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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 79, Day 79 - Meet Dmitri

Stranger 79, Day 79 – Meet Dmitri, the “One Stop Stylist”

Continuing on on not just 100 Strangers, 100 Days, but also on the journey to meet the many Strangers with familiar faces! Today, I got a chance to meet one of the baristas I encounter oh-so-often at Starbucks. He’s always cheery, always friendly. As just as he always is with me and every other Starbucks guest, he happily accepted to be today’s Stranger. And that cheerfulness continued throughout our meet.

Meet Dmitri, 28

Who are you?

“As… what do you mean? Like, as a person?” He smiles. “Hmm, that’s a good question.”

“I’m a lot of things. I am… I could make just one-big word — a multi-talented…” he thinks some more. As he does, he’s smiling and his eyes are going back and forth everywhere except me. “A multi-talented, passionate, entrepreneur!”

So, you say entrepreneur. Your email includes “one stop stylist”. What is that?

“I have a license in cosmetology, and I’ve have that for three years. I’m now working on my Bachelors in fashion marketing. So, I sew as well. I’ll be graduating in June of 20-17. So, it’s kind of pretty much saying it — it’s like a one-stop shop. Pretty much where the email derived from. It’s pretty much someone who can do everything when it comes to the fashion industry — hair and beauty. It’s all in one.”

What do you love about the fashion industry? Why are you pursuing this?

“I love dolling people up!” He laughs. “It’s an art, you know what I mean? It’s not really a career. It’s more so an art. You have to have an eye for it. It excites me to see other people happy.”

“It’s usually what I’m about, so. I like to be happy. I like other people to be happy.”

I’m thinking about these examples where you’ve dolled someone up. Have you ever dolled someone up, and you did it because you wanted to make that person happy?

“Absolutely. I’ve have a couple events of people who just did not feel pretty, you know what I mean? It’s kind of sad to see because everyone should have some kind of confidence level. When I interned at Nordstrom, there was a lot of people who came there who just did not like their figures. Or who didn’t like anything about themselves. I worked in the dress department. It was kind of hard. It was kind of hard to convince someone that they are pretty when they don’t believe you.”

“… And it takes a lot of dedication. You have to actually be dedicated to that person. Like, trust me, and it’ll all be fine. I’ve even invited some of them to my house afterwards for hair and make-up as long as they bought a dress that I knew would fit for them. I had this specific lady who was getting ready for her daughter’s wedding — ‘I was just too big!'” Dmitri tried to portray the woman’s voice as a little frantic and discouraged.

“Umm, it’s crazy because she ended up buying a dress. It’s on my Instagram. So, she ended up buying a dress. Did her hair and makeup. The photographer took photos of the wedding, and she looked PHE-NOMINAL.” He laughed and smiled about this. I could see him reliving the moment and just being proud.

“She cried, and she sent me this long text message. Kind of warmed me, you know? You just don’t find this on an everyday basis.”

How do you also help some of these people (men and women, I’m guessing)… how do you help them find confidence? Is it purely through styling?

“Yeah… I feel like everyone, you can always look at someone and find beauty in something about them. Focus on their eye colors. Whether they have beautiful lashes. Or they have perfect eyebrows, or you know… beautiful skin. It’s just enhancing what’s already there, and not doing too much.”

“We had to study a lot in cosmetology and in dresses. You had to have a dress that fits someone’s figure. You don’t want them to look box-shaped. You don’t want them to look bigger than what they look like, or makeup. I have this book at home called the art of cosmetics through makeup. Tells you how to reconstruct someone’s face. And, you know, it’s just a lot of… it really takes a lot of studying to really learn people. Someone can say I really don’t like this about me. You have to know how to fix it. If I don’t know how to fix it, I just say I don’t know. But I’m still willing to help. I research it, and help you get that confidence level up.”

“I’ve had a lot of people who never wore makeup before. Got them into makeup, and I can’t get them to stop!” He laughs. “So, you know what I mean? So now, they’re like shopaholics when it comes to makeup. But that’s a good thing. Everyone needs a push. Everyone needs that one push that says, ‘okay, maybe I can do this’. Because I don’t believe anyone alive did everything alone.”

So to that, who’s been someone who has been there for you?

“The most, my grandmother and my mom. And my best friends. I have three solid best friends. Known them since I was 15. Without them, I’d probably be like a… shipwreck!” He laughs.

“… probably.”

I imagine being an entrepreneur (I’m one, too), there’s ups and downs, right? So what have some of these support cast members done to continue to help you realize your shine, your confidence?

“I would say whenever they do something as far as… yesterday, I had a tag on Facebook. Someone was getting better at doing their own makeup. I had taught her her skills, and she tagged me, and it’s like, ‘I bet you’re so proud of me’. Things like that that keeps you going. To know that people remember that you helped them. They don’t forget where they came from. Or they don’t forget whoever helped them turn their life around. That kind of thing. That’s very inspiring to me. That’s what keeps me going.”

What’s something that you’re very confident of, that you love, and that you’re proud of about yourself?

“Umm,” he thinks.

“I would say my intelligence. I’m very intelligent. A lot of people don’t see. A lot of people think I’m ditzy!” he laughs. “That’s just a personality thing. It’s just not. But I’m very serious of the things that I do. I play a lot, but it’s just my personality. It’s how I am. But that doesn’t mean I don’t take everything seriously. I don’t think you have to be serious in order to conquer something. You can still play. It’s okay to play around. But instantly serious at the same time. You don’t have to be so dead-serious that nobody wants to work with you, or that kind of deal.”

“I would definitely say my intelligence. My sense of art. Definitely. Where it comes to interior colors, or whatever has to do with art. Period. Think those are my best assets.”

Is there anything else that people can do to be more confident about themselves? To love themselves more?

“Umm, yeah, I think there’s always room for improvement for anybody. My mom used to tell me all the time. I used to say, ‘oh my gosh, I’m so fat. I need to workout!” he laughs and has a big smile.

“She goes, ‘well, you know, if you don’t do anything about it, you really don’t want it’. I go with that all the time. When someone tells me that they feel like they’re too thin, they need to workout. They need to eat healthy. They’re really just whining and complaining. If you really want to change, you will. And, you’re boost of confidence, yeah, someone else can help you become confident in yourself, but it has to start with you first. You have to actually believe that you can do it, you know what I mean? You believe yourself, so you can believe in other people.”

“So, yeah.”

Describe a time when you were truly happy. (Thanks to Zach, Stranger 78)

“Wow… umm…” his eye pace back and forth above me and behind me. He’s thinking.

“… like truly happy. That is hard.”

“That’s a really, really good question.”

“I don’t know. I don’t really know if I actually hit the truly happy stage, yet. If I was truly happy, I would’ve remembered. It’s almost like been in love. If you’re in love with someone, you’d know. So I’ve been very happy. But truly happy? I don’t think I’ve hit that yet.”

