The library is a place of magic. You walk through the door after 5 years and somehow the library instantly makes you feel at home and keeps you coming back for more. There is something about holding a physical book in my hands and having a deadline that has rekindled my love for reading and forced me to make time. In two months I have consumed 4 books and have found my TED Talk quota increasing on my morning commute. But the library also hosts other kinds of magic, specifically the kind of meeting people from all walks of life. (And no, unfortunately, I am not talking about a secret door to another world where magic is practiced and you get to meet wizards, although that would be amazing, and maybe I was just obliviated and forgot.)
I’ve been in fabric stores that are so dead quiet I thought I was in a library. I’m talking zero human interaction in a place that should be bustling with ideas and camaraderie. At my local library, you find a diverse crowd from moms with toddlers in tow to the homeless looking for a little respite. Over the past few months I have had a revolution of sorts that people are the key to everything. I’ve always thought being a “loner” and doing it all on my own was going to get me “noticed” by someone. This magical someone would recognize my talents and hard work and would mentor me and guide me into a world where my dream job and life would just happen. I used to think life was all about experiences and I could never have those without traveling again and often, something I could never do while barely getting by.
In truth, life is really about the daily experiences we create; the variety and risk we all should take every day in meeting new people by literally placing ourselves somewhere and facing the fear of saying what’s on our minds. Once you’ve started reaching out to those around you, start reaching out to people that interest you. I’m talking your idols, people you don’t think you can reach, and I bet you some of them will start a dialogue. It’s worth a try isn’t it? I believe we learn the most from others, and by starting the conversation we go places we’ve never known before. And because a good story is always better than strings of words, let me tell you some of my recent daily interactions.
Triple, Nonfat Cappuccino (and sometimes a Bacon Gouda)
Clare was a regular at my Starbucks, and baristas tend to recall a regular even years later by her or his drink order. Your drink order is what sets you apart in barista culture, even more so than your name, and it makes you memorable and unique. But Clare is special for many more reasons than her drink order. Clare has style, always with one signature outfit piece that totally tops everything off. The nicest person who has ever set foot in our store, it’s no wonder I was naturally drawn to her. One day I finally asked her what line of work she did and her response made me melt. If you have ever read my other posts, you know I am all about sustainability, and she works in solar energy. I was screaming inside, knowing we would get along as two lone wolves surrounded by packs and packs of oil and gas people, lol, just kidding.
But seriously, I found her on LinkedIn, and saw our common alma mater, sent an email, and before you I knew it we were having bi-weekly meetings where we would talk about our weeks and she would polish my resume to perfection. She also worked at a tech incubator in Austin and knew a lot of people in my dream companies, allowing me to network with some great minds. All these months, I’ve felt our relationship was so one-sided; Clare was always helping me with advancing my career and I was offering her nothing in return. But then we started doing walking meetings instead of eating meetings, and our talks became even more amazing. As my birthday rolled around, Clare gave me a card, and as I sat in my car reading her note, I realized that I had been giving her something, and it was friendship. On an island, far from her element, I help her stay sane, and she gives me hope.
Homeless Doesn’t Mean Helpless
Since I was a bit too shocked to ask for his name, and I do hope I run into him again, I’ll just call him Batman. For one, his appearance reminded me of when Bruce Wayne returns from the East and is like “I’m Bruce Wayne” but they still kick him out of Wayne Tower. For two, he later confronted Dan asking him if his Batman shirt reflected Dan going through a vigilante phase or if he practiced the philosophy seriously. But anyway back to the story. Batman is talking to the library security guard and I can’t help but overhear their conversation while I am drinking from the water fountain. I hear bits and pieces about fighting the Taliban and other extremist groups, then he refers to himself as 98% Christian as he walks away.
As Batman approaches the water fountain he asks my permission to fill his cup. Although there is another fountain open next to me, I turn around and oblige, giving him my fountain. He stops and looks at me saying “Your stress level is medium to high.” Then he pauses and says “And it has been for months.” Being the awkward person I can be sometimes, I replied with something I remember as “Yep.” C’mon what are you supposed to say to that!? So I smile and walk to check an item out at the counter.
A few minutes later as I am walking back to my daughter he crosses the room and says “Excuse me Ms.” He then goes on to basically tell me that “from a doctoral standpoint” he thinks I should go to see a doctor and have my hormones and thyroid checked. He tells me that I should drink more water, watch my sun exposure, practice mindfulness and relax more. He told me that in metabolism there are two processes, called catabolism and anabolism and that my anabolic processes were elevated. He said that meant that I easily put on muscle and was a very strong person, but I also took on other things heavily. When he said “other things” I sensed he was talking more spiritually or emotionally rather than physically. This was the part that really hit home for me, and almost made me cry.
All this he said with a calm, open vibe that even allowed him very close proximity to me without offending me. In fact, his suggestions didn’t offend me at all, I found them supremely helpful, and I am thankful he spoke up to try and help someone else when he was concerned. The times we are most concerned for someone else are often the times we don’t speak up at all. So whether you chalk it up to utter nonsense or not, I appreciate this man for caring enough to say something to me. In fact, it’s been years since I’ve been to the doctor for a checkup, so I think I will take his advice.
These two people are completely different, but equally as powerful in the influence they have brought to my life and my experiences. But don’t take it from me, real “human” experiences not only changed this woman’s viewpoint, but her entire life when she left a notorious church. So whether you visit the library, the fabric store, or Twitter for some people time, stay open to new viewpoints and experiences, ask questions, and speak up!