Tag Archive : strangers

An additional angle, a new lens, an intensification of passions. This is what I receive from listening to others. And it’s also what I can give back.

I headed for Chicago around 2 p.m. a few days ago. Took me all day and all night to get there from Minneapolis. I sat next to an incredible person–Mark–who recounted to me every.single.job. he’s had in 36 years. He was hilarious. We sat behind (and in front of) Amish people who smelled like a walking dumpster. On a train. They believe in using trains but not in using showers/deodorant? I need to be enlightened.

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Near the Colorado, Utah border

A few pages back, I recorded all of Mark’s past employment. Swing dance instructor, ski resort worker, bartender, horse groomer, website builder, photographer, stage manager, singer, usher, barista… the list goes on and on.

I think what really resonated with me is that there is no perfect job for someone–we are not “destined” to serve a purpose…we aren’t destined to do anything. And we aren’t fitted to a single kind of job. I do believe that we are naturally inclined to be better at some things. I might have a natural disposition for sports. But I choose to pursue or avoid this talent. And I’m not obligated by fate to do so. I told him about my trip and his eyes instantly lit up. He told me he’s always wanted to do something similar, but couldn’t bring himself to make such a leap.

“I’ve been thinking about it for so long, and you know what? After meeting you, I’m going to do it. I’m finally going to do it. Thank you.”

Direct evidence that by meeting people, you begin to look at your own life differently.

Back in Chicago, I showered–YES– ahhh felt beautiful… and I took a nap. Then my host and I experimented with Romanian Food..was soo yummy. I’ve had a cold for the past five days, and menstrual cramps for the last three. This, paired with the cold, snowy weather has been brutal. Lack of sleep on a train doesn’t help. Having a place to sleep, shower, and feel at home in is something to be savored. In the morning, I went to a corner market and got all the ingredients for pancakes from scratch. I made them for my host as a thank you…because I am honestly so grateful.

I love that he’s always eager to try new things with me. It’s exciting. Having company while exercising my interests is rewarding. Especially when that person is just as curious about life. Right now I’m on the train meandering through the snow-covered Rocky Mountains…and wow, this sight is worth every penny.

Tucson, Arizona; Undated 

People are so much more than their body language suggests. He barely looked me in the eyes. It’s a shame…because his eyes were so beautiful.  I try not to come across as intimidating but I can only do my best. “Bye Rachelle,” he whispered, as we went our separate ways. It’s ironic that he was darting eye-contact so frequently– and yet was attentive enough to remember my name.

On the way to L.A (last night) I sat next to an older man. My guess is late 50’s. Black. Wearing a top hat. Fixes airplanes. Several years in the Navy. His life was engaging, and his personality was gentle and humorous. Laugh was incredible. I loved that he laughed so hard at his own jokes. Like he waited to see if I thought it was funny and then full-fledgedly joined in, his deep tone echoing throughout the train.

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He listens better than anyone I’ve ever met. So attentive to each word I spoke– as if he entered my thoughts and felt them before he heard them. He talked a lot about himself, but when the conversation turned back to me, he was like a switch: Now, now it’s about you, and I am listening, and I want to know what you have to say. I want to be there with you.  That’s what I heard while I was talking.

His wife died. He re-married. Was on the train headed to meet his 2nd wife, who was in the hospital dying as well. This man made my heart light up and my smile brighten. I don’t think I’ll ever forget his laugh, for a reason I can’t explain. He spoke a lot about how his wife uses all his money for “art.” I could sense he resented her for this. He is a good guy and was being taken advantage of. I understood. And it’s a tough job–masking bitterness. I struggle as well.

 

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On the bus to Los Angeles, sunset

Few things I know for sure. Few things I think I know for sure. I know that, to me, there is nothing more important than showing love to other people. This takes priority. And the result is that I’m not depriving myself of anything. By putting others first, I’m actually receiving the ultimate joy of providing love and support to someone who deserves it. Every single person on the planet deserves it. We didn’t choose this life.

This is what is what deserves attention…what is easy to discern as a path worth pursuing… and what is most meaningful to me. Treating people lovingly is not only the right thing to do tomorrow, or in 6 months, but is also the right decision in this moment, this very second.  The right decision is timeless.