“Like, it’s coming, you know what I mean? It’s right around the corner, but you know… But I don’t think… yeah. I don’t think I’ve ever been legit, truly, truly happy. Happy? Yes. Truly happy? No. Not yet.”

So what is it going to take to get to truly happy?

“A sense of self. I feel like I just need to learn more of who I am as a person before I can be truly happy. That’s with anything. That’s with careers, or relationships, or just life itself. I’m a people-pleaser, so… a lot of people that are close to me would come before I did. You know, it’s kind of changing. I’m getting more into myself, and more of what do I like to do, and things I love and all that kind of stuff.”

“So I feel like once I’m happy, I can make everyone else happy.”

Your turn! What would you like to ask, effectively, tomorrow’s Stranger?

“I would like to ask who inspired you to do what you love to do?”

“I feel like everyone’s inspiration comes from different things. It’s interesting to know who that person is, and why.”

“It’s really deep!” he laughs again.

After the handshake.

This was great. I knew Dmitri was a nice, friendly guy. However, I was really captivated with how happy he was throughout this meet. He admitted later that it was a little nerve-racking, so perhaps that smile disguised it. Disguised it well, indeed. He was just constantly smiling, and constantly looking everywhere except for me until he was listening to my question. It was fascinating to watch him piece his story together, just like some other Strangers. Dmitri was just that much more excited. It was great.

When he said he had never experienced true happiness, I admit I was a little sad. Like he feels everyone should have something to be confident in, I feel everyone should have several, let alone one, moment of true happiness. I was hoping Dmitri had that one moment where he basked in the glow of the present… perhaps a proud moment, and he did nothing other than revel in how he made someone smile and confident about him/ herself. I can say, honestly, that even for a few seconds as he gleefully welcome me at Starbucks or someone does something nice for me, I feel a sense of true happiness. I felt connected to another, and I felt that someone was nice just to be nice. Sure, the moment may be “fleeting” or may last just a few seconds. However, they’re the few second that offers and brief respite and offers that ray of sunshine — that little piece of true happiness.

Though, it’s nice to hear Dmitri was confident that his moment was coming. I hope it comes soon and frequently.

Meet Dmitri. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 69, Day 69 - Meet TK

Stranger 69, Day 69 – Meet TK, the “Interactive”

First, Happy Thanksgiving!

Next, I sort of ventured off my beaten path today as I made my way towards my sister’s for Thanksgiving dinner. I stopped into the local Starbucks in this area. That’s different, right? I still have stuff to do, after all. As I walked in, I scouted the scene for a possible Stranger. I asked one gentleman who was sitting in front of me who had code on his screen. (My eyes are drawn towards MacBook screens with black backgrounds and multicolored text (green, white, yellow, red largely). They tend to be programmers on some code editor.) He was packing up to leave, and did not have time to be today’s Stranger.

As I looked around later, there was one gentleman I noticed when I came in. He had an air of confidence about him as he was sitting with someone (later left). He was a big guy. He looked pretty strong, and reminded me of a scene of an adult sitting at his kid’s play table as they played “tea party”. Except he was sitting at a normal-size Starbucks table — he’s big. I walked up to this gentleman as he, too, was packing up to leave.

His eyes met mine as I walked up, and I could see him preparing to say hello in a friendly way. There are times when I walk up to people where people are on the defensive. Some are curious. Some are open. He was one of the “open” types. He happily reached his hand out to meet as I shared with him this journey. He excitedly accepted to be today’s Stranger, and boy was I happy he did…

Meet TK, 35

Who are you?

“Umm, wow, that’s a good question.”

TK tells me how he has Trinidad and New York City origins — “Originally from Trinidad and Tobago. I came here to the States when I was 10. Went to New York City.” TK came to live with his mother after being separated for years.

“My mom was living here in the U.S. My dad was in Trinidad. After that was amazing. My mom was an incredible woman. Great entrepreneur. She raised me really. I just live in her memory everyday.”

“I’m also a business man/ entrepreneur myself. I have a business development company. Actually, I love working and helping other people realize their dreams and their passions and get to where they want to be. Yeah, that’s me.”

Who are you not? Thinking about the stuff you do today, is there something that you’re NOT by what you do today?

“I’m not quiet. I’m not settling. I’m not the fly-on-the-wall, you know? I’m interactive. I love communicating and networking with people. I guess… I’m not an introvert! I’m outgoing. I love talking to people. I just love being in the mix.”

What’s the fascinating part about helping people follow their passions?

“It’s just seeing them develop… knowing that you helped just make that much more happiness in their life. By helping them with knowledge or resources or whatever actual services are. Not everybody I talk to I help directly. Sometimes, it’s indirectly. It still benefits them — benefits their lives. Honestly, that’s the greatest thing.”

Why do you do this?

“It’s a passion. It’s a definite passion. I love people. I love business. And I think once you combine the two with the human factor in the middle, of course. You have to care about the people. It’s not just about the numbers. You’ve gotta care about the actual people. That’s why I do it.”

“It’s about caring about people. Having that passion for seeing people grow, develop, and succeed.”

I’m sure you’ve helped someone who was in a not-so-great-place and you helped him/ her get to a better place. Can you describe that process, and what was that outcome? What was that like to feel it from the outside?

“Oh yeah, absolutely!” He smiles.

“A big part of what I do is actually train and develop people. When you take someone from what they’re doing whether that’s sales, marketing, consulting, construction… whatever they’ve done before, and you can add to that… and you train them and develop them, and watch them literally change and grow — make more money, become more successful, be happier, meet more people — just seeing their whole world expand!” He’s practically glowing as he talks about his passion.

TK continues, “It’s almost like you have a baby, and you nurture that baby until it grows up to be an adult. It’s amazing!”

Think about how your mom was an incredible woman and how you nurture these people. She’s obviously nurtured you to be this person. Today’s Thanksgiving. How do you want to thank her right now?

“Man… if there are words that could… there are no words I could put together to express the thanks that I feel for her, and the love I feel for her. She’s no longer with us. She passed away in ’98 from breast cancer.”

“She was just such a phenomenal woman. She left such a mark on me. I don’t know.”

“Just say, ‘I love you and thank you. I’m always thinking about you every day. Thank you for everything you’ve given me. Thank you for everything you’ve bestowed on me.'”

“The heart she’s given me, you know, and the passion because she’s really a driving force in my life every single day.”

How do you continue to impart her impression on you onto others?

“I talk to everybody about her!” TK laughs.

“It’s really that inspiring! It really does drive me. It really does. It just makes me connect more with people. She did so much. She helped so many people. What she was doing… the person she was. Everybody loved her. Just really inspiring. Very inspiring. I just hope to be a small part of what she was. Just create that kind of legacy for my children and my family in the future.”

