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Stranger 87, Day 87 - Meet Emily

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

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

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

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

Meet Emily, 23

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

Who are you?

“Trying to figure that out still.”

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

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

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

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

Where were you born and raised?

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

How’d you meet your girlfriend?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“… yeah,” she laughs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are some of your other passions?

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

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

So balance is a critical thing, right?

“Trying to find balance, yeah.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After the handshake.

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

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

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

So meet Emily. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 86, Day 86 - Meet Jumin

Stranger 86, Day 86 – Meet Jumin, the “One Who Feels”

Today’s Stranger is another familiar face at my yoga studio. She’s a teacher who I just about always catch in passing, and know very little about. We have spoken, but really not much. And according to my Rules of Engagement, she’s indeed a Stranger. Well, no time like the present to get to know her. In fact, she had very little time to talk as she was actually heading in to teach the e class after mine. So, I was very focused on our questions, but I hope this lays a good foundation for us to get to know one another much better in the future.

So without further ado, let me introduce you.

Meet Jumin, 39

Who are you?

“I am Jumin!” she exclaims! “I am who I am!”

“I am a yoga instructor. I am my dog and my cat’s mom. I am a new Atlantan. I am Taiwanese. I am a Hakkanese.”

What is Hakkanese?

“It is part of the old… ” Jumin takes a moment to think about how to describe this. “My grandparents, they all came from Hakka. Old, old Cantonese.”

“Anyway, so, I am who I am.”

I like to ask the Stranger of the Day (that’s you today), what would you like to ask anyone? Or effectively, tomorrow’s Stranger. I’ll let you think about that, but first, I’ll ask you what yesterday’s Stranger wanted to ask you: what small step can you do today to solve a problem you have? (Thanks to Briana, Stranger 85) Like, what could you do?

“I came from a tropical island, which I just moved from — tropical city. Miami as well. So I am working with the coldness in the city. So normally, I would just freeze myself and isolate my energy with others. The coldness really quite bothers me. I cannot function my brain very well. I get physically hurt quickly. And I realized, why not just accept the coldness? Just enjoy the cold, instead. Like, I try to isolate the cold. So when I walk my dog these days, I just enjoy the coldness, and feel the crisp air on my face. I touch the cold air, and feel it. So yeah, I think that’s today — the thing to enjoy the coldness. The smart step is that I taught myself that it’s not that cold. And then I feel not that cold! I enjoy the coldness!”

So the second Stranger yesterday, Travis, wants to ask you: what gets you out of bed everyday? Like, what motivates you? (Thanks to Travis, Stranger 85)

“Motivates me today? Or everyday?” Everyday. Any day.

“Any day? What motivates me?” She thinks about this. “What motivates me to be what? To be happy?” Just anything… What motivates you. What gets you up?

“I think yoga! Because yoga starts my morning routine. Starts my day. So I can now get out of bed even though of the coldness.” She laughs at this having just shared her feelings on the cold. “So I can’t wait to to do the headstand with meditation. Headstand for 10 minutes. Or have my own yoga workout for the first hour of the day. That’s my big motivation everyday.”

Headstand for 10 minutes?!

“Headstand for 10 minutes.” Wow. “Then, practice some yoga asanas and pranayama for each 10 minutes. So 60-90 minutes per day. So I wake up around 4:30 everyday. Today, 5:30 because it’s the weekend.” She smiles.

What would you like to ask…?

She chimed in before I could finish. “The next person?!” Yup!

“I think the second question is really good, so I would love to continue to ask the next person. Like, what motivates you?”

“That’s it!”

After the handshake.

Well, actually, we didn’t really do a handshake. She actually had to rush to do teach the next yoga class. I’m so glad that she agreed to talk, if only for a few minutes. What’s great about this is that it also illustrates how even though we all have places to go, things to do, we can spare a few minutes just to connect. Do we really need to send that text RIGHT NOW? Do we need to rush off to go to the store RIGHT NOW? Well, Jumin had a class to teach, so she did have to rush off. However, she was happily and very nicely shared a glimpse into her story in a few minutes.

As I spoke to her, her smile was big. She was looked around as she thought before she focused on me as she had the right words. But as she looked up as she thought, she had this look of “happy thinking”. Every time our paths have crossed, she’s always been so cheerful, and that was carried on throughout our meet today. I got the sense that nothing could bring her down… no, not even the cold (which apparently doesn’t anymore).

Meet Jumin. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 84, Day 84 - Meet Chawanis

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

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

Meet Chawanis, 37

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

Who are you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s awesome. Is he structured as well?

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

So how do you guys complement each other?

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

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

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

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

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

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

… and if so, what was it?

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

After the handshake.

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

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

Meet Chawanis. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 78, Day 78 - Meet Zach

Stranger 78, Day 78 – Meet Zach, the “New Man”

As the counter reaches 100, I’m leveraging this journey to connect with the people I see often but haven’t talked to. These are more “warm” Strangers, as no doubt they’ve seen me before many times.

Today is onesuch Stranger to whom I’ve wanted to get to know for a while now. He came to a meditation class weeks ago, and has been a staple to that class and several other yoga classes I take. In between meditations in class, we have discussions, and he’s always participating either asking a question or sharing how the meditation affected him. He always had a confidence about him, so I was interested to learn who he was. Happily, he agreed to be today’s Stranger.

Meet Zach, 28

Who are you?

He smiles and laughs for a moment. “Man! I’m not 100% sure how to answer that question.”

