NOTE: This is a continuation of the previous post, Serendipitous Encounters (Pt. 1). Click link before proceeding. Thanks!
As I reflect back, the emergence of all these perfect strangers into my life feels almost surreal. Each serendipitous encounter I’ve experienced has seemed more dream than reality. But the proof of their happening lies in the marks each person has left on me.
And what’s scary for me to think about now is the realization that if I didn’t open myself up to the world and engage with people outside of my social realm I never would have found these people. They never would have existed for me at all and my life would have remained unchanged.
But I did open myself up. I did put myself in situations where these encounters could take place. I did keep an open mind with each person I met because I knew that they had something to teach me.
My goal, with this Serendipitous Encounters post and others to come, is to show you what’s possible if you open yourself up to this world and the people within it. To show you what can happen if you go beyond a polite hello and seek out commonalities with a stranger.
I want to show you what can happen if you start believing there are other people going through the same struggles as you and that we can all help each other. Because the truth is we are never alone. We can find people who are just like us. We just need to start looking…
The story of this encounter starts at London Heathrow Airport on the tail end of a family trip through Europe this past spring. We were getting ready to board our flight home to Boston, only to get the dreaded news that our plane would be delayed for three full hours. But what stemmed from this awful delay was an encounter that would forever change me.
Shortly after the announcement of our delay I grabbed a seat near an outlet to charge my computer and next to me was a woman who had the same idea. At first we exchanged polite outlet-etiquette smiles and carried on about our normal business.
Eventually though, a conversation cropped up. And what started out as common courtesies and a discussion about our delayed flight soon escalated into a much deeper dialogue. On top of enjoying her British accent I came to find she was personable, clever and curious. Her name was Preenie, a British-Indian woman who was about my age and had grown up in Notting Hill, London.
Within several minutes of our talk and as I uncovered more about her life, I found that Preenie’s story encapsulated me. She worked both as a psychologist and an airline stewardess. She had patients scattered across the world and when she wasn’t seeing them she flew to any exotic country she pleased.
Though she was the same age as me, she had been traveling the world for years and had been to more countries than I could name. She told me stories about her trips to South Africa, Chile and Thailand. She had an incredible global perspective and an open mind. But our curiosity with each other didn’t end with our lust for travel.
We talked all about her profession as a psychologist as it was a topic I had always had interest in but had chosen to veer away from it in college for more “practical” studies. We talked about my career progression and aspirations to be a blogger.
But perhaps the most fortuitous moment in our conversation came later when I had an odd urge to show her the book I had been reading. As I showed her my book, Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian L. Weiss, I watched her eyes open wide in disbelief. This lesser-known book happened to be one of her favorites and by a professor in her field she had coveted for years.
How did I, a salesman from Boston, come across such a book? A book that touched on such topics as past-life regression and reincarnation. A book that many people would disregard as folly upon reading the back cover. Well this book, which I had borrowed from friends in Cambridge a few weeks prior, lifted my relationship with Preenie to the next level.
We proceeded to talk for hours about the meaning of life and death and our place in the world. I had engaged in a type of conversation with a perfect stranger that I rarely can find in my normal day-to-day life. A conversation that stirred me in a way I find hard to understand and impossible to describe – A conversation that seemed otherworldly.
When we parted that day we exchanged information, as she would be coming back through Boston on her way home two weeks later. We made plans to have coffee in Boston’s South End to engage in our dialogue once more.
During that afternoon at the coffee shop we discussed in depth our most sacred life stories and struggles and it all seemed completely natural. I told her things I had only shared with a handful of people in my life. Within that conversation she helped reaffirm my belief that I needed to redirect my life and even gave me a book to help with the transition called Experiencing Endings and Beginnings by Isca Salzberger-Wittenberg.
Later that afternoon we said goodbye once more as she was headed back to London. And while I have not seen her since she exists both through the book she lent me and through our periodic check-ins. In fact, I know she is reading this blog right now and is one of my biggest supporters.
So in the end, what started as a circumstantial encounter at Heathrow Airport turned into a new meaningful relationship for both of us. And what’s frightening for me to think about now as I reflect back on this moment is that the older version of me never would have allowed this relationship to manifest.
The old me would have been polite and courteous sure, but not as curious as I was that day at the airport. The old me would have tