice in Conyers.” Then, she stops. “Actually, you asked me who am I, not what I do.”

“I am a therapist, but that’s what I do. I try to live intentionally and authentically every day. I’m a yoga student here at Infinity at the YTT program. More?” (YTT = yoga teacher in training)

“Yeah, I am, sometimes, introverted — most times introverted. But, I can have a lovely personality, as well. I say that I am a therapist even though that’s my 9-5 job, but really, I counsel people on so many ways throughout my day-to-day contacts in life. So, I think that’s part of me — a gift. You know, that I’ve been given this, so I try to help people in whatever capacity that I can.”

You mention that you try to live your day as authentically as possible. What does that mean for you? How do you do that?

“By being true to myself, my own desires, not hiding behind a mask to prevent people from seeing my imperfections. I’m true to myself. I’m honest about how I feel, and what my thoughts are. I try to consider other people as they are searching for their truths — some knowingly, some unknowingly. So, I try to be sensitive to that. The only way I can be sensitive to that is by being more in tune with who I am. Who I was originally created to be.”

You talk about embracing some of your imperfections. I’m curious what’s an imperfection that you’re proud of?

“An imperfection that I’m proud of…” she sighs and thinks. “That’s a good question, Daryl”.

Chawanis starts, “I guess… I’m structured.” She elongates the word “structured” like she’s unsure of saying it before adding, “If I said rigidity, I wouldn’t be proud of that, so I reframe it as being structured,” she laughs.

“I like things to be done a certain way, and I work hard to get things done, but I’m trying to learn how to be more flexible, and there’s more than one way to get things done. But I’m pretty proud of being structured because it adds value to my life. I just don’t want to be so structured that I am rigid that I miss a lot of opportunities to advance myself or connect with people. You know, make a difference.”

Has there been something recently you’ve been pretty structured before, and then you caught yourself to be more flexible? If so, what was that?

“So, there was an opportunity to make some changes in my practice as far as how I facilitate classes.” She mentions how she facilitates anger management classes.

“There’s a way I did the anger management class, and I wanted it to be done that way. But my facilitator had ideas about how to do it. Initially, I resisted, but then, I said, ‘okay, as long as it still provides structure to what we’re doing, and it’s going to help to advance what we’re doing, then I should be more flexible in that’. So, took a deep sigh, relinquished control, and allowed him to begin to implement that practice, and I think it’s going to work!”

One of the other things you started off saying was that you’re married — 12 years. Congrats! How’d you guys meet?

“In high school. Our senior year in high school. He’s an introvert. One of his friends introduced us in the cafeteria. It was the second semester of high school, so dated for a little while and all through summer. Then, we separated — went to different colleges. Broke up the following summer. Six years later, got back together, and soon after, got married.”

That’s awesome. Is he structured as well?

“No.” She answered that really fast and laughed.

So how do you guys complement each other?

“We have learned how to accept each other for who we are and what we bring to the table. In areas he thinks he needs more structure, I think he’ll ask first. Sometimes, he just is. I think those moments where he resists when maybe I’m being overbearing with my structure. But, he’s taught me a lot about flexibility and being open to change. Because I’ve been open today, it is really has helped me a lot.”

What motivates you to do what you do to try to make the world a better place? (Thanks to Virginia, Stranger 83)

“What motivates me to do what I do to try to make the world a better place…”

“Realizing that everybody is facing something. Everybody has some challenge they have to face. Knowing I can make a small impact by helping someone address that challenge or attack that challenge. That, and knowing that they may be open and receptive to that, then that keeps me going. That helps to make me feel like I’m making a difference.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“Have you done anything today that will bring you closer to your purpose in life?”

… and if so, what was it?

“Yes! And if so, what was it,” she laughs.

After the handshake.

For the several minutes Chawanis shared with me her story, and had that beaming smile, I forgot all about my unfortunate wallet. We talked, and I was interested more about her desire to help others, her relationship with her husband, and how she balanced her structure with flexibility. She was, as I said, super friendly, and was happy to not only share her story, but to learn about the journey I’ve now been on for 84 days. Sure, it’s now been several hours since we met. However, I’m recalling her happiness, and it’s able to remind me that there’s not much I can do about my wallet, but there’s people and things beyond this. (Not that this is that dire.)