“I’m kind of looking for who I really am, if that make sense at this point of my life. I’ll kind of give you a sense of who I am, what got me here, you know?”

“I had a really big substance abuse problem for a big part of my life. I couldn’t get off drugs. I probably started trying to quit using drugs probably about five years ago. My life was just real horrible, as you can imagine. They kept sending me to, I guess, 12-step like-AA-based recovery. That wasn’t very effective for me. I was introduced to the idea that — well, I guess, addiction is a mental disease, right? It’s all in your mind — your cravings and all that stuff that goes on. Well, if you could change your thoughts, if I could control my thinking, then maybe I could train myself to quit using.”

“So, that seemed to be really effective when I started trying to do it. Just trying to catch negative thoughts, bad thoughts. I learned to be able to change them… thinking of the world in a positive way. I’be been clean maybe 10 months now. I’ve never been clean this long, but when I’m 27 years old, and I look in the mirror ‘I’m a junkie, I haven’t accomplished anything in my life’ that just makes you want to use more. When you learn to look at yourself in a positive light and thinking of yourself in a positive way, then you feel better about yourself. You don’t have the urge to maybe stick needles in your arm and do all that shit I was doing for so long.”

“So, I started coming into this belief that our thoughts are so important… changing my thoughts has had such an impact on my life. Somebody actually told me –you know, I was looking into the internet and stuff like that — meditations is really like training your brain. I’ve gotten to where I really enjoy it, so here I am in meditation class. And yoga! I’ve always liked working out, you know? Physical activity… that’s like meditation and working out. This has all been really helpful to me.”

“I didn’t even know, man. Even something new that’s hitting me is I started going to meditations at the Buddhist Monastery down the street right down Dresden.” He was telling me about how much it all surprised him. “There’s a whole religion that’s based on this. Based on suffering is nothing more than thoughts in your own mind. Your state is ‘perception is reality’. That’s really cool to me. So, I’m thinking. I’m really intrigued into learning more about Buddhism, and take that interest to a deeper level.”

“Yeah, man…” he laughs.

“So right now, I’m not a drug addict anymore! But I spent my whole life as a drug addict. I started using when I was… smoking weed, eating pills and stuff when I was 13/ 14/ 15 years old. So, it’s like I’m learning who I am now because I’m not that anymore. But I’m not 100% sure who I am or what I’m going to do or whatever. It’s been a beautiful experience.”

“I hope that wasn’t too much.” No way, Zach! This was great, and I appreciated you sharing with me and others. Know that there are lots of people who will appreciate who you are NOW, and lots of people who will look to you as their inspiration.

Thinking about how you started thinking more positive, what were some of the keys to thinking more positive when most everything seemed negative at the time?

“Therapy helped a lot. I actually got introduced to therapy and seeing a therapist. He was the one who told me to look up various people on YouTube. There’s a guy named Wayne Dyer.” Zach tells me a little bit about what Wayne is about before chiming in, “As goofy as it may sound, I don’t sit there. I can’t ever bring myself to do it like some people say affirmations to themselves in the mirror. It probably works!” He laughs. “But I just can’t foresee myself doing it. Maybe one day. But it’s not my jam. But I don’t know…”

He pauses for a moment and asks me to repeat the question.

“Okay, for myself, just realizing the negative thoughts when you have them. So, I use examples to show people and share my experiences.” He thinks of an example.

“Okay. If I think to myself, ‘man, I’m 28 years old, and all I’ve got is like a beat-up car or a room in a house that I rent and a job that doesn’t pay that great, you know, I can think about that as negative. Or, I can come back, and I realize I don’t like to think that way because it’s not comfortable. It’s not a happy way of thought. I think to myself, ‘man, I was homeless a year and a half ago. And now, I’ve kept the same job I’ve spent X amount of time in. I’ve been getting paid a lot more when I started the job. Look at the progress I’ve made!’ And think, ‘man, if I continue making progress, and like, I’m going places’, you know? You can look at the same situation in two different lights. The more you realize… you kind of train yourself to, over time, be able to look at it in a positive way.”

“Your thoughts create your future, you know? If you’re thinking in a positive manner, you’re going to have a more and more optimistic future.”

If there’s something that you want in your life that you don’t have, what are you going to do starting today to get that? (Thanks to John, Stranger 77)

He takes a deep breath and looks up thinking. “Whoa, this is hard.” He repeats the question slowly, “If there’s something I want in my life… that I don’t have…”

He thinks for a little longer leaning against the wall.

“Just listening to my gut, and know I’ll end up getting it if I need it. Do the nice, right thing, man. Does this make sense? They call it path of least resistance. I believe that if I’m doing what I’m supposed to do and thinking how I need to think, the universe is going to put in place everything that I need to be whole.”

He admits, “I’m not 100% sure what it is that I do want. But I know it’s coming to me, if that makes sense.”

“And, once it’s apparent to me what I do want, action. Put action behind it. You know what I’m saying? Wake up and act the role in which that’ll take me to get what it is that I do want. Like, if I want peace, come to this class or the monastery. Now, I put action behind like everyday. I meditate everyday because it helps. I go to the yoga class or go to the gym. Do the shit that helps you. If I want to do something with my life or go to school, college, but I don’t know.” To Zach he’s deliberate and puts action into what he wants to do/ achieve especially things like meditation and yoga which have helped him a great deal.

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“Ask them to describe a time they were truly happy.”

He explain why he wanted to ask that question, “by doing that hopefully it makes them happy.” That is, Zach believed that recalling a truly happy memory would trigger a recall, and thus, feel that same happiness in that moment. Wow.