Anyone play that role for you today?

“There are. I have mentors in business. I have my sister. She’s absolutely amazing. She’s such a fighter. She was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She’s going through chemo right now. She’s strong. She’s fighting it. She’s also a really great inspiration. She took care of me when my mom passed away. Definitely my sister.”

“And my brother also. They’ve always been really great supporters for me. Kicked me in the butt when I needed to be kicked in the butt. Stepping in and supporting me and helping me when I needed help. They’re absolutely great.”

Any other thanks you’d like to give today?

“There are a TON of people I want to give thanks to. My brother and sister… My brother-in-law, Xavier… his brother, Toya… forgetting a lot of people. My coaches and mentors, Ron and Tammy. Chris K. Man… there’s so many people. Michael and Tammy. My best friend, Shannol. His mom and dad. They’ve been great. Great supports. Just everybody else who comes in my life, and my circle of friends. Definitely want to thank someone really special in my life — her name his Toni F. She’s been a great inspiration for me also.”

“And, you know, just everybody… all my friends… colleagues… mentors… just a great thanks to everyone. Really, it’s the people around you who help build you. Make you who you are. You have to be willing to listen if you want to take it to that next level.”

(I’m probably misspelling a few of these. Sorry!)

This may be a harder one to answer, but what is that one quality you want to be able to exude or impress onto others that encapsulates this gratitude for everyone who has supported you?

“Strength. It’s strength.”

“That sounds like a really broad term.” Nah, I asked a broad question!

“Really, it’s so finite, you know, because strength in a sense is not just physical strength. It’s mental strength. When you have a great support base, and you have good people around you, it’s easy to find that strength to continue to take you through those times when it might not be so easy. You know, when things aren’t always going right. A lot of my coaches and mentors taught me and coached me on mental toughness. Mental toughness is built around support. It’s up to us as the individual, but it’s also the people that support you, around you to help build you up and give you that positive push on a daily basis. That’s why it’s always good to give good energy to people, and also that energy will be reciprocated, too. You know there are a lot of people out there who don’t have it so easy. Just a little bit of strength given to them and energy and encouragement from someone else can make such a difference in their life. Yeah, I’d say definitely strength.”

Are you working, if you’re not 100% happy, to become 100% happy with your life? (Thanks to Aiden, Stranger 69) But first, rewinding it, are you 100% happy with your life?

“Umm…” he thinks and smiles. “No, I’m not. But that’s not a bad thing.”

“Because I think life is a progression. You make the life that you want to live. So I’m not unhappy. I’m just not happy with my life, but it will be better. Absolutely.” He is spending his days working towards that.

What’s a question you’d like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger (or anyone)?

“That is a really, really good question. So tomorrow’s Stranger, I would ask, what would you do? When you were a kid, you would dream about everything you could have, possibly do — big house, cars, families, and all this great stuff. What would you do to attain that? How far will you go? What steps would you take to make that dream to absolutely happen and they didn’t get lost? What would you do to make sure all those dreams you had as a kid happened?”

“That’s my question.”

After the handshake.

TK and I actually sat and talked for another 20 or so minutes. We had so much to talk about as he was so fascinated with the “hidden connections” we all tend to have. He shared with me stories of meeting people in very different circumstances only to realize they were siblings. He shared how he had walked up to Strangers, too, when he would overhear some story that interested him.

Throughout our talk, and surprisingly even more amplified after our talk, he was effervescent. Perhaps because there was more dialogue between us after our talk that he got to hear more and more of my motivations for this journey and what fascinating insights I’ve learned. He was so interested in everything. He even used the words, “my mind’s blown!”, “my head’s just thinking”, and “this just made my day”. He continued to listen and connect so many dots as I relayed the foundations of this journey. It’s early to tell, but I feel that this will be a truly meaningful interaction for his life. I could see it in his eyes as they had that shine to them as his mind turned with how he was going to use this experience in his everyday and professional life.

We talked a lot about how the smallest interactions can sometimes make the biggest interactions. We prepare so much for big events that we forget to honor the little moments and the impacts they make. And to the point about connections that we don’t know exist, we revel together in how sometimes, the most obvious connections are hidden in plain sight. People need only peel back a few layers and ask a few questions and realize how common a thread we have.

(Side note: He thought I looked familiar. When I asked him where he thought he had seen me before, he said I looked like someone from the movies. I just shaved my head, so it’s possible he thought was a villain (I call the bald cut the “villain cut”). Or, maybe I’m getting bigger, and I look like The Rock. Not bad given he was voted Sexiest Man Alive. One can play it up.)

Meet TK. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 65, Day 65 - Meet Victor

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

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

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

Meet Victor, 27

Who are you?

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

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

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

What brought you into the medical field?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you love yourself? Do you love your life? Do you love what you’re doing? And if you’re not loving yourself or what you’re doing, what can you do? (Thanks to Chloe, Stranger 64)

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

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

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

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

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

After the handshake.

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

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

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

Meet Victor. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 62, Day 62 - Meet Kevin

Stranger 62, Day 62 – Meet Kevin, the “Family Man”

Today’s Stranger is actually the husband of a friend who I don’t actually know too well. This friend I’ve met at yoga, but we haven’t talked too much. In fact, we really talk in coincidental run-ins at Starbucks. As it so happens, I ran into her husband this afternoon at Starbucks. We don’t know each other well, and he’s never actually heard a Stranger story or read one. I figured this would be a great way of getting to know him.

Meet Kevin, 31

Who are you?

“In what sense? Professionally? Personally?” I shrug letting him pick the path he wants to put me on.

“I’m a husband. Wannabe father one day. Professional. Think of myself as a family man. An amateur athlete,” he laughs.

“… and a work-in-progress, I guess. That’s what I like to think of myself. I try not to set goals for myself, but try to make those goals ways of being. That’s why I say a husband and a good provider/ father. I don’t set goals for myself like ‘buy a house, have kids’. I think of them as roles that I’m continuously working towards. That’s about it!” Except he continues. “I’m a brother. I’m one of five boys and one girl. And I’m an uncle. Getting trained for those kids, maybe.” Kevin laughs again.

I do remember him having a dog when I’ve seen him before. “I have a dog, yes. Jenn refers to the dog as her fur-child. Had her for about 12 years, so she’s getting up there in age. She’s a good girl. Trying to get her yard, like I said. She’s introduced us to the outdoors if anything. Started us off with hiking and things. It kind of took us out of our element, and introduced us to something new.”

Thinking about you’re a work-in-progress. You don’t really set goals, per se. You do want to have kids, though. You’re an amateur athlete. (He points out, “amateur gym rat!”) Do you have any Dreams?