Chawanis’ personality and openness to speak brings up a salient point. Especially given her response to Virginia’s (Stranger 83) question, and how Chawanis mentioned that everybody is facing some challenge. Today, I was facing a little dilemma, and her spirit gave me the repreieve and positivity to move on. How applicable and serendipitous, then, was our meeting.

Meet Chawanis. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 82, Day 82 - Meet Sunshine

Stranger 82, Day 82 – Meet Sunshine, the “Crafty”

I was leaving the office before stopping by to say hello to Chandler, the “Wu-Tang Mentor” (Stranger 13). We chatted for a brief minute before asking him if there was a Stranger around to talk to (not seriously, but for fun). One gentleman was in the lobby of the office building, and I asked him if he had a few minutes, but he was unavailable. He had to rush upstairs to a meeting. All good.

I proceeded to the coffee shop on the first floor (Octane) to say goodbye to one of my coworkers. As I was seeing what he was up to and saying goodbye, I looked around for a Stranger in the coffee shop. A few seats away was a woman working diligently on her computer. So, of course, the challenge was on to see if this person who seemed to be working hard would take a few minutes to meet a Stranger.

She was so friendly, and happily accepted to be today’s Stranger.

Meet Sunshine, 39

Sunshine just had a birthday, so say happy birthday, readers!

Who are you?

“I’m still trying to find that out!” she laughs. “I don’t know!” But she tries anyways…

“I’m a girl. And I like to do crafty things sometimes. I like to drink coffee. This is the first time I’ve been to this Octane. I’m a wife and a traveler.”

So what is “crafty”? What does that mean?

“I like to make things. Doesn’t have to be significant. I just like to make stuff. I’m in my second or third year, and I have a little Esty shop on the side.” She points to her computer screen. “That’s what I was working on right now — my Etsy site.”

“I do things with leftover wood cuttings from my husband’s carpentry. And I also do some things with ceramics. But, that’s not all of it. I do things with my nieces and nephews. I’ll cut paper and color, and whatever it is. I like all that stuff.”

Why do you love doing that?

“I have two guesses. I haven’t really thought about this really hard. I’m sure that’s why you do this, right?” Yup!

“I used to when I was younger, I thought I wanted to be an artist, and decided not to. I went into business because I thought I didn’t want to be a starving artist. It’s just a creative outlet. Since I didn’t do that for a living, I’m doing it for fun on the side now. I think that’s one reason. And my… yes! So creative outlet, and I didn’t do it for a living.”

You wanted to be an artist but not a starving one.

“Yeah, yeah. So I have a job, and I do software development things, and then I do this on the side. It doesn’t pay any bills.” She corrects herself, “It pays for itself!” That’s hard sometimes to at least break-even, so congrats!

Is there anything at the job you find creative?

“Yes. To be clear, I’m not a software developer. I’m in software development. And so, I’m actually a product owner/ business analyst-type of person. I work with folks to make sure that what the vision calls for is built. That’s kind of where I am. And so, most of my creative outlet isn’t around something tangible, and I think that’s the difference between what I do and what I do on Etsy.”

“I do be creative. It just isn’t pretty at the end of the day,” she laughs. “I have to come up with ways for things to move forward even though it seems like they’ve come to a dead-end. That’s all creative and fun and everything, but I don’t know if it qualifies for left-brain, right-brain kind of activities.”

How did you get into crafting and start with Etsy?

“OH! I love this. My husband recently had a career pivot three years ago. He started doing carpentry independently. He was doing commercial construction before that. And his sister and him started up a little business together doing interior decor, and now, it’s turning into furniture. His carpentry skills got really, really tapped into. He was generating all this sawdust and wood pieces and stuff. One day, I picked one up, and I was like, ‘This could be a business card holder.’ That’s like up-cycled at its finest, right? It’s wood that would’ve been thrown away otherwise, and I thought people might want that. And they did! Yay!” She gives a big smile and a brief moment of extra enthusiasm.

“And so, his carpentry was able to get me to brush off all these little small things and just start making.”

“… tangible stuff, yeah.”

That’s very cool.

“He’s way better than me by the way.”

In some things.

“In those ways, for sure.”

You hear that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. So, that’s really, really cool. (I asked her if he participates in Scott Antique Marketing which occurs every second weekend of the month down by the Atlanta Airport — show marketplace full of original and vintage items.)

“They don’t. They actually sell at Queen of Hearts in Alpharetta. So it’s Scott’s, but much smaller.”