After the handshake.

This was perhaps a shorter meet as we had limited time at the yoga studio before the studio needed to close. (I asked to extend the time so I could meet Zach.) However, we were able to stand around a little bit longer afterwards to just chat. He was very interested in what I was going to do with our conversation, and what this journey was about. As I explained to him more about how I wanted to inspire connections, he understood more and more of my inspiration. He also started to appreciate and want to read the stories of the other Strangers. I shared with him that no doubt others will read his story, and people will be inspired by his story. People will connect to his story in ways he and I didn’t even know, and may never know. That’s how many Stranger stories have meant to others.

I want to point out how great it was to spend a few minutes to listen to Zach. He left the building before coming back to share with me how spending just a little bit of time with each other could mean a lot. I’m paraphrasing a little (a lot) here. However, I think he genuinely recognized the opportunity to be had if people were to just take a few minutes to recognize people around them. I shared wth him that that is exactly the point of all this. It’s about inspiring connections and cultivating a stronger community.

Also, Zach’s question was good, but I didn’t really think too much of it having heard it in a similar form before. However, I was taken aback when he added why he wanted to ask the question. He wants tomorrow’s Stranger to not just share a happy moment, but he wants the Stranger to feel that happy moment again — to relive it. I thought that was powerful because, sometimes, we ask to know. Heck, sometimes I ask Strangers questions to know and to continue this 100 days journey. Yes, I want to inspire connections, and I want people to feel connected. However, Zach wanted to ask to inspire a feeling. Let that sink in for a moment. When you ask someone a question tomorrow, or when you say something (maybe even just a hello), how do you ask it? Do you ask just to greet someone because that’s “courteous”? Or do you ask a question so that the other person feels something — feels happy. Feels sad.

Perhaps I’m excited about Zach’s share because he explicitly said it, and it’s resonating in my head like a gong being struck. It’s calling to attention how I’m interacting with others. Like Kathleen, the Women’s Mentor (Stranger 60) who shared how men tend to interrupt women. I want to say I don’t, but her explicitly sharing makes me that much more conscious of my conversations with women (and men). It’s one of those shares that keeps me honest.

So meet Zach. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 64, Day 64 - Meet Chloe

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

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

Meet Chloe, 24

Who are you?

“I can answer that in anyway?” Yup!

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

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

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

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

How did you find your happiness?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She pauses to think.

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

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

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

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

After the handshake.

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

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

Meet Chloe. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 58, Day 58 - Meet Christina

Stranger 58, Day 58 – Meet Christina, the “Impact-Making Scientist”

I met today’s Stranger just before yoga class. In fact, I’ve seen her a bunch of times before, but we’ve never spoken to each other. Today might’ve been the same except I was holding a book that I was reading called Primed to Perform. I was fortunate enough to meet one of the co-authors Lindsay McGregor at a conference recently, and she kindly sent me a signed copy of her book. The book is about company culture, and aligning it to what drives people — largely, maximizing Total Motivation through maximizing Play, Purpose, and Potential and minimizing Emotional pressure, Economic pressure, and Inertia.

To book caught the eye of today’s Stranger as we briefly talked about her fascination around WHY and PURPOSE before I shared with her this journey, and asked her if she would like to be today’s Stranger. She happily accepted.

Meet Christina, 36

Who are you?

“Who am I… I am a scientist. I am a woman. I am an athlete. And I am a ballerina.” Ooh, I haven’t met a scientist or a ballerina, yet.

What do you love about being a ballerina?

“I love the balance of it. I like balance. I like being able to balance on my toes. I like how graceful it is, and it takes my athletic background which was swimming, and from that, I feel like I use my athletic background for art form.”

She mentioned that she used to perform in New York City of Joffrey Ballet.

So you’re doing yoga in addition to ballet. I’m guessing that yoga fits into that balance equation?

“Yes! Yoga… certain postures definitely fit in that equation as far as how I felt when I was in ballet. Yes, absolutely. I think that’s the other part. I think I like yoga a lot, too, because I feel like, in a weird way, it feels similar to the way I felt when I did ballet. And also, it kind of feels similar to swimming because you flow with some of the yoga classes, and in swimming, you flow.”

I wanted to jump back to how we started talking in the first place today. Can you expand again what’s your interest in motivations and purposes?

“I find motivation, in general, to be very interesting. What is the motivating factor for somebody to do something when the steps to that goal might be very uncomfortable and painful. There has to be something that overrides that pain and discomfort, or they’re willing to put up with it. I find that to be very interesting. Because a lot of work I do is very boring and mundane and long hours, and you know a normal 9-5 person will be like, ‘I’m not doing that today.’ You know? But I look at the overall picture, and I know that this is an important piece to my end-goal puzzle for me, so I have to do it.”

“I guess I’m able to override a lot of the boredom and mundane parts of it because it’s something that really interests me — the work does.”

And maybe because I watched Black Swan, I imagine being a ballerina was pretty tough, but you kept doing it, and you still do it.

“I only do it for fun now,” she points out.

What’s driving you to continue to be a ballerina?

(Side note: I asked her if there’s a verb version of this like, “ballerinaing” to which she laughed and said, “no. Ballerina.” Good to know.)

“What drives me…? Well, I like the way my body feels moving, and I like the way I feel balanced up on my toes, and I don’t want to lose that — the ability to do that — even if I may never perform again. I feel that it brings me to a place in my brain where I’m happy because I remember in ballet being happy a lot… even though it was hard.”