“Yeah, sure. I guess it just depends on where in my life you ask me that question. My dream when I was 10 is going to be drastically different than 15. I guess when I was a kid, I had an idea — I wanted to make a lot of money and have a good job. I guess I kind of set my goals to my brothers, and what they did. They were successful. I’m a workaholic, obviously, because I refer to that a lot.”

“But my dream’s just to be happy. I’ve kind of hit that point in my life, recently, to where I had to do a mental inventory of myself and my values. What I thought was in important, because for a while in your 20s, you get out of school, and you’re part of the whole rat race. You’re trying to get your first job/ internship. Then, I turned 30, and I got married. Jenn’s never really been like that. She’s always been very in-the-moment. Jenn’s my wife, by the way.”

“…And I just did a reset of my life which is interesting because I stopped making benchmark goals for myself, and started thinking about how I want to live. Once you set goals for yourself, and you achieve those goals, you kind of have a mid-life crisis because you realize those goals maybe define you. Once you’ve achieved them, then now what? But if you keep this ‘this is the way I want to be or the way I want to live’… that’s what I did. I got my values in line, and just work a little bit towards that everyday, you look at what’s in front of you rather than 10 years down the line. Achieving those things… is my dream — to be happy, and make my wife happy. That’s kind of my ecosystem. I’m not a professional baseball player. I’m cool with that. So I guess it’s evolved now as I’m older.”

So what are some of your values you’ve re-prioritized your life around?

“I don’t so much anymore look to the sides to see what Fred or Jane and the Andersons are doing. I’ve learned to keep my eye on my household and Jenn and me, and making sure we’re taken of. I’ve gone away from the whole materialistic way of being. I’ve questioned the American Dream lately. Is that the template? It has to be our lives? When you talk about goals, so I guess, I really don’t know. I’ve been doing a lot of  thinking lately to say what’s my American Dream? Is it the 2.5 kids and the house with the white fence? Or should maybe we have a conversation about what that is? I know a lot of people who aren’t happy. I kind of found myself in that rut four years ago.”

“My goal is to customize what I want my life to be, and not make it that cracker barrel, generic brand lifestyle.”

Four years ago, you were in a rut. What helped you get out of it?

“Turning 30. Approaching 30, and realizing… I don’t know. I was behind where I wanted to be in my life. And I was okay after a little crisis.” He thinks some more.

“Yeah, just I was burnt out. I was working a job I really didn’t like. Since then, I’ve gone on to something I’m actually studying about and passionate about. But yeah, I was just a wreck, you know? I found myself just in a routine. No day was different. I didn’t really take time to stop and look around, or do something interesting like go to meditation. I was burnt out. A lot of people… I can spot it everyday. That’s when I started to change, like I said, getting all of that stuff. Rethinking me.”

So you mentioned your wife, Jenn, a lot. What are a couple ways she’s influenced your life?

“Because she’s the polar opposite of who I was. I had a very hard time accepting that, but that’s what I loved about her. I never could correlate the two. I’m OCD and super neat. Jenn’s a free spirit, go with the flow. Super easy-going. And before I knew it, five years into the relationship, I realize it rubbed off on me a little bit, and I like myself a little bit more. The fact we’ve been through a lot of hard times, she’s probably seen me at my worst — really ugly. She still loves me unconditionally.”

“I’ve never felt that ever. From anyone. I’ve always had superficial relationships prior to that. AND my mom loves her. She brought some qualities in myself that I didn’t know were there, and I really, thoroughly enjoyed them.”

How have you influenced her?

“That’s a question for her.” I tell him it’s actually a question for him, too. How does he think he’s influenced her…

“I feel like she would say… like I said, we’re yin and yang. She’s very free-spirited, and I was very structured. I think, now, because of the influence I’ve had on her, she’s achieving some of her personal and professional goals. Personally, spiritually, I introduced her to the Catholic church. She Baptized and confirmed to get married which meant a lot to me and my mom. Spiritually, she’s become a different person since meeting me, and we’ve introduced her to God because that’s our family’s tradition.”

“I’m just such a neat-freak, organized, probably on her case. That’s one thing she’d say. She’s probably a lot more organized. No more collection notices are coming to the house, which I knew bothered her. And then, I hope I’m her first love because that’s how I feel about her. That’d be the most influence I’ve brought on her.”

What kind of person do you want to be tomorrow? (Thanks to Mark, Stranger 61)

“I’ve strive to be better than, or a little bit different than the person I was today. So, I try to learn something everyday.”

What’d you learn today?

“I learned…” He thinks about this for a while. “Hmm… what did I learn today?”

“I guess today’s not over yet!” He smiles.

“I met a new guy named Daryl. I might’ve made a new friend!” he laughed. “It’s not about myself but the day’s not over yet, I could say. Get out of jail-free card.” 🙂

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What would I like to ask…?” Kevin looks down then around thinking. He realizes I’m recording this and comments, “there’s going to be a bunch of blank space.”

“What are you doing this weekend?”

“…since tomorrow’s Friday. That’s usually the high point of people’s week.”

After the handshake.

I was a little hesitant at first about me asking Kevin to be today’s Stranger. I was wondering if I was bending the rules too much, but as I got to know Kevin more and more, it just highlighted how much I didn’t know him. He really was a Stranger on many, many levels.

I got a good sense of who he was throughout our talk as he always brought the conversation back to his home — his wife, his physical home he wants to have, his mother, his faith, etc.

After our meet, we got to talk even more about… everything. We spent time talking about social media being really a front… almost a mask of what’s really happening in people’s lives. We talked about the importance of being vulnerable, and to showing younger generations what life really is like — not in a bad way, but to ensure our future kids are raised authentically. We talked about our pasts including how many of the other Stranger stories (after he hopped on the site) were so interesting, and how he could relate to several of them.

It was good to get to know Kevin. In fact, I probably know him better than his wife now! Ha!

Meet Kevin. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 50, Day 50 - Meet Danielle

Stranger 50, Day 50 – Meet Danielle, the “Balance Seeker”

I met today’s Stranger a couple days ago briefly. So just as I said in my Rules of Engagement, she’s fair game. 🙂

Today’s Stranger was pretty fascinating to me in many ways in what she shared with me, how she shared with me, and generally how much of our talk resonated highly with me. So much so that I almost gave her homework to check out a few readings because I felt they’d be so great for her. I promise I don’t do this often, but I think she’ll appreciate, too, because of her grander dream.

Before I leak all the details of our meeting, I’ll let you get to know her.

Meet Danielle, 27

Who are you?

“I am a 27-year-old Libra… and a teacher… and a dog mother…” she says this slowly, and laughs.

“I am searching for balance and happiness.”

At first, I thought she said “pants” rather than “happiness”. I had to get clarification, but at the moment, it sounded weird but made sense as it was slightly cooler outside where we were talking, and she was wearing a dress. We laughed about it.