 

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On the train, through the Rocky Mountains; Colorado

There are so many people we deem “crazy”–but what is  “normal”? Just a word that segregates us…and put us at opposite ends of an imaginary, inaccurate spectrum. Terms like “normal” and “weird” create distance between us and the unknown, between the familiar and the unfamiliar. This distance is scary until I realize the person I’m talking to has felt all the same emotions I have–until I realize that we all endure hell every day and struggle to find means to cope. What am I afraid of? The ways we are similar outnumber the ways we are different.

Talking to strangers has allowed me to appreciate human nature in all its forms. There is no one single form that is most beautiful. The fact that every person I meet has an entirely different tone, different laugh, different talent, different perspective–this is where beauty is found. Human nature unifies us–and the ways we differ don’t necessarily have to divide us.

I can’t remember her name…but does it even matter? She is identified though her actions, her words. She was so interested in my life, in my trip.. asking me where I’ve been, where I’m going, who I’ve met.  This soul sitting next to me fully entered  my thoughts, absorbing each word as I spoke it.  When someone is really listening to you,  you can see it in their eyes. She told me where to go once I get off the train–take the metro to Market East station, which is where old town  and historical monuments are.  Once we arrived, she led me to the metro area and wished me good luck–the most genuine good luck I’ve ever heard.

IN Philly I spent the day mostly walking. No host. But feeling free. Entirely aimless. I truly loved the lay-out of the city–simple to navigate  and the streets looked similar to Charlottesville. I took a train back to D.C to stay with Braden, my old host for a few days. I need to write about the conversation we had one night: him talking about his passions…what classifies a passion.. and also of how he judges someone–not based on their job/contacts/likes/dislikes but based on how they treat other people. He referenced the purposelessness and misunderstandings involved in war. People are so much more than their religious beliefs or the labels society creates for them. He said the only part he’s concerned with is the treatment of others, pointing  out that couchsurfers invite me to stay with them without knowing what I believe in or without having similar interests. I’m still treated with kindness– and this treatment takes priority.

I spent the night on the train and woke up in Charlottesville, VA to witness a sunrise that makes me glad I didn’t kill myself a year ago. I would’ve died without seeing the Virginia horizon encompass a rising star, awakening my heart and my mind. It felt like waking up in a warm bed next to someone you love, whether family or friend. You open your eyes and are suddenly fully aware of1901892_10201731712349320_1283227702_n how you woke up in this bed, with this person, and not in a different bed, perhaps alone. The warm bed is enough. More than enough. But sometimes you’ll wake up next to a person you care about and maybe that person is still sleeping. I just kind of take a moment to let gratitude envelope me– and, for a small part of space-time, I’m comforted by pure amazement.

The sun rose, lit the sky on fire and awakened my heart. Charlottesville was a nice, vintage looking town. I arrived in town with the intention of finding a homeless shelter to shower in. I found it, but chickened out in the end. I’m glad though. Not sure how smart that would have been– 20 y/o girl in a building with several homeless men. Also glad because I learned how to endure feeling “dirty.” Four days without a shower felt disgusting. But I conditioned myself to stop thinking about it, believing I looked OK without. The biggest problem, surprisingly, was my feet sweating and my socks stinking.

I should mention the girl I chatted with on the train out of Atlanta. Thirty-six y/o mother of two. Single mother of two. We talked about our lives, mostly about her, and I’m glad. I love learning about people. I love experiencing that circumspect feeling of knowing what others go through. Simple facts, simple conditions of her life help illuminate and redefine my own life. She was pregnant in high school with her son. The father was seemingly non-existent: in and out of jail, incapable of providing even his presence. Her kids don’t see or talk to him 18 years later. I told her about my trip and she said she admired me, told me she would love to mirror my decision if she was without children. She made me laugh and I made her laugh too. Our lives, running independent of one another, had collided on a train at 3 o’clock in the morning. When she left at 5:30 a.m, she left me sitting there and I was a different person at 5:31, alone with my thoughts.  Each person I meet offers an opportunity to look at  my life from an angle previously unrecognizable. What is more enriching than that?