You mention work is mundane but you still do it because you’re interested in the work, being a ballerina… what else in your life do you have some sort of dream or goal? Maybe not so much that you struggle with, but what’s something that you continue to work towards?

“Well, I finished with my Masters. Originally, I was doing my PhD, and I didn’t complete my PhD. I have one year left. So almost everyday I wake up thinking about finishing my PhD. I’ve come very close to going back to school, but haven’t yet because it is a very long process. I’ve been struggling coming to terms with what I’m going to do professionally.”

Do you have any idea of what that might be? What you want to do professionally?

“Be a scientist… I either want to work at a biotech company or at the CDC or work in a research-type lab. I like cutting-edge research. When I was in New York, I worked for Rockefeller University.”

“So I did DNA sequencing and RNA sequencing and analysis for them. And I focused on this cutting-edge science. It was a lot of fun to be a part of something that like… you know, is a big deal. Yeah.”

I think the other part that motivates you is being on the cutting-edge where things could fail, but could also have a massive…

“Impact!” Yes!

“The sequencing… when I first started sequencing, it wasn’t a big deal. And then it grew… it literally, ASTRONOMICALLY grew within 5 years from where it started. It was crazy. Even normal people who weren’t science people knew what sequencing DNA was. It was crazy!” She was visibly excited… smiling.

When you realized where DNA sequencing is today from what it was, do you take a particular pride in being a part of that?

“Oh yeah!” She practically glowing thinking about this now.

“I feel like… that I definitely had… I saw it from the beginning to where it is today, and how it’s impacted humanity. I find it, in medicine, I find it to be really interesting.”

Is there a part of that where you’re like, ‘THAT part of sequencing, I did that”?

“Yeah. I did a lot of epi-genetic studies, which is part of your genome. So now, anytime somebody talks about epi-genetics, or I see an article about it, I’m like…” she breathes in, “that was me.” That’s pretty awesome.

Shifting gears slightly… Any other ways you’re really proud of doing? Could be even something small that you do everyday? What was an impact you did yesterday that you take a lot of pride in?

“I would say that I have a very determined mindset. Typically, if I’m going to do something, I will always follow-through on it. I show up, you know. I value that because I’ve noticed there are a lot of people say they’ll do something, but they never follow through on that. It can be very frustrating when you’re on the opposite end of it… requesting that somebody’s going to show up.”

“So that is probably one of them, and I’m very interested in the body and how the body works. I’ve been working with my husband on diet, and helping him get rid of a lot of allergies, and things like that. It’s nice to see it actually start working.”

I bet he’s very thankful about that right now as the leaves come raining down.

What makes you feel alive? (Thanks to Claudia, Stranger 57)

“Moving my body, and using my brain. I think that’s why I like ballet so much because I had to move my body and also use my brain as far as balance and technique goes. The same thing with swimming, and I guess yoga as well.

And yoga is about being mindful…

“Yeah, I love that part of it because you’re focused. Your brain’s not anywhere else. You’re focused right there. Yeah!”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What’s their purpose? What they feel their purpose on earth is for because everybody’s here for a purpose, right?”

“… and I struggle to finding my exact purpose sometimes.”

What do you think it is?

“I think it has something to do with science, but not exactly in what manner, yet.”

After the handshake.

As I mentioned the six basic factors motivating people (see very beginning), it was clear that what drove Christina was Purpose. She wanted to be a part of the cutting-edge for the potential to do great things. I could see it in her enthusiasm through her smile and her eyes as she lit up talking about her pride in shaping DNA and RNA sequencing. That’s inspiring to see, and I’m so glad I got to see that in her and about her.

I shared with her my purpose and my Personal Mission. (“To change the world for the greater through entrepreneurial endeavors.”) I highlighted this very journey as one of those endeavors to which she instantly understood the potential to create meaningful interactions, and inspiring others to also connect with those in their communities. It was great to talk to her about PURPOSE and WHY — what drives her.

Meet Christina. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 57, Day 57 - Meet Claudia

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

I met today’s Stranger at yoga. She’s in several of the classes I take. Heck, I’ve even taken roll before class, and learned her name, but nothing else. I’ve said so little about her, that it was high time I got to meet her.

Meet Claudia, 21

Who are you?

“Who am I? Good question…”

“Well, I’m Claudia. I’m from the Dominican Republic. I recently here to Atlanta in May for school. My brother’s lived here for about 10 years.”

She thinks some more. “I don’t know… who am I? I don’t really know who I am, to be honest. I’m trying to figure that out. I feel like we all are all the time. And… I like to act. I feel like it’s very therapeutic for me. For a period of time, I was in a really dark place emotionally, and that brought me out in a way. I’m trying meditation and yoga as well — helps me feel spiritual and better about myself and about the world.”

“… and yeah. I go to school for business. I started school for medicine, but I felt it wasn’t what I wanted for my life. I felt stuck. Like that was in my path, so I tried to find something different, and here I am now!” She smiles.

So you said you’re trying to find yourself. How are you going about doing that?

“Spirituality. Trying to find…. I mean, I’ve read up on different kinds of — Buddhism. Different types of religion. Trying to find a way through there, but I’m not sure yet.”

“I said acting really helps me. It just feels like you get to be whoever you want to be, or somebody really different. In a way it helps you find different things about different people, and put them all together in one.”

“Studying people, studying everything around me. Trying to figure out what I like, what I don’t like. And how the world affects me. And what do I want out of that.”

