5 min read

Life Transitions and A Love Letter to Strangers

Not only do I realize an individual's life complexity, on my best days, I’m fascinated and inspired by them too. It’s this feeling that introduced me to strangers who’ve become friends and it compels me ever so more.
Life Transitions and A Love Letter to Strangers
December 24, 2021

Happy 2022, everyone! Cheers to the final blog post of 2021 (I drafted this post on Christmas Eve). It’s a reflection of the last couple of months since my life transition and a culmination of my struggles and lessons. If you think a friend or family member would enjoy this, please share it!

Here's to 2022, and beyond. :)

I’m writing this blog post as I celebrate my first Christmas away from home. Fortunately, by the time I publish this post, I would’ve visited Florida for a couple of days to celebrate my Pop’s birthday and the New Year. But for now, I’m sitting on a bench reflecting on the last few months in Texas in the serenity of screaming children steering newly gifted RC cars over people’s toes.

As of late December, it has now been 5 months since my move. Not a significant amount of time but, longer than a college semester and long enough to realize life transitions can be unexpectedly difficult. I say difficult with a variably size asterisks, because like I mentioned last post, I struggle to discern between self-victimization and self-blame. On one hand, a change in residence is recognized as a qualifying life event and should warrant anxiety, but on the other, I’m greatly privileged to have a support system within reach and some financial security. My outlook on the situation is that life transitions are hard (and necessary) yet, they can always be harder, so I try not to fret.

In the last 5 months I have frequently reflected on what past me envisioned post-graduated life would be. Without the pressure of course work and exams—which don’t have a clear “end” such as a workday— I expected absolute fulfillment. I imagined groundbreaking technical discussions during work hours and intense workouts during the afternoon. In the afternoons, I’d enjoy roundtable debates on social days and maybe some reading or writing on the others. Unsurprisingly, I can’t say this has all been the case.

The reality is that post-graduated life hasn’t blessed my circumstances to perfection but rather, has revealed the naiveté of such wishes.

Workdays do include socializing and the occasional technical discussion, but it largely passes in isolation—it is work after all. Workouts are victim to the exhaustion of 40-hour weeks and the lure of naps. And social activities depend on well-developed friendships.

In hindsight, I question, how did I imagine my life would click into perfection? With little struggle, I would attain perfect workdays and an immediate social circle?

In adulthood transitioning, occupation preparation is paramount and financial advice is highly recommended. However, no one truly prepares you for the inevitable mundanity of life. There are moments of silence—between activities, during a walk. And there are hours of apparent isolation—in grocery stores or at the gym. We prepare for everything except the times in which it’s time to do nothing. We sidestep the fact that building a new daily routine guarantees slips and that finding your footing and making connections takes patience and time.

I had a conversation with an artist a couple of weeks ago. He’s graduating with his associates degree and undergoing another transition to finish his bachelors in a completely new city. We discussed personal topics like our upbringings and aspirations. Our conversation was filled with gems but one point we both harped on how “no one tells you how lonely adulthood is”. And I can confirm.

I can attest to afternoons in bed and weekends with no plans. Adult life has left me with more time, which is both liberating and daunting. Free time leaves me open to pursuing my interests, yet its very existence implies a failure on my behalf. Between the highs and the mundane, there’s free time that I feel obligated to occupy.

If I could distill what I’m learning thus far, it would be twofold. One and unsurprisingly, things take time. In time, I’m finding my footing in my career, hobbies, and friendships. No amount of desire and ambition can trump patience.

And two, lack of results shouldn’t deter one from trying, it only suggests trying something different. Whether it’s trying new sports (CrossFit or rock-climbing) or building new habits, I’m learning to give myself grace in finding what works best for me.

I share my circumstance and lessons all with immense gratitude. I am fulfilled at work and enjoy collaborating with coworkers. I’m rock-climbing and handstanding more than before. And because of my free time I’ve picked up photography and writing. But most of all, I’m grateful for this transitional period. Without it, I wouldn’t have realized that making friends takes luck, effort, and a lot of time. Without it I wouldn’t learn to be alone. And without it, I wouldn’t have met many people.

The true inspiration for this post was to write a love letter of sorts to the strangers and friends I’ve met recently who’ve unknowingly helped me transition.

I’ve met an incredibly kind couple (a teacher and A PT student), who are excellent at hand-balancing and Acro yoga. I’ve met a salesman who wishes to travel to every World Cup and a coffee shop owner who dropped out of medical school to pursue a coffee and tea shop. I’ve listened stories by my neighbor, (and now friend) who shares the struggles of being young and ambitious, and a geologist who loves rocks and his son so dearly. Thanks to my job, I’ve played tennis with a friend and made more connections with ease. Through chance I spoke with an unforgettable hairdresser and an artist paving his own path. And I crossed paths momentarily with a police officer who shared my confusion of jujitsu moves, a mourning grandmother and a life coach from Dubai.

In the Anthropocene Reviewed (one of my favorite books of the year) John Green talks about falling in love with the world. In it he says,

“…I want to fall in love with the world anyway, to let it crack me open. I want to feel what there is to feel while I am here”.

Since I’ve read those words, I think that is my goal.

I want to fall in love with the world not just because of the immense beauty of its mountains, oceans, and skies. I want to fall in love with the inhabitants too.

The last few months have allowed me to experience a sonder-like emotion. Sonder, a noun, is the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. Not only do I realize an individual's life complexity, on my best days, I’m fascinated and inspired by them too. I'm enthralled by their stories and their capacity for kindness. It’s this feeling that introduced me to strangers who’ve become friends and it compels me ever so more.

A man pushing a dumpster patted me on the shoulder today and said “Merry Christmas Sir. Take it easy, ok?”. What causes strangers to make such kind gestures? Is it merely his job? Or maybe he genuinely wishes me, a young man alone on Christmas, to be safe. Sonder tells you that he is a man living his own complex life, but it doesn’t reveal that he’s capable of sharing stories and kindness. That, with open thoughts and hearts, we reveal ourselves. Once I do that, I realize that moving alone doesn’t have to be so lonely. So, to the many people I’ve met so far, thank you.

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