There’s been a few times when I have met someone over lunch at whole foods or in a coffee shop and been emersed in a conversation for 10-30 minutes. Sometimes we just talk about my travels, sometimes my family and friends, or my program at school. Other times its obvious they need to talk, and I listen as they talk about broken relationships, mistakes, family deaths and unsure futures. When the conversation naturally closes and its time to leave, I bid farewell and then I get that look. Its some combination of astonishment and concern. I think people are caught off guard by the deepness of our brief conversations, and they don’t know what to do when faced with a goodbye. Some people give me their number without even knowing my name, others have asked to take a picture because we might never meet again (I politely decline). I know what its like because I’ve been there too. A few times I have sat down and been offered sage advice and nuggets of wisdom, and I too have a hard time saying goodbye. I’ve come o the conclusion that everyone is interesting and everyone has a story to tell. I’ve also decided that, as a whole, we don’t listen to each other or tell our stories often enough, because when we do get a chance to speak or listen, we are left with the feeling that we might not get that chance ever again.
Recently someone explained this well to me, and coined it “catch and release”. Like I said, everyone is interesting and everyone has a story to tell. The caveat is that you can’t hold on to everyone. Catch someone, make a brief encounter rich and meaningful, and then release. Hold on to a few, hold them tight, but don’t try to hold on to everyone because you will burn yourself out. Having said that, just because you don’t intend on holding on to someone, doesn’t mean that you don’t go fishing. Be liberal with your stories and keep an open ear.