We all have our daily routines, from going to the gym or reading a book before bed; and routines are good, because they can make us feel comforted and at home. However, sometimes we get so set in these routines that we start to miss out on new experiences and chances to change things up. Personally, I get into a loop during the school week; going to class, talking to the same people, studying and repeat, every day.
Before I knew it, my days started to blend together, because there was nothing new separating them, same old, same old. That is why I wanted to have five days to do something different, push myself to experience something I wouldn’t normally encounter day to day. This week, I challenged myself to talk to two new people a day, complete strangers, at any point, at any place.
Monday and Tuesday went, I would say, average. I met new people, but the conversations were lacking the deeper connection I set out to encounter during this week. I never got past surface conversations of, “What is your name,” or “how are you.” While the conversations were valuable, I wanted something with more substance. On Wednesday, I found myself in the waiting room of a Jiffy Lube, and the owner came in and sat behind the desk for a while, until he broke the silence and asked, “How are you?”
Thirty minutes later, I found myself learning all about Mr. Tim’s daughter; about how she had just graduated from UNCC. He told me about her dream to move to San Francisco; his daughter had fallen in love with San Francisco while watching the show Full House, and had declared it a dream of hers to move there after college. Tim told me how funny it was to him at the time, about how proud he was of her that she turned her dream into reality.
I remember Tim said, “I have living proof that dreams come true, even small ones. So, if you want something, don’t ever be afraid to fight for it, even if your Dad thinks it is silly.” On a Wednesday, in a Jiffy Lube waiting area, I was reminded to follow my dreams.
On Thursday, while standing in line for a slice of cake at Maxie B’s restaurant, I met a 65-year-old man in a blue plaid, named Hank. I asked him what his favorite flavor of cake was, he smiled and laughed to himself before replying with, “My favorite is chocolate, but my wife loves lemon. So I will be getting lemon today.”
I asked him how long he and his wife had been married, and then listened to a love story I was not expecting. Hank fell in love at the age of 18 with Darla. They were highschool sweethearts, and went to the same college together. Hank proposed to Darla when he was 22 at dinner in one of their favorite restaurants, and of course, Darla said yes.
One year later, Hank left the church they were wed in, but as an unmarried man. He and Darla had decided that marriage was not what should happen between them; they loved each other dearly, but not in a romantic way any longer.
Hank told me that he thought he was done with love, and that he believed that no one could ever enter his life and make his heart love them, the way he loved Darla. He was right, he never loved anyone like he loved Darla, because two years later, he met Phoebe, and he loved her more than he ever thought possible.
He met Phoebe through a friend at church, and at first, Phoebe thought he was a bit of a hardball and was only looking to be friends. However, that quickly changed, as they were engaged only two months into dating. I then asked Hank, how he knew Phoebe was the one he was supposed to be with.
“I thought I found my soul mate in Darla, but that was because I had never loved anyone else. I did love Darla, but my love for Phoebe was different, it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t a fairytale, but I knew if I ever lost Phoebe, I wouldn’t want to be with anyone else. When Darla and I ended it, I knew I’d be okay.”
In a line, waiting for cake, I learned about love, and the way that it exists in all stages of life. In talking with Hank, I got the feeling that people will always find a way to be who they are supposed to be with.
Five days of meeting new people, and five days of stories that I will never forget. I am going to continue this for way — striking conversations with strangers — for the next five days as well.