Thursday, October 11, 2012

Stranger things

Normally, I shy away from conversation with strangers. It can be hard for an introvert like myself to navigate the crowds of people I encounter on my commute on a daily basis. But sometimes, talking to strangers yields unexpected rewards, and this Tuesday was one of those times.

A young man from South Africa struck up a conversation with me about the book I was reading. Then he told me he'd been travelling for three years, that he'd just completed a hike from Georgia to Harper's Ferry on the Appalachian Trail, and that he was planning on running in the Baltimore marathon... on a whim.

"Wow," I said. "That's quite a whim!"

"Yeah," he replied. "Most of my life is made up of spontaneous decisions."

Whaaat. I sometimes have a hard time deciding if I should start laundry or make coffee first. To live out of a backpack for years, complete a grueling hike and spontaneously decide to run a marathon... that's so far beyond me I can't even see it. (Of course, it doesn't help that the shape I'm in is "miscellaneous.")

I asked him what he does for a living, and he told me he's a motivational speaker.

"What do you speak about?" I asked.

His answer: "I haven't yet. I'll be giving my first speech in Connecticut in a few weeks."

One of my biggest difficulties in going after creative pursuits has been giving myself permission to view myself as an individual with worthwhile creative ideas. To call myself a "writer" or an "artist," or to consider it a remote possibility that one day I could possibly support myself with my creativity is something with which I struggle.

When he calls himself a motivational speaker, having given no speeches as of yet, I believe him. So why shouldn't I believe myself? To be creative, all I have to do is create. For some reason, this has been the most difficult lesson for me to learn, and he made it plain to me in a matter of seconds. Something tells me he's going to be great at motivating a crowd.

Sometimes, you have to break out of your comfort zone. You never know who you'll meet or what you'll discover.

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