Skip to main content

I don't think happiness is what I want, but rather, what I'll get.

Last week I got the chance to sit down with Robbie Stokes, the founder of a movement which I was very much inspired by, called I Talk to Strangers. Robbie walked up to me while I was grabbing some lunch, getting some work done. He sat down in front of me and introduced himself, wearing a shirt that simply said, I talk to strangers, and it's changing my life.

Admittedly, I was thrown aback, I didn't know how to respond or what to do. I wasn't sure if the person who had just sat in front of me at my table was going to steal from me, ask me for money, or if he needed help. I made an instinctive check for my belongings before I finally listened to what he was saying. It was quite a foreign and yet familiar concept to me. I used to give people the split second of attention before I lived in cities like Barcelona, where that split second is the difference between you getting your wallet stolen or going home unscathed.

Robbie was hitting on a much stronger point, however.

Why don't we talk to strangers?
"It's socially unacceptable", I responded.

After a few questions, my brain was venturing into much deeper and powerful thoughts about my life, my motivations, and where I was headed. It made me think very profoundly about where I was going. It made me realize that although I was generally happy on my day to day, it wasn't something that I strove to achieve. I didn't wake up every morning wanting to be happy, I woke up every morning wanting to make a difference. Sure, a by-product of making a difference would be happiness, but I'd be willing to sacrifice and suffer through a lot of things in my life if it was at the benefit of something greater and more powerful. Robbie looked at me and said, it gives you purpose. I couldn't of put it better myself, it was purpose that I always strove for.

A smile on my face would suffice for a day, but I keep wondering, will I be counting smiles on the day I die, or will I wonder if my life was worth living?

I think they go hand in hand, and I think happiness is definitely a meaningful part of who we are and what we live and breathe for, but I think if our goal is to be happy, we will be more prone to go down the wrong path. There are a number of ways to be happy, but if none of them give us purpose, we will slowly lose sight of what is important.

I ask that you strive to achieve purpose in your life, happiness will come along for the ride, but happiness alone will quickly vanish when you start wondering if your life has meaning.

What would we get from talking to strangers?
"Empathy", I said.

It was then that I realized that I had sat down and talked to a stranger and it had by consequence enlightened me on a number of topics that I wish I discussed with people every day. We are consumed by the bubbles of our group of friends and we rarely venture outside these bubbles. We never strive to bring new people in because once we feel safe, we like to stay that way.

Social networks tend to reinforce this bubble-like behavior, and on a global scale the problems are increasingly evident. We hate others because they are strangers, because they are so far from our bubble that we no longer care for who they are. Our brains have categorized these strangers so negatively that we are one step away from calling them enemies which is a scary thought we have lived through.

This is why I said empathy. We need to get to know strangers because we need to understand that they are, like all of us, human.

They feel, they breathe, they think and talk, and like Robbie made me realize, they all want to have purpose.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Food: Volume 2

The Food Guide: Volume 2 August marked the start of my 10th year in Atlanta, Georgia. My first 3-4 years were arguably a waste in the context of visiting places (still remember being blown away when I first ventured into Decatur), but I wanted to revisit my Food Guide now that I have frequented many locations around Atlanta and found the pockets that I really love. Before I had structured the guide from cheap to expensive, but this time I will break it down by neighborhoods, since I think that better represents Atlanta. Disclaimer, I also love beer so some of these may be bias to the beer world. I explicitly won't be mentioning breweries or bars because this would just get insanely long, but hit up Hop City, and check out every brewery in town. I particularly have been loving the atmosphere at Atlanta Brewing Co. so go check them out!
Knight Park, Blandtown, Home Park, Howell Mill from 17th to Northside: Coffee:Firelight Coffee Roasters: Tucked away from the madness and buried in…

My Barcelona Guide

Long overdue, but having been to Barcelona a number of times, I have been wanting to write some of the secret parts of the city that I encountered, and that are worth seeing. It's worth citing that a lot of the restaurants were originally gotten from an amazing list of restaurants my doctoral advisor shared with me, and that a lot of the places I love going to were first shown to me by our program director, who knows Barcelona better than anybody I know.

Additional note: Barcelona runs on a different time schedule than other countries. Dinner at 9-10pm is very common, and people start going out around midnight (to bars). Clubs start around 2am and go until about 6am, so keep that in mind as you enjoy the city. They also have afternoon naps (siestas), so in the early afternoon, a lot of things may be closed. The summer is usually pretty packed regardless because its booming with tourists. I generally do not like crowded toursit-filled areas, but you have to experience them once. You…

Dazed and confused.

I kind of came to the conclusion that I needed to write this when I realized that I had gotten a little lost at work. I can go a little crazy with the number of things I try to do at any given time and well, that kind of work can easily overwhelm me. However, over the past few days I have realized and resparked my desire and love for the process.

It may sound a bit abstract but its a common theme among those who find themselves fortunate enough to enjoy every minute of every day of work. You see, a lot of life is a matter of perspective. A quick glimpse into consumer behavior and the study of a capitalistic society will tell you that people are very predictable and marketable beings.

A few years ago Matthew McConaughey gave a fantastic talk to the University of Houston, where he stated the following: "See, joy is always in process, under construction — it’s in the constant approach, alive and well —in the doing of what we are fashioned to do… and enjoying doing it." and the…