In an incredibly odd moment of coincidence, this morning I ran into a former One Lifer on my way to work. Now, perhaps it is not such a huge coincidence--he lives in my neighborhood, and I have seen him there before. Yet today, it felt so completely out of the blue--a different path to work, taken at a slightly different time, and suddenly a person from my past was saying "hello."
But enough about the coincidence. What made the incident blogworthy was
not so much the chance meeting. Rather, it was my stream of thoughts
between the meeting and my arrival at work. In the few moments during
which we crossed the street together, he asked what I was doing, and I
did the same. We smiled, and he stopped for coffee as I continued on my
way. As I walked, I thought about what my response had meant to him, and
to me. Was he pleased or impressed to hear that I had been working
someplace quite different from One Life for almost a year? Was I pleased
or impressed or surprised to hear myself say that it had been that
long? Was it what I wanted to hear myself saying, or find myself doing?
Who did I want to be when running into someone I used to know?
Spending time out of work plays a bit with your identity. On the one
hand, it leaves you free from tying "who you are" to "what you do." On the
other hand, it leaves you feeling somewhat inadequate when you say who
you are and what you are doing. Having spent time out of work, I was
immensely grateful today to be able to say that I was working, and not just
for a month. I was greatly relieved about being able to leave our
conversation and head to work rather than home to job search. I was
happy for what he was doing, but not jealous of it. And most of all, I
was taken aback by the "settled-ness" of where I seemed to be in life,
after what had seemed like an eternity of "unsettled-ness."
It's funny how our impression of what we are doing can be as shaped by how it sounds when we say it to someone as it is by our day to day experience doing it. Where will this conversation go? Probably nowhere. But
sometimes it's good to have a chance meeting on the street to remind you to
pay attention to where on that street you're actually headed.