Before I had turned to look at the guy next to me I had overheard him speaking about his past. He looked a little too clean and professional. I asked him anyway, "I bet you've seen every animal dude but which one do you love the most?" It was an honest question as much as a way for me to see if this guy was for real. "Elephants are quite smart you see," he said. "They will only drink clean water. In one of our Mozambique reserves we have a large watering hole for the animals. All of the park animals drink from the stagnant water in the hole. The elephants though somehow always seek out the source of the water and drink straight from the pipe before it enters the hole. Amazing right? But listen, even ants take care of one another. If only we took care of one another as much ants. Everything from the elephant to the single ant. They are all magnificent. Even the single ant"
In the last month I have had conversations with a lifelong safari leader from South Africa, a "h.o.o.d" guy from Los Angeles (that's what he kept calling himself), and two recent young Gujurati immigrants that work nearby. I ran into each one of them when I really needed an ear to listen to me (I think they did too). I will get back to these random people in a bit.
I feel like I have lived an entire lifetime since the middle of May. One of my friends got married in Texas at the craziest wedding I have ever seen, I saw Stevie Wonder and B.B. King live in Chicago, and spent some time at home (although home is a little weird right now with all the construction on our house). Oh I became Uncle Vaman too and that was all just June! July began with the Konkani convention. My mind was blown after the convention (and still is in a lot of ways). The thoughts I heard young people voice were really fresh and some of the people I met were memorable to say the least. My parents also kind of decided that they should help me along if I decide to start my own business venture. A lifelong family friend got married the following weekend, so I was back in the Bay. Amazingly the summer only got more intense from that point on.
Like I said, it has felt like a lifetime. It's been extraordinary in great ways and in awful ways. Just as any lifetime experiences. From the third week in July on here is a laundry list of the good, the great and the awful.
I went camping in Madison (which reminded me how much I love the outdoors). I went to Madison for a bachelor party. I tried Nepali food for the first time and loved it (it was similar to Chinese food in India). I saw Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, Kanye West, and Lupe Fiasco at Lolla. I went on a super health kick cooking all the time. Oh wait, I also went on a eat out every meal kick for some time (still on that one). I met a couple people that may play an important roll in my life later on. My buddy Shawn got married one morning in our neighborhood. That warm and loving morning sun was shining on us. I looked around and felt so fortunate to know the people sitting around me. I got super homesick (which I have never been before). I had six college buddies staying with me for a weekend and an old roommate live with me for a week to give me a piece of home out here in Chicago. I got excited about a girl. I got stressed about little things in life like traffic. I let little everyday battles affect my mood in a negative way. Someone I knew took their own life. He was younger than me and it disturbed me how someone that seemed so happy could be in such pain inside. It made no sense to me and I felt regret for not reaching out to him. I felt ashamed to have been stressed about inconsequential things for so long and letting that affect my interactions with him. I let go of a lot of things that were going on because I needed things to settle down. A group of folks came to visit from the Bay and they probably have no idea how nice it was to see them and feel home for a second time this summer. Football started up again and I enjoyed many a Saturday and Sunday with homies in a bar. We found a bar with a $2 all you can eat tater tot mini bar. Not to mention $2 giant beer drafts. I saw Redbull Flugtag and the Chicago Airshow, which were both super fun. A very kind middle-aged man on my floor passed away. He always said something hip to me on the elevator. He was a huge Cubs fan and I had been meaning to take him out for a drink and catch a game. I hope the Cubs go far in the playoffs this year. Computer programming began to make sense. I taught people on my team at work how to program. I began teaching public speaking. The 8th graders I taught were incredible and inspirational. So many visitors came out to Chicago this summer. I'm very glad people have never been to Chicago and want to visit.
It's was a packed summer. The sad parts of it left me utterly lost. I walked around my block a lot. The other day I had what we call in design the "AHA" moment. It's was based on advice someone gave me earlier this summer:
"You know when you're doing something and you get that amazing positive feeling? (That great burning feeling in your heart). That's when you know you're doing something inline with your values (true self). Try focusing on those things and cutting out the other stuff."
Her point was that we have the choice of what we want to do (to some extent). Actively focus on the shit you really want to do. Stop going with the flow so much. Yayyuh? Yayyuh!
It's so simple but I had never sat down to think about it. So I did. Hmmmmm. India gives me that feeling. Meeting with a group of people I'm designing something for gives me that feeling. Teaching gives me that feeling. AHA! All of these things have merely been vehicles. I love hearing stories. It's about connection. It's about trying to make that connection with people. Hearing personal stories. It's what their stories say about them. Any story gives you so much more insight into a person than if they described themselves. Lending an ear to the voiceless. Drawing connections between people that would have never seen the connection between themselves.
The South African guide and I talked about the natural world and religion. I heard about how the Subway workers' families are still in Gujurat and felt how hard it must be for them to be alone in America. These are just two random groups of people I ran into on separate nights. Now think of all the people you know. People all around us have stories they want or even need to tell and it took me needing to get things off of my mind to remember that. I hope I get to thank them (and you) for listening. At some point, I would love to hear what feel good things you like doing in your life.