Thinking about how the world affects you, how does the world affect you in a negative way?

“Sometimes, it can be disappointing. I felt for a really long time like I don’t really fit into anywhere. I felt like a misfit most of my life, and I still do. When I was a kid, I used to think when you’re older, that feeling will go away. But it didn’t really go away.” She pauses for a moment, and asks me what the question was again. I can tell that this little bit could’ve actually been a much longer deeper conversation — one I hope to have with her one day.

After repeating the question, Claudia responds, “With all that’s going on like right now with the whole Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton kind of thing. That affects me in a sense that it feels like there’s a huge division in the world. It feels like there’s a lot of hate in the world. That affects me because makes me feel a little unsafe as to where I am and what’s going on. What my world is going to look like in the future and for my kids. It makes me a little sad.”

“People around me affect me.”

How does it affect you in a positive way?

“Beauty. I think there’s a lot of beauty in the world. A lot of beauty I haven’t seen. A lot of beauty there is to be seen. So it makes me a little curious as to where it’s going to take me — what I haven’t seen and what there is to see. So I’m excited, and it makes me… excited about the future.” She smiles and laughs.

What’s something beautiful that you’ve seen yesterday?

Claudia thinks about what she did yesterday.

“Yesterday, I spent some time with somebody that I didn’t know that well, and it surprised me because he was very educated. We talked about politics. He’s actually… I support Clinton, and he was a Donald Trump supporter. I was very curious as to why he was there mentally, and why he stood by Donald Trump. And his points, he just surprised me about how educated he actually was about the whole ordeal. He had really valid points, and I thought that was beautiful because of different perspectives. The fact that we can be totally different, so kind of like see equally in some sort of way.”

Is there a key to that to be able to have very different views, but being able to be open to it and listen?

“I think it’s just listening. I feel like if you give people a chance and try to listen to what they have to say, they might surprise you.”

“You might end up being more similar than you actually think. Just listen and being open to what they have to say. Not closing yourself off just because it seems like what they’re saying doesn’t make sense.”

How do you maintain your relationships with people? (Thanks to Joey, Stranger 56)

“I don’t talk to people everyday, but I try to stay in contact in kind of like, when I do speak to them, I try to… the most important things going on in their life, and make sure that I know how they’re doing… emotionally — what’s affecting them the most, and how they’re doing with everything.”

Is there a preferred method that you’ve been maintaining some of that?

“Preferred method… not really. If I remember things that have been going on the past couple months or stuff like that, and we haven’t talked about it a lot, I ask them about that. Just try to make sure I keep in mind the important things that are going on in their lives. Try to bring them up as much as I can just to make sure…”

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

“What makes you feel alive?” She smiles to end.

After the handshake.

I’ve realized there are so many people in my yoga classes who are effectively Strangers, and I see them over and over and over again. I can easily make 100 Strangers, 100 Days solely focused on the people at work, at yoga, and at Starbucks — my three main places outside of home. (I hope not to meet Strangers at my home, though, it’s unfortunately happened before.)

I didn’t realize Claudia only moved to America this year. Heck, I didn’t know she was from outside the U.S. That was a fact that jumped out at me for whatever reason. Another part about Claudia that I didn’t know was how she’s felt like a misfit for most of her life. As I mentioned above, she seemed to get absorbed into this feeling to which I hope to get to know her better. The good part, I think, is that she’s seems to be feeling more comfortable and more “fit” at the yoga studio we go to. She’s a great cultural fit with the yoga studio’s community, and so I really do hope she feels more included. This journey is about community. It’s about connecting with one another. Happily, I feel more connected with Claudia, and hope she feels the same.

And as part of her own journey to realize who she is, I hope she realizes who she is soon in her own way. Now, that’ll change as we all do over time. So for now, I hope she realizes who she is — a curious person… a young woman making real, authentic connections with those around her. She’s a person looking to make a positive effect on the world from every interaction — large or small. As part of her curiosity is an eagerness to have perspective, which is sometimes a rare thing today, but it helps for her to connect and, indeed, be empathetic to those around her. Oftentimes, it’s not about “fitting in”. Being a misfit can be a beautiful thing, and I think it’s this eagerness to gain perspective that enables her to not fit in with the status quo. Instead, she’s going to (and she is) effortlessly weaving the everyday into her own life.

I think of “fitting in” as being “normal” — stress the “I think”. And to that, I don’t remember who told me this or where I read this (don’t even think I know the exact quote), however, don’t be “normal”. Be you.

Meet Claudia. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 51, Day 51 - Meet Even

Stranger 51, Day 51 – Meet Even, the “Sincere”

I was excited today because today’s Stranger would push me into the second half of this journey — 51! It’s been a pretty long journey so far, and I’m just barely over halfway. Some days, it seems so fast; while others, I feel like I’ve been on this journey for a long, long time.

I was back at Starbucks working today — not a surprise, but I did get out a bit to have lunch with a colleague and get some yoga in. First, I was turned down at Starbucks in the morning due to the picture. As I walked around later in the afternoon, I asked a Stranger sitting at a table doing work. She was game to be today’s Stranger. However, I learned she was 17, and her parents weren’t nearby. I didn’t want to take the chance. So onwards!

I did finally meet today’s Stranger at my yoga studio. Upon telling her about this project (and asking her to be the Stranger today), she excitedly accepted while diving straight into how she connects with others. So let me start from there…

Meet Even, 34 (pronounced āvən)

Before we start, Even shares how she and her husband try to sit at the bar as much as possible to engage with others. She recognizes that we, as a community, are so focused on what’s in front of us — largely our phones. Then, she recalls a trip she recently took.