Being away from my belongings and distancing myself from materialism shows me just how valuable clothes, jewelry, and “statuses” are. Like what…?  I’ve been wearing the same outfit for over three weeks (washing whenever possible). I walk into Macy’s in downtown NY  and the truth could not be any clearer. So many people long for costumes so that they might be defined in a positive, superficial light. I haven’t worn make-up in over 3 months. Nor have I worn something “stylish”, or even changed my hair. And yet I’ve gotten more attention from guys than I ever have before. Need I say more about the pointlessness of masking ourselves?

No one would believe me straight up though. If you told me five years ago that, if I stop wearing make-up, it won’t change how guys see me, I wouldn’t believe you. These types of things people only discover on their own. Having confidence feels so much better than feeling inferior and embarrassed. I would like others to believe in themselves. The least I could do is set a good example. What do I have to lose, exactly?

My Couchsurfing host took me to see Isabella Rosolini and then out to an Italian Restaurant at 11:00 p.m. We drank a few glasses of wine over a candle lit dinner. The dim light flickered on the table and created shadows on his face, accentuating the friendliness in his eyes. We talked about his divorce, his kids, his doubts over finding someone else to marry. His delicate tone and hesitant word choice had me sympathizing with him from the first sentence to the very last. How did you deal with such heartbreak? I asked and he answered as if it had happened yesterday. He told me the divorce was not mutual. She left him. This guy is one of those rare characters who is incessantly nice to people without asking for anything in return. He said his marriage was going well and was essentially blind-sided. Good people get treat like shit and there’s nothing else to it. There are no mean of prevention. As much as it hurts to endure mistreatment, it’s ridiculous to try and prevent mistreatment.  It is simply a condition of life. As Marcus Aurelius says, it’s assigned to everyone.

Today: John Hancock Observatory. Beyond beautiful. It’s weird to think about all the different forms of beauty–and the countless ways in which we can discover beautiful things…things that make my heart smile and bring my soul peace…things that essentially breathe life into me and spark passion, wonder, and gratitude. What could be more beautiful than this moment I am in? A completely spotless portion of existence with endless possibilities. Society Imagecan tell me whatever it wants, but I’m in control–and I live with my decisions. I suffer the consequences of listening an abiding by what others tell me is right. I’m learning how to be nice to myself so that I might be able to give the world all that I have. I don’t search for good feeling; I create it right now and allow it to sweep over me. Image

Also in Chicago:

  • Museum of Science and Industry = amazing.
  • Watched Arrested Development three nights in a row with my Couchsurfing host, Adam.
  • Went to a yummy Senegalese restaurant, came home and had an awesome talk about philosophy and relationships. He speaks with so much intelligence and fore-though. I hope we are friends for a long time. A book on Adam’s coffee table: Tibetan Book of the Dead.

In Chicago, went to:

  • Lincoln Park, Millennium Park, Lincoln Park Zoo, Hyde Park, Chapel Tour, Little Italy, Greek Town, Lake Michigan, Obama’s house, Michigan Ave., Water Tower ( wasn’t destroyed by ImageChicago fire), Tribune Building, Cultural Center, Chicago Temple, Chicago Theater, Rock& Roll McDonalds (mansion looking), Comedy show at IO Theater

My host, Adam, is 25 years old and has a graduate degree in music. He’s been to Tanzania ( pictures= amazing).  Such a great person to talk to. So considerate and nice. Something about him is very pleasant to be around. I feel relaxed and confident when I’m with him.  I felt rewarded for my efforts in blindingly trusting a stranger. It’s a good feeling– knowing my host won’t come up and stab me in the middle of the night–and, instead, will enrich my life, will breathe life into me. I haven’t been raped, mugged, or attacked yet. Never been so happy to say that. The world is a beautiful place if I choose to acknowledge its generosity. It will give me everything I want if I choose to accept it, if I choose to work for it. Adam makes me want to work for it.

Still to do: dye part of my hair a different color, buy a homeless person a meal, play soccer with strangers, leave # on check at restaurant, fall in love (ha), look through a telescope, ride on a motorcycle.  Image

I’m noticing that goals like “pay 5 people compliments in every city” are things I do without thinking about it. I’m here. And my attitude is already “balls out.” I don’t need to remind myself to be adventurous and impulsive and giving. My approach to life in this moment is nothing but adventurous, impulsive and giving. Forgive people who treat me worst on the trip? I’m required to do that. Otherwise I beat myself up and take a train back home. It’s confidence and optimism or it’s nothing.

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