Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Chance Meeting/Meeting Chances

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.

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