“I remember one experience I had in Amsterdam, and I was with my cousin and one of my girlfriends. We were chatting locals. We were actually in Utrecht, not Amsterdam. We were at a bar, and just hanging out. These guys were like, ‘what’s the point of saying, ‘hi, how are you?’, if you’re always going to say, ‘good.’ What’s the point? You’re so insincere.'”

“Well, that’s kind of like how we greet one another, and it could spur on another conversation. For the most part, we’re like, ‘good, alright, bye!’ It’s just so insincere. If you’re not going to sit there and start a conversation, why would you even say anything to begin with?”

“That has always stuck out in my head — why do we do that? Why isn’t there anymore depth to it?”

She goes on to share how she likes more substantive (substantial) questions — “just so much more intimate”.

Who are you?

“Who am I?” She starts laughing. “You’re deep, dude!” Haha, I guess! I like more substantive questions, too.

“That’s a really hard question…”

“I am a passionate, cheerful, loving, and loyal person… who loves everyone,” she laughs some more.

Why do you love everyone?

“Why do I love everyone? Because we’re all the same. No one is better than anyone else. I think we all have our own vices that we hide behind, and we all put up a representative instead of just being ourselves. I think that that if people can get past that, then they’ll realize that we’re all the same. We might believe in different things, or think different things, but we’re all the same — when it comes down to our bones.”

Is that why you say hello to a lot of people, especially in your travels?

“Yes, I do. Because not only do I like to say hello because we’re all the same, but because I learn a lot from those people. I learn different perspectives in life, different ways of thinking, different habits and activities. I like to learn about different cultures, and what people want to do and how they think. What is their perspective might be on a similar subject of mine. Because it kind of expands my own mind, and helps me see things differently.”

So what are your passions?

“Well, number one is helping others. I like to give back to the community. I like to give my time. I think sometimes I get distracted, though, and giving too much to others instead of taking care of myself. That’s one of those struggles I’m trying to work on. But for the most part, I like to give back, and help people in whatever way, shape, or form that is.”

Thinking about how people work, or “tick and tock”, how do you work?

“That’s a very complex question,” Even laughs.

“How I work… I like to look inside and find the root of a problem or a cause — why am I being positive about that, or why am I being negative about that? And try to be active and introspective with myself. I definitely have a hard time accepting help from others. I can be very independent, strong, kind of like… ‘okay, I got this’ kind of thing. I guess I think by being surrounded by people in positive situations, but at the same time, I do like to retreat and have quiet time and rooted. I guess that’s when I go introspective. Because sometimes, the chaos can be too much. I guess that’s how I tick!”

I notice Even’s got a tattoo of “Be Still” on her wrist. Thinking about being introspective about everything, what’s the inspiration behind your tattoo?

“The inspiration behind that was… about 5 years ago. I really had a hard time with control and letting go. Just letting things be. Accepting the way things are. I really got into the church and Christianity. There was a Bible verse with, ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ Psalm 46:10. It really just spoke out to me. So there’s something else — control this, and I can just trust in that and be okay with it. It was more about acceptance, and try not to control things or situations or people or the way people think or whatever. Just be. Just really hard to do. It’s really hard to be still which is why I love yoga because it helps you practice that.”

I mention that’s why certain yoga classes are hard for me — being still. She agreed, “Pigeon is really hard because I cannot sit still in that pose.”

How do you feel you’re able to fulfill your soul? (Thanks to Danielle, Stranger 50)

“That was a really deep one. I like it, though.”

“I would say knowing your character strengths and living them. Doing things that can help you with those, so like, for me, one of character strengths is appreciation of beauty. So with that, I need to make sure I’m out seeing things that I think are beautiful — go to the mountain. I think travel is beautiful — make sure I travel. Because if you don’t do those things, you won’t be fulfilled.”

“Or like me, I like to help people. So guess what? That’s why I volunteer.” Even goes on to tell me that if she doesn’t, then she won’t feel fulfilled.

So in summary, know your character strengths, and be deliberate in the actions to meet those strengths.

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“Why do you think people discriminate in private, and why do you think when you’re riding on MARTA, nobody has that anger and frustration out in public? They’re not yelling at each other, calling each other names? Why do they do it in private? If that’s really how they feel, why don’t they just tell somebody. Let’s not hide behind it.”

“Everyone can get along in public, but then we all have to hate each other on the computer? What’s the point?”

After the handshake.

Even and I talked a bit before my class started about this whole project. Specifically, she was curious about how this project came about — can read About 100 Strangers, 100 Days. She was fascinated most because, I think, she really enjoys connecting with others. She talked about how she liked meeting others to also expand her perspective which has been a perk I’ve realized through this journey. In fact, part of me wants to ask what everyone does, and their top 3 challenges they face — they’d be quick customer discovery sessions to seed a startup idea! I digress…

Even also shared how much she, too, has diverse friend groups. Her challenge is bringing them together. She shared how she connects better in more intimate settings — with 1-2 others rather than larger groups. I think all of this gives her a chance to really get to the substantive aspect of people rather than the surface-level questions and interactions.

I think there’s a lot to talk to Even about, and I’m fascinated by people in much of the same way. Looking forward to connecting with her in the future more at the studio and just around.

Also, note that Even chose her picture to be of the very yoga pose she struggles most with — pigeon. Cool stuff.

