I walked into a strange bar, in a strange city, and sat down beside a strange stranger.
“It’s my birthday in two hours!” I declared.
After only knowing him for two hours, I told him to be ready by 8:45 am the next day and that we had an adventure planned. He agreed with a kiss, and little did I know what I was in for the next day.
The thing about strangers is that you start with a blank slate. They don’t know how awkward you looked with braces in 7th grade, and you don’t know why they had a falling out with their best friend in high school. So, you get to express everything to them with no judgment, lack of compassion or distracted ears and eyes. For that moment, the universe is revolving around you and them, them and you; time is almost standing still.
In the midst of this rotating circle of shared words, glimmering eyes and a chance of strangers turned friends, you learn. You share philosophies, interests, and concepts. You see the world bigger than any imaginable sphere you could have pictured, and in turn, your thoughts become larger.
“You cannot place your happiness in the hands of others,” he said.
You cannot place your happiness in the hands of others, I repeated.
And then it hit me. For the past two years, I have been so concerned with others – making sure my friends are happy, or that I am pleasing my family, or that I am doing better than expected in my job – that it has made me lose focus on myself. Following others, whether it be moving for someone, or simply not sticking up for oneself, isn’t going to produce a life that you want to live. Maybe we need to fall in love with ourselves and follow our own path for a while, and eventually we’ll meet someone who is following his or her selves as well. Maybe that is how you find your people.
And over four days, a stranger turned into a lesson. A lesson so unexpected that you didn’t know you were learning, or supposed to be learning, until the bell rings and you’re dismissed.
After four days of simple conversations, kisses that would stay on a street in London and invaluable moments that can’t possibly be put into words, you learn how to say goodbye.
“Will I ever see you again?” I asked him.
“Maybe one day . . .” he smirked.
I gave him a last kiss knowing that I would probably never see him again, and I smiled. By chance, I traveled 3,662 miles to meet a stranger who taught me that the best way to fall in love is to fall in love with your life.