I’m also intrigued by Sunshine’s necklace — green-ish beads as necklace. Hanging from those beads is a picture of a single bird looking up at the sky, and sitting on two branches. So I ask for the story behind the necklace.

“My sister-in-law, who my husband’s in business with, she also makes jewelry. She made this for me.”

“I don’t know if it has any significance for her, but for me, it’s just a very special piece. She made it, and gave it me.”

So suppose the necklace was made specifically for you. Why do you think she would have made this for you?

She thinks about this — “Oh, dear…”

“Because, I’m not very colorful, and I need help.” She laughs. “‘Being colorful.’ I don’t know… it’s pretty. I don’t know if the bird has any meaning. I can’t sing. I don’t feel trapped or clipped. So maybe we’re both free birds. I don’t know.”

Do you see crafting and making things evolving into anything else? Maybe something you want to tap into beyond? Do you want to make this your career?

“Dude! I would love to. I would love to. I am very well aware the fact that I have certain income requirements for myself and things that I want. And so, unless I hit something that was able to be a ‘cash cow’ type of thing, this is probably going to stay just on the side.”

“Over 10 years ago, now that I’m 39, my husband and I sold everything and moved to New Zealand for a year. That’s when I learned two things that was really fun, but we liked things. At the end of that, we decided to come home and go back to corporate-types of jobs and everything. I don’t know that I’ll ever make a leap like that. But if he does, which is what I kind of want to happen, if he does and his company has success or there are some risks we can take around that, I’m behind it 100%.”

To wrap this up, how do you deal with adversity? (Thanks to Tesh, Stranger 81)

“That’s a really good question. Tesh is super smart. I have two approaches that it depends. Most adversity that’s not for my immediate family, I take head-on. So, I’m pretty fearless when it comes to taking on challenges with Strangers in the street or with people I work with and stuff. In my family situation now, I usually just avoid it as best as I can. These are people I need to spend the rest of my life with in peace. And I make that alternate choice for my family.”

How do you still address those? Or do you just never address those?

“Pretty much never address, and just find the positive things to focus on and be a part of.”

So before you get your chance to ask your question, I’m also curious about this little piece. (As I point to her bracelet.)

“Oh yay! Okay. So this piece, my best cousin gave to me. She visited here in Atlanta. My mom’s first cousin’s daughter, and we’ve become friends probably over the last 15 years. We weren’t friends as children. We didn’t know each other well. She was here visiting, and we were in a shop over in Westside, and we bought each other these bracelets. They each have different quotes, and we picked our own out, and then gifted them to each other. We both have the same style of jewelry that we like, which is why I guess we picked out the same thing.”

“I think that everyone has the potential to be brilliant, and I think it’s an important thing to remind people of. You’ll see that it’s facing you. It’s not facing me. I put it on intentionally in that direction. It’s for you.” She points and shows me how the bracelet reads, “Be Brilliant”.

“It’s for you,” she tells me.

If I was to wear it, what do you think that you’re brilliant at?

She laughs. “These are hard questions!” haha

“I’m a really good wife. So, I’m brilliant with my husband. It’s my favorite thing to be.”

That’s awesome. I bet when you share with him this, he’ll tell you how much he loves you (and what he finds brilliant about you).

“Or, he’ll tell me how wrong I am, and what I can do to improve. So, we’ll find out.” She laughs again.

So you’re turn now. What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What makes you most happy?”

After the handshake.

I don’t think I said “smile” enough as I wrote up our interactions. Sure, I could sprinkle them in post-write-up, but just take it from me that she was smiling a lot. She was happy, and it was like she was really enjoying life.

Afterwards, we talked some more as she asked me questions about this journey. She found it interesting, and I think, she became more and more interested in the higher inspirations of this journey. It was great to see her continue to smile and be inquisitive. I told her, too, that I thought many readers (you) would/ could find inspiration in her story as she pursues her passion of being crafty not as a full-time job, but as a side-gig. I think that’s an important thing to think about as so many people think that’s it’s an “either/ or” dilemma. However, it’s not. This journey is proof that you can have a tough job + work out + go to yoga + see friends and family and STILL make time for a passion journey (“project”).

Sunshine was gracious to allow me to distract her and learn more about her, and I’m happy she did. I was in a happy mood before I spoke to her, but after speaking with her, I had a noticeable uptick just because of her energy. So great to meet her.

Meet Sunshine. No longer a Stranger.