Sometimes life just knows what you need to hear, and other times it throws some crazy, unexpected stuff at you. As someone who has self-diagnosed themselves as "too approachable", I have had many strange and interesting encounters with strangers. I have had a man in my local Walmart come over to me, asking about and discussing school, to later disclose that he was unable to graduate due to financial issues that he had tried to remedy by selling marijuana. This, of course, resulted in him being arrested, having jail time, and no longer able to attend or have access to an education. His wise words, "try to get a regular job before you sell drugs." Another occasion led me to a man who originally stopped me on the street for directions, but later attempted to begin a friendship, as he explained to me that he had just recently been released from prison; therefore, he did not know where anything was or know anyone in the area. Interacting with and being stopped by strangers is a common occurrence for me; something that constantly worries my mother. Though these two examples seem to be more alarming, due to the content and status of the strangers, not all of my unexpected run-ins are alarming. Oftentimes, they are eye-opening. My most recent run-in with a stranger happened a few days ago. While flying home to North Carolina for Winter Break, I found myself enthralled in an interesting and lengthy conversation with the stranger who I happened to sit next to on my final flight home.
Bernie, the sixty-year-old man I found myself next to, taught me three very important things. Our conversation lasted the entire flight, about two hours and forty-five minutes, and covered a variety of topics. The conversation started light and basic -- this is where my first revelation came. As a man of sixty years, he has done many different jobs. Bernie started off telling me about his 'old police days', working on an Indian reservation; a time in his life that he absolutely hated. Then, he advised me that if I ever found myself in work that I couldn't stand, to leave -- even if I grew up believing that is all I wanted to be in life. Bernie did this; he went back to school and became a physical therapist, working for several years, until today where he is now an owner of a contracting business. It is okay to change your career and your mind anytime, the first revelation. As the conversation progressed, Bernie got much, much more comfortable talking to me (even revealing some information he swears he has told no one else but his wife). That of course, I will not disclose; however, it did leave to a more spiritual conversation -- that of his recent conversion to Christianity. Bernie told me about his weaknesses/ temptations in life and how that has led him to truly contemplate his personal growth. His advice, find out what your weakness is and make sure to continually make the choice, to continually make the decision to do and be better than it, whatever "it" is: revelation two. Lastly, as the flight came to an end slowly did our conversation. I found him thanking me for this interesting and eye-opening conversation, and then commenting on how he wasn't even supposed to be on this flight, but how grateful he was to have sat next to me. Now, this led to my last revelation: the world works in mysterious ways. His remark about not originally being on the flight, struck me as I too was not supposed to be on this flight we both found ourselves on. He was delayed due to weather, resulting in a different flight, and I had missed my morning 8 am flight, resulting in changes putting me on that one. We found ourselves admiring the situation and later before we parted ways, he left me with a token to remember him by -- 100 colonies from Costa Rica (the place he flew from earlier and Bernie also has a family).
Unexpected conversations with strangers sometimes pose the best moments. A flight neither of us should have been on led to a wonderful conversation with many great realizations. Simply because you believe you were meant to be in one career, does not mean that will be where you find yourself later in life; Bernie began as a police officer and is now a contractor. Personal growth is not easy and life constantly throws obstacles in your path, but it is your job to find and identify your weaknesses. Once you have done this, it is up to you to continually fight and make the decision to be better; a choice Bernie comments is not always easy. Finally, coincidences can lead to great memories. A delay due to weather and one due to human error led us both to a flight neither of us was supposed to be one, but sometimes that unexpected event is life leading us to something more interesting. After this past encounter with Bernie, a stranger I will most likely never see again, I have learned a great deal about life and growth. If there is any advice I can leave with, do not simply dismiss the unexpected events in your life, because sometimes those are the moments that you will never forget.