When you say you’re searching for balance, what is that?

“Balance with… like everything. Balance of alone time, with time with friends, with family, to develop new skills to…,” she sighs. “I don’t know.” She thinks some more.

“Balance feeling complete, I guess. The only way I feel complete is when I have my hands in many things, not just all in one. So spiritually, emotionally, physically…”

Why are you searching for it right now?

“I don’t think it’s ever going to stop. I think I’m always going to want to be better at it. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at it so far.”

I propose a philosophical question to this because if she’s reached balance, wouldn’t she not be looking for it anymore? Wouldn’t she be satisfied? To that, she responds, “Yeah, but at the same time, you can actually create more things to like say, ‘I’m really good at balancing my work and home life. Well, what if I want to be good at my work, home life, and fitness life’? Or what if I want to be good at the work, home, fitness, charity… or work, home, business, travel… you can always broaden that scale.” That made sense as she continued to add.

How do you think you’re going to continue to broaden that, but find balance and putting enough effort to each one of those facets? … so that you can actually make a difference?

“I think with this whole trying to find balance, I’m going to figure out what I feel is most important, and so when you say, ‘you’re probably going to reach a point where you are balanced’, that’s probably when I’ll know what I’m truly passionate about. And I’ll explore that more. I’m still figuring out who I am and what I care about, so I think that mirrors this balancing act that I’m creating.”

Thinking about you’re trying to find what you’re passionate about, I’m sure you have passions. So what are they?

“My passions are writing, I think helping others find their inner truths, exploring mine… I’m passionate about, obviously, children, and helping them figure out what their dreams are because I figured out mine a little late.”

How do you measure success for yourself?

“I think I measure success when I no longer feel like I’m working. I think I’ll feel success when I feel… peace. I don’t measure it on money. I don’t measure it on the things I have.”

“I think it’s success when I have things to write about, and I think success for me is having a muse and having… At the end of the day, I want to be a writer. So I think that my success is going to be completely linked to the experiences I have and to write about.”

I was glad she shared her dream to be a writer.

So far of what you’ve written, can you tell me about the most powerful writing that you’ve done?

“So what I’m writing right now, actually.”

“I really like poetry. It’s what comes naturally to me, but I wanted to challenge myself a little bit. My dad passed away 5 years ago, and he left quite… a… mark… on me… in my life.” She says this with the conscious pauses as she thinks. I can see in her eyes and the way she speaks how important this piece is as well as the difficulty and potentially transformative this writing can be, especially for herself.

“And I haven’t been really able to face it until recently, until I took on a project to write a non-fiction novel in his point-of-view. So I’m writing it as my father. It’s hard, and it brings up all sorts of emotions. But it’s therapeutic, and it’s moving, and I hope that it helps others understand addiction and depression. So yeah… it’s probably my toughest work.”

… and most rewarding.

Perhaps because of my talks with other Strangers, her father passing away, and her being a writer, I wanted to know… How would you write your obituary?

“Can I say it in Sonnet form?” she laughs. “No, I don’t know…”

“I would want it to say that my life was based on interactions with others rather than anything else, I hope that I inspired people. I hope that they see how moved I am by them. I get really emotionally invested in people, and I feel like they see that and recognize that. I hope that’s acknowledged. I hope that they see that my heart will always stay young,” Danielle laughs and holds up two crossed fingers.

“…and full of life. I don’t know how I would write it. Rather than how it’s written, I think it’s more important what’s touched on.” That’s what I meant… not as a format or structure. We laugh about this, too.

She admits she doesn’t like talking about herself even pointing out that her hands were little sweaty.

What kind of an impression do you want everyone to have of you after you first meet them?

“Happy.”

Is there a common misperception people have about you when they first meet you?

“Probably. I think I quite a bit of indecisiveness that probably turns into, or can be seen as, flakiness or like two-faced just because I can see each person’s side. I can understand why certain people do things. Flaky and indecisive.” Danielle laughs again at this.

If there’s something you could’ve changed yesterday, what would it be? (Thanks to Sara, Stranger 49)

“I wish I spent more time with my mom when I saw her. I wish I touched her more — gave her a hug. I’m very ‘arms-length’ with her, and she probably needs a hug just as much as anyone else.”

How are you going to make amends on that?

“I’m trying to figure that out everyday!” Danielle laughs again.

“I don’t know. Just… having more empathy for her feelings, and trying to make more time for her.” She thinks for a little while. “I don’t know. Good question!” Again, she laughs.

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

“I always like try to figure out what happened… my questions are… all the questions I ask can’t be answered!” Danielle thinks, but I press her for one of them.

“I would probably say, ‘how do you feel you’re able to fulfill your soul?’ Like, what is your soul aching for?”

After the handshake.

As I described different poses Strangers have taken, I mentioned yesterday’s Stranger, Sara, using a soccer ball. Danielle immediately asked me if it was Sara XX. I was a little shocked that it was. Apparently, the two are best friends. I want to point out that despite meeting Danielle at Starbucks, Sara is not at Starbucks often. So sure, the world isn’t that small within the context of my project, but to have two best friends interviewed back-to-back is a funny coincidence.

I mention how these seemingly “random” events are actually sometimes the most obvious. And it’s true. Once your run into great people in a community, you’re bound to find common ties throughout. That’s the beauty of this project and talking to Strangers. You end up meeting people are aren’t Strangers at all. Perhaps fitting then that I recall a quote from an Irish poet, William Butler Yeates, who said…

“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.”

I enjoyed getting to know Danielle very much. She’s someone looking to continually adapt and expand who she is. She shared so much that resonated with that I had to share with her a few readings (a couple I’ve mentioned to other Strangers) including:

Meet Danielle. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 49, Day 49 - Meet Sara

Stranger 49, Day 49 – Meet Sara, the “Team Player”

I used to visit one of my good friends’ office at Atlanta Tech Village. Getting to his office requiring stepping through an intermediate office of another startup. So I would pass through this startup’s office saying the courteous hello, and just kept walking. Don’t know their names or anything. I must’ve seemed like a jerk.

Today, I got to meet one of the startup’s employees. Though funnily, I met her at my usual Starbucks as she was getting her car services nearby. And also coincidentally, my buddy was at the Starbucks, so he helped fashion the intro.

Meet Sara, 27

Who are you?

Her head cocks back as she gasps like she just saw a ghost.

“Who am I? Gosh… okay… I… $h!t! I don’t even know how to answer that.”

“Alright, well, Sara without an ‘h’. I’m 27. Atlanta-native. I joined the startup community in February of this year, and basically, took the biggest risk of my life. Left corporate America where everything was solid, and a good salary and benefits, and I said, ‘screw it! I’m not into it at all’, and join this startup company that had no money to its name, and said, ‘let’s do it!'”