Meet Even. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 16, Day 16 - Meet Michelle

Stranger 16, Day 16 – Meet Michelle, the “Thoughtful, ‘Serious’ Book Enthusiast”

I was sitting at Starbucks working on some ads while keeping an eye around for someone I could interview. Not going to lie — I wasn’t “feeling” it today. However, I made a commitment… well, I have 84 more commitments.

Anyways, I spotted my Stranger today sitting outside in the beautiful weather. She was diligently reading a serious book (one that was thick, serious font on the cover, and what looked to be small font, too) — not exactly what I read. Haha. So I figured she was probably pretty intellectual which was interesting to me. I grabbed my stuff (I was sitting inside), and walked right up to her and asked if she’d like to take part in my project. She smiled and was up for it.

Yes! That right there just turned around my energy, and I was excited. I was excited to get to meet this Stranger.

Meet Michelle, 24

Who are you?

I’m from Johnson City, TN. I went to Wofford College for undergrad. I graduated May 2015. Didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but worked really hard to get a job at a consulting firm. Ended up getting extended the offer, so I was super excited. A little bit shocked because I was an English and Environmental Studies undergrad… double major. That’s why I’m in Atlanta. This is my home office. I guess that’s a really quick recap of how I got here.”

What are your passions? Your dreams?

Michelle takes a big breath in.

“I really like to read. I’ve always had an interest in that since high school. And I thought at some point that I might want to get my PhD. I haven’t really, I guess, given up on that — in literature. I haven’t really decided what that would do for me, but I’m kinda liking business as well. So it’s sort of like I have these two paths, and not really sure… business school is also an option.”

She smiles and is partially exasperated. “What was the beginning of the question?”

She continues, “I’ve also always wanted to run a half-marathon which I’m scheduled to do next April.” Her interest in running emanates from playing soccer growing up till college.

“Recently, since February or March, got really into yoga. I literally do it everyday now. Not something I thought I would ever do because I’m kind of a Type A personality that’s always going 1000%. It’s been super good for me, and I think I’ve gotten a lot stronger. Just overall well-being a lot better.”

She later added traveling, being outside, hiking, and COFFEE!

What type of reading do you like to read?

“Contemporary American Fiction. This is John Irving. He’s probably my favorite author,” as she points to the book. She tells me she’s trying to read more female authors as well.

Curious about the genre (I’m more of self-improvement and non-fiction), I asked her what she enjoys of the genre.

“There’s a lot of socioeconomic issues. You grow a lot in socioeconomic issues in the United States. You learn a lot about that. Also, I’m really into analyzing the text and seeing metaphors and symbols. Just getting really deep into the text. A lot of American fiction, you learn a lot about yourself and where you come from.”

Have you had any big life regrets?

Michelle sits there thinking and looking around.

“I try not to live with regret. It’s like cliche, but the things you regret the most are the things you don’t do. And I think I’m really afraid of that, so there’s definitely been times where I definitely would’ve.” She then mentions studying abroad at Wofford to countries like Turkey. She shared with me how several of her classmates cancelled traveling to Instanbul, Turkey due to instability in the region including the rise of ISIS.

“It was an amazing experience. One of my favorite places I’ve been.”

However, this wasn’t so much of a regret because she did end up going. So I asked her again if there was a regret she could think of.

“I think I might’ve limited myself. I loved my undergrad experience. It was incredible. It was where I was meant to be. But I think I limited myself. Back then, I didn’t think I could get into an Ivy League school… just really prestigious academic situations. I don’t know why. I didn’t even look.” She was the Valedictorian, and realizes she did well, and she laments how she could have expanded her options.

She admits she might’ve been afraid of what she “couldn’t” accomplish or how great she could’ve been.

Is there a big life lesson you’d like to share?

For the second question in a row, Michelle takes a breath and says, “these are really tough questions.” She ponders for a while longer.

“I’ve seen a lot of women get hurt in relationships. So I would say just ever thinking you need someone else to complete yourself.” Michelle admits she had not experienced this first-hand, but shares how she had several friends who went through “terrible” situations.

I asked her how she believes women and men could maintain their independence while still intertwining their lives. After all, that’s what happens in relationships, and what you want.

Melissa told me how she had been dating her boyfriend since she was 17 doing long-distance since graduating high school. For her, being apart was “one of the best things to happen to us. We don’t let our relationship take precedence over our independent dreams, but we find a way to remain in an important place in each other’s lives. Never crossed our minds to go to the same college.”

She and her boyfriend realize they must be in the same city at some point; however, “if for a while we have to be apart and come back together, that’s fine.”

She shares how if you start to do things because of another, you may end up resenting the other.

What do you love and admire most about yourself?

She stresses how these are “hard” questions. I smile. These probably aren’t hard as much as they can press for her to be vulnerable for a moment and think about herself.

“My mom has always told me that I’m a very thoughtful person. From her noticing that in me, that’s been something that I really hope to continue to be, and I’ve tried to put more into my life. I admire that about myself because I appreciate that in other people as well.”

She felt her thoughtfulness played a big role in being empathetic with others.

Given Michelle relayed what her mom thought, I was curious what she thought (or if she knew) her boyfriend loved and admired most about her. Her response, “I think he would say I’m a very optimistic person, a very positive person. Also, my drive…”

She said she would ask him this question later.

What is the most important part of your day? Your life? (Thanks Zasha, Stranger 15)

“Just happiness. It sounds easy, but we get caught up in the rat race. But at the end of the day, that’s all that actually matters — it’s making yourself happy. Everybody’s looking for that, too.”