“… and now, eight months later, I have a whole new network of friends, and on my way to Denver in two months to launch the business out there.”

“I have kind of just found myself in the past eight months, honestly. Just went into the startup community working at Tech Village meeting people that inspire me everyday.” She mentions how it’s “normal” to not say hey, and just “observe from afar”.

“I’ve adjusted to the lifestyle to saying hey to everybody. Talking to people. Getting to know people. There’s no reason not to be nice to people. No reason not to say hey to people. I learned that from learning with startups and working at Tech Village, and being involved with what’s a whole new community in a city I’ve lived in all my life. So yeah. That’s kind of me in a nutshell.”

Except, she continues. 🙂

“I’m also a massive advocate of team sports,” she laughs. “Kind of transitions into my lifestyle of working and building teams for our startup. Live, eat, and breathe sports in general. I grew up playing soccer. Massive football fan — RISE UP!… the Falcons. I do all of these soccer leagues on the side because I still love the game. Walk around swollen ankles left and right. So yeah. I take everything I’ve learned from sports. It’s one of those things I grew up knowing I can’t do anything without my teammates. Can’t accomplish anything that I want to do without them, without the help of someone else. That’s kind of how I put in all of the work into my team that I build out for work now. It’s what I live by. That’s kind of me in a nutshell.”

Sara laughs again. “Silly!”

You mentioned you weren’t really inspired from corporate America. What was the uninspiring thing that really… ‘I gotta go!’?

“Things that I wanted to create, things that I thought I could be good at, and things that I wanted to try and potentially fail at, and be better at it again, that opportunity wasn’t really praised a lot. It wasn’t something where the idea of failure being an option. In corporate America, something that’s so developed already. Processes already developed. It wasn’t something that you didn’t feel all of the support behind it. So it made me timid to try things new.”

What made you jump onboard with Sifted?

“Jess and Kimberly — our cofounders. The product… our product — chef-made lunches. It’s a cool concept. We always joke that it’s some ridiculous concept to bring lunches into corporate offices. We didn’t know what we were doing going into Atlanta, to be honest in the beginning. We just thought this was something cool. These are our people. This is what we want to do. But those two women changed the game for me. I can see it when they talked about it. Can see it in their eyes. Hear it in their voice. The way we connected as three people sitting in a coffee shop together. I was like, ‘these are my people. They’re going to let me make mistakes. They’re going to let me fail. And they’re going to teach me how to be great.’ So those two women are what brought me onto the team.”

So what’s something that you have failed at that you’re like, ‘at least I tried,’ and what was the learning from that?

“I’ve been tasked with hiring out one of the hardest positions of our company, and maintaining that position which is our host team.”

“So basically, when we go into an office space, and we sign a client. We have something like a perk that we offer. It’s professional, creative, on-site host to foster the client relationship and give a true experience behind lunch. Not just, ‘here’s lunch. Eat. Go on with your day.’ There’s an experience behind it. That’s what our host provide — the culture of Sifted. We kind of bring that into the office space.”

“We have to hire out part-time hosts. I can only really offer them up to 15 hours a week, and it’s in the dead-center of the day for lunch which is the most difficult time to give up just two hours in your day. And to transport food in your car, and to do heavy-lifting… it’s a very difficult job to hire for, and only minimal hours I can offer them. And so at the rate Atlanta’s growing, at the rate I believe Austin’s going to grow, Denver’s going to grow… in any city we tackle in 2017, I’ve gotta find a way to foster these employees. And you know, I had to hire one, and now we have 12, and I’m looking to get to 25. It’s all about finding the right candidate — quality over quantity. Hands down. It’s all about getting them invested in the culture of the company, and getting them invested in that they’re going to make a difference regardless of how small they may imagine the host part-time role of this fast-growing startup is.”

“Every single thing they do everyday is making a difference. They have a huge role in the development of the company. And so, it’s a lot of knowing that they have to understand… they have to know and have confidence in me that I’ve got their back every single time, and I’m going to help them grow in whatever they want to grow in. And that they fit the mold, and they feel they can find themselves in this team.”

“It’s much more than just being able to give them a high monetary value on the team. It’s much more than giving them as many hours as possible. It’s more like how they can personally relate to the company. I’ve hired some not-good fits for the team. I have lost people on the team. I’ve failed at that plenty of times trying to figure it out. Over time, I finally think I’ve got a grip on it. Now, we’re just hiring out really bad ass hosts. They’re really cool.”

What’s one of those characteristics that you have to have?

“So when I’m interviewing someone for the host position, I’m always, forever going to ask what’s their dream job. A lot of these hosts that we’re hiring are either straight out of college, or they’re young professionals willing to make a change, a career change. And they’re willing to give up everything they have, and just start somewhere. These people have huge dreams. College students come to us with the world at their fingertips. Young professionals who are looking for a full-blown career shift, and willing to go from salary to part-time… feels like they have the world at their fingertips. So there’s something driving them behind the scenes.”

“I always ask them what’s their biggest passion? What do they want to do most? How do they think that they can get something out of it through us. At that point, they tell me their full-blown life stories. You can hear it in their voice, even on a phone interview, and than saying, ‘this is everything that I absolutely love in life.’ If you can hear that passion in their voice just talking about whatever they want to do whether it’s food-related, startup-related, whatever-related, that’s the one key right there. If I can hear it in their voice on a call, I’ll bring them in to shadow, and see if they fit the team.”

We talk a little about a few books I read that would be great for her including: Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, Clayton M. Christensen’s How Will You Measure Your Success, and Michael Useem’s The Leadership Moment.

What is your Dream? And what’s the biggest obstacle in that way?

“So my biggest Dream… something that’s been piling in my head. I don’t talk about it too much. I want to find a way to start a philanthropy aspect within Sifted. Long term, I’ve always wanted to do something campaign fundraising-wise. I never knew what it was. It was a very broad concept in my head. I remember when I was 18 freshman year, my teacher asked me what do I want to do in life.”

“”The only thing that I could ever come up with was to help people. They’re like, ‘oh, you want to be a doctor.’ I was not really digging the medical, you know? That’s always been the concept. So when I came on at Sifted, we were asking clients, we’re asking businesses to take back lunch, essentially. We’re asking them pause during the day, and enjoy time with coworkers and eat lunch with coworkers.”

“So I have this big, huge, long-term dream of being able to give back lunch. To children, to kids… where some way, shape, or fashion that every client we serve in the day — we’re on big-scale mode — we can account for how many meals we’re serving someone else who can’t afford to have a meal at home. Or a meal at school at lunch. At Sifted, a portion of our profits are going to based on how many clients we’re serving, how many lunches we’re feeding in a day… account for some meal that a kid eating in a third-world country, or just somewhere else in general.”