I asked her what she does to strive for that happiness.

“I listen to a lot of podcasts. I listen to this one podcast. She’s big about making a to-do list at the beginning of your day. I definitely do that, and I know certain things are going to make me happy like if I exercise… over-arching goals of my life…” She shares about her grandmother having Alzheimer’s. She wants to focus on things everyday for the entire year including running and using the Charity Miles for Alzheimer’s.

“Everything that you do matters.”

She admits that today, she just wanted to read, and even thought, “maybe I’ll meet someone new”. Well, mission accomplished here!

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“If you could correct ONE wrong in the world, what would it be? That can be disease, hunger… it could be high-level, or something small for people to be more genuine. Anything.”

After the handshake.

Michelle was curious of the project, and admitted that she wanted to try it. She even suggested I “license” the project. It’s clear she saw the beauty of this endeavor, and how she, too, enjoys connecting with others.

After the first question I realized, too, that Michelle was not only open to talking to Strangers, but she wanted to share her thoughts even if she had to think about some of the answers. She’s very intelligent — that came across within the first several words. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised given her “serious” book.

Also, I think her story about coming out of college with double-majoring in subjects not typically associated with consulting is a great lesson for others. Having a degree is important, but the subject is less so. Working hard can bridge gaps.

I’m also smiling now recalling how she has said to herself that perhaps she would meet someone new today, and for 15 minutes, she did, and she got to share part of her story with the world. How cool is that?

Meet Michelle. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 9, Day 9 - Meet Andrea

Stranger 9, Day 9 – Meet Andrea, the “Yogi Teacher for Children”

Surprised that even in my short time meeting Strangers so far, this connection was my first one at my yoga studio. I wouldn’t be surprised if many more of my Strangers are yogis from Infinity Yoga. The culture bred at the studio is one of great community and open relationships.

Today’s particular Stranger embodies the very spirit this project. She had great energy and an interest to connect. So…

Meet Andrea, 28

Who are you?

“I’m Andrea the daycare teacher and yoga teacher.”

She’s thinking now and laughing, remarking, “tough question, but should be… so many versions of me.” This point about versions is scattered throughout our talk, but before moving onto our next question, she describes two versions: “enjoying life version of Andrea… dainty and prissy version of Andrea.”

Her laughter bubbles up again.

What are your passions? Dreams?

“My dream… I want to do yoga therapy at children’s hospitals.”

She further adds how her passion is all about helping kids, describing this as her “basis of entire life”.

As she describes her love for helping and working with kids, I can feel her passion. The way she lights up talking about children. Her arms wave and she emphasizes the impact. She maintains a big grin while going on about her love of helping.

Andrea takes a moment to share that she has had this passion for helping kids since she was even young at daycare. She would also shuffle kids around and help her peers. And through her experience with yoga growing up, she’s realized its power and effect that can be made on adolescents.

What is your biggest regret?

Without much hesitation, Andrea points out, “engaged after high school instead of dancing and singing on the Disney Cruise Line!”

Looking back at this now, she realizes how short-term the relationship was (less than a year), but in the moment, she felt certain deference for her then-fiance. She recalled he “didn’t let me go.”

Thinking back at the chance, though, she fantasizes about it for a split-second saying it “would’ve been so dope!”

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

“Independence is beautiful and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise… I thought I need others to be happy.”

Perhaps because I led this question with the regret piece, this was the lesson. However, I got a sense that this was very much a principle of her life now – to be wholly happy with herself and not need the influence of others.

If you could do ANYTHING in the world right now, nothing holding you back, what would that be?

“Travel and help children everywhere… feed children… build houses… provide them with things.”

“… stay-at-home version, I would have all the money in the world, and adopt all the babies.” She glows as she shares this little fantasy. It’s apparent how much children mean to her and being able to provide children everywhere with love and attention.

Did you have a Life-Defining Moment? If so, what was it?

“Yes, kind of as a child – could’ve died seven million times.”

Andrea continues realizing “this journey… this is why I am here.”

She shares with me how she was very sick as a child and was consistently in the hospital including a 5-week stay in ICU when she was 5-years-old. She tells me she remembers the entire experience including her mom having spent a lot of time with her in the hospital.

She also recalls one particular moment when all the other children in the ICU came together… it was one of those moments of community and connection. It’s this very memory that Andrea wishes to recreate more often – for the children in the hospital, but also with their families.

“I wish there was yoga for my mom and me,” she shares.

So since this moment, she’s been striving to help more kids. She received her certification to be a teacher. Then, she received her certification to be a personal trainer. Each certification brought her into a new career path, but having spent time doing both, she abruptly exclaims, “f*** all that.” However, she also realized that both of those certifications “fueled my yoga certification”. She was able to leverage the experience and certifications of both teacher and trainer into a strong foundation and platform to which to build a career as a yoga teacher.

(She just completed and passed her yoga teacher certification course at Infinity just weeks ago.)

What is your purpose in life? What is your negative imprint? (Thanks to Steve, Stranger 8.)

“Purpose is to help kids learn yoga to help them cope, and learn how to cope to take with them in their lives.” She stresses the importance of teaching children on the how piece.

On the negative imprint, she immediately says, “diffusing being ‘nasty’”. She shares how she can have an “attitude for days” and how she can sometimes be “not as accepting of other people… judging.”

She realizes, too, that working on her negative imprint is a constant practice – “working at it everyday”, and she uses her learnings from yoga.

What question would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What are you doing today to make the world better?”