“That’s my biggest one. My biggest obstacle, about that, is honing that in and figuring it out. That’s super long-term. I have a lot more learning to do. I have a lot more development professionally to do that. But that’s kind of this big, huge dream, so now I just need to find the pathway to get up there.”

“Short-term, launching Denver!” she laughs. “Getting out to Denver!”

“That’s a big one for me. I’m an Atlanta-native. I’m leaving. The idea of leaving family. My brother’s out there so I’ll have some family network, but leaving the city limits that I grew up in — what I know very well like the back of my hand — tackling something new with a company that’s a startup, and new to that network, that’s, right now, the biggest challenge I have.

If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would you go? What’s the first thing you would do? (Thanks to Meg, Stranger 48)

“Oh… that’s a great question.” She thinks. “If I think anywhere in the world right now…”

“… I would probably… I’d head out… my sister and I — I’m on vacation mode right now, thinking of vacation here — I want to go out to Thailand, to be honest. Be on the beach, and I really want to do an elephant conservation. Learn all about that. My sister’s really into that. She follows them, donates to them. So she’s always wanted to go. I want to travel with her, and support her with it. We’ve always talked about that being the big dream is to go out there and explore the wildlife conservations and stuff. Yeah, that’s kind of, sort of in my head always. Sounds silly, but yeah, definitely!”

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

“There was something you could’ve changed yesterday, what would it have been?”

After the handshake.

Sara brought the energy today! She was super friendly, and laughed quite a bit. While she was sharing the story behind her joining the startup, I could feel how much she enjoyed working there.  I sense that her enthusiasm and general passion for the business (and indeed having a hand in its growth) was very similar to how she felt meeting the cofounders that convinced her to join.

Now, I’m eager to meet the cofounders so I can get a direct sense of their passion. Though my friend no longer has an office at the Village, I’ll make the trip to meet more from Sara’s team just because.

Great to finally meet Sara, and I’m excited for her very-near future. Plus, she’s kinda impressive (and/ or crazy) to be playing on an ankle that is the size of a softball.

Meet Sara. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 43, Day 43 - Meet Terry

Stranger 43, Day 43 – Meet Terry, the “Entrepreneurial Teacher of Teachers”

Ah, yes, today’s Stranger is yet another oh-so familiar face I see all the time, but know nothing about her. In fact, we courteously smile at one another and wave, but that’s it. It really is a strange thing that we should see someone so often, and yet, say… nothing for so long. How great it was, then, to finally meet today’s Stranger as she waited in line at Starbucks. As they say, “better late than never”.

Meet Terry, 32

Who are you?

“I’m originally from New Jersey. I moved here 10 years ago, and I teach 5th grade.”

Terry tells me how she works best with “direct, exact questions”.

“I’m just a teacher trying to find my way.”

What are your passions?

“I make teaching resources for other teachers, and I sell those online outside of school. That’s something I’m more passionate about right now.” She talks to me about how she’s “teaching the teachers”.

“… more than just education. It’s marketing. It’s advertising. It’s creation. I have fun with that. As hard as a teacher, the more you do, you don’t get any more for it, so it’s nice to have something else – the harder you work… You see results as a teacher, but you see it from students, but not from administration or the district. So this is something more like the harder you work, the more you get. It’s incentive-based.”

Why did you start this?

“It started because I need resources myself. There’s a site where teachers can sell their materials to other teachers. I started buying on it, and I was, ‘they’re just like me’, so I could do this, too. So I started selling.”

She tells me it’s going well. She also shares how she’s hoping to work on resource creation full-time at some point in the future.

She shares how she has a blog, too, but it’s “so hard to keep up with. It’s a lot. As much as I like writing, I’d rather speak in front of a camera than write.” She does do Facebook Live and the like and post on her blog.

Where do you want to take this?

“I would really love to do this full-time, and maybe volunteer in schools, or something like that. The bureaucracy of education brings me down. It just drains you, and you feel like you’re running in a hamster wheel everyday. You can never get ahead. You can never get caught up. So it’s just mentally draining and exhausting. I would love to do that… this full-time. Creating.”

What are a couple challenges you’re facing right now that’s keeping you up at night?

“Financial. Just trying to get to where that’s enough for me to live off of. Right now, it’s not. That’s the tough part. There’s realities of you have to have health insurance. So I’d have to have private insurance… just stability. So I need to keep my day job.”

When you think about going full-time…

“It’s terrifying.” She talks about all the bills of home ownership, bills, etc.

“I think I can do it, but I completely sacrifice my social life which is tough.”

She explains, “I’m the type that when I’m in a creative mode, I’m in it for a week, so I can’t do anything else. I have to work the second I wake up till I go to bed.”

As you’re doing this, who’s been your biggest supporter(s)?

“My mom. She’s definitely THE most supportive. Then, I’ve got some other people that sell on the website that are very collaborative people to work with and get ideas from and marketing tips… business ideas. Most of my family are really awesome about it.”

“Then, I have a coworker that I got to start selling on this, too. So, he and I are always going back and forth talking about business, which is awesome.”

Would you say that’s what gets you out of bed?

“Oh yeah. I love experimenting with Facebook ads. Instagram… social media advertising. Just seeing if it’s growing.

Was there anything part of this journey that you’ve been surprised about that you didn’t think about before?

“I didn’t think about the fact that… when I see people actually using the stuff I make in their classrooms. Like I had a kid who moved to my school from another school in the district. My coworker gave her this pre-assessment for math, and she was like, ‘I’ve already taken this,’ at her other school. That’s pretty cool that there are people around the country doing my stuff… which is fun.”

“You don’t really think about the fact that it’s actually happening somewhere else, you know? You sell stuff, and it’s fun and everything. But when you see a picture someone took and they post it on social media… my creation… that’s fun.”

Anything else you think is going to help you be successful?

“I think just taking a leap of faith, and possibly risking stability and security for the unknown.”

Why do you want to take that leap?

“Just to see if I can do it.”

“I also think being comfortable makes me… I don’t want to say lazy, but just not as hungry. Although, right now, I’m hungry to do all of it so I can try to take the risk.” She admits that she’s not sure it’ll happen, but I hope she does.

“I’ve been at my school for so long, so I’ve established my reputation, my routines, and just my location. So if I get rid of that, the chance that maybe I can go back is scary. Or I have to go back somewhere else, and maybe I won’t like it as much as where I am. It’s a little scary… frightening.”

Why are you where you are today? (Thanks to Mallory, Stranger 42)

“Well… I made a bunch of very rash decisions in my 20s that kind of change the course of my life,” she laughs.

“First, it was changing from advertising to education, and then it was randomly leaving to Atlanta.” She shared with me how she actually wanted to be in musical theatre, but at the suggestion of her father, she should take business (“normal degree”) – why she started in film and then into advertising. But when she moved into education and started teaching, she taught drama before now moving into 5th grade teaching.

It was some family who convinced her to move to Atlanta as a town to get away from New Jersey.

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“I want to know what someone’s biggest obstacle that has kept them from reaching their goals.”

After the handshake.

Like I said to start, I had seen Terry a lot. She goes to Starbucks often as she continues to focus on her business beyond her “regular job”. So it was that much greater for me to meet her because I got to learn that she was an entrepreneur. After the handshake, we talked a little about what I’ve done in my startups and with my current role at the startup I work at. I would have never known if I continued to just smile and wave at her. It’s really been fascinating how I can connect with so many people for things like entrepreneurship, but indeed, so many other areas.

I hope Terry does take that leap to pursue her business full-time. It’s scary, for sure, but I also hope she finds the plunge invigorating like me. I don’t believe she’ll have to sacrifice her social life in the long-term. Instead, I hope she maintains stability in a couple areas as I wrote in a separate blog piece with Randy Zuckerberg and one with University of California Riverside’s 7 Dimensions of Wellness.

Meet Terry. No longer a Stranger.

 

 

Stranger 27, Day 27 - Meet Brooke

Stranger 27, Day 27 – Meet Brooke, the “Friendliest Singer”

So one of the very faces I thought of when I set off on this project was this incredibly friendly barista at Starbucks. Instead of my name when ordering my drink, I once gave a superhero’s name — “Ironman”. Okay, okay, I still do it, and I cycle through superheros because it’s fun. So anyways, this particular barista has since called me Ironman with a smile on her face always greeting me and the other guests. She’s super friendly, and I barely knew her name.

Today, I got a chance to finally meet her, and I am glad I did.

Meet Brooke, 33

Who are you?

To start, I asked her if her name was “Brooke” with an “e”. Her response, “yes, separates me from a stream of water.” Haha. Nice.

“I’m a silly girl. I’m stuck in my 20’s still — my mentality. I work at Starbucks. I’m a barista. I’m a singer, songwriter, and producer. I am a daughter and a sister and a loving person. That’s pretty much it!” She smiles almost timidly.

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

“I’ve had a passion since I was 3-years-old to become a singer, and sing to everyone across the world. I’m passionate about singing anything. I’ve been singing my whole life.”

I asked her if this was her dream, too, to which she responded, “… it’s all wrapped into one — yeah! Entertain people with singing. I’m passionate about learning how to be as good as I can be as a singer.”

How did you find your voice?

“I’ve been in this music world since I was really young — a lot of soul and R&B music were my main influence from the 70s all the way till now. Pretty much every artist that I can consume has been my helper — I haven’t really said, ‘I need to be this way.’ I’m just growing and learning and accepting everything with music.”

You mentioned accepting situations… was there a really tough situation you had to accept?

“I’ve had so many tough situations. Mainly as a young person, it was mainly not having that set family — a broken family. Brothers living in different places. Sisters living in separate places. Parents never together. That was a challenge for me because I haven’t had a stable lifestyle at all. It’s been a lot of moving — every year, every year, something new. Kind of got used to it because you’re expecting change when you go through so many changes. But then again, I kind of want the stable lifestyle with just immediate family. So those were some of the challenging things as a child.”

“As an adult, it’s kind of similar because when you start out with instability, you try to get that as an adult and try to maintain what stable lifestyle as an adult I can do. My parents were dealing with having children too young… they weren’t ready to be parents.”

What’s a lesson you’ve learned from all that?

“To always reference back to love. In my teachings… I’ve pretty much accepted lots of spiritual teachings from many different ways. I grew up in a church lifestyle, but converted to learning meta-physical teaching. To me, the creator of all things is love. So I just take my mind back to meditating on love, and I feel like that helps me stay balanced and at peace and help everybody else.”

Brooke opens up to me and is a little taken aback realizing that I truly am learning about her. Then she says that she really doesn’t open up too much to the people around her. She admits that she’s always wanted to get to know me.

So how does someone get to know you (given you don’t share much in the first place)?

“So first of all, I’m not too much hidden because I wear my emotions on my sleeve. So most of the time when someone asks me how I’m doing, I’m going to automatically share. I’m not automatically closed up.”

She then smiles… “I’m a motor mouth! I could talk people’s ears off!” I laugh.

She continues, “I try not to push myself on people because I know I can do that. But it’s more or less if we can relate on something that I’ll share with you more about me”

Is there a common perception about you that people have that you’d like to dispel? If so, what is that?

“I think that because I’m sensitive and because I can be emotional about things easily, a lot of times, it can be considered weak. But I have learned that it’s actually a strength, and that’s because I’m not afraid to share how I feel. People who don’t share how they really feel are a little more weak — not willing to share their emotions. It’s something I learned. I thought like everyone else, ‘that made me weak’, but now, I’m learning that’s my strength!”

I promised to share with her Brene Brown’s TED talk and her book Daring Greatly that I read earlier this year. Bottom line: Vulnerability is not a weakness. It’s a strength. Great leaders are able to be confident and inspire others by being vulnerable.

If you could run into any Stranger with the intention of creating a conversation with them, who would you like that to be… of people you know of? (Thanks to Ed, Stranger 26)

This came to Brooke relatively quickly — “First person… the rapper T.I.”

“It’s because he’s had such a successful career with all the drama and issues with his personal life. I just wanted to more, or less, learn whatever it is you give to someone who’s a new artist — some advice and guidance. Anything! It seems like a challenging lifestyle to deal with regular stuff in, and promote yourself as a musical artist. Crazy!”

“That’s someone I’d love to meet.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“How do you feel about all their life choices… if you could have the life you want, what would that be?”

After the handshake.

To Brooke: So Brooke, I’m so glad we finally sat down and met. Even though I didn’t share much about me, let’s face it — you’re more interesting. 🙂

Brooke is one of the many smiling faces we run into at coffee shops, restaurants, in the office, etc. She’s another example of someone who is incredibly friendly, and due to our “busyness” we don’t get beyond the typical “hello”. But just with a few questions and a couple minutes, I got to appreciate how Brooke works real hard on her passion of singing. It’s a life-long passion for her, and it sounds like the very passion that helps her through the challenges of life. She knows her WHY and her PURPOSE, as Simon Sinek would say, and I’m rooting for her.

Meet Brooke. No longer a Stranger.

 

Stranger 25, Day 25 - Meet Renice

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

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

So let me let you…

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

Who are you?

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

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

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

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

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

I ask her what her passions are.

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

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

How do you do that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Renice thinks about this one for a while.

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

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

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

What do you love and admire most about yourself?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Being alone.”

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

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

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

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

After the handshake.

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

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

Meet Renice. No longer a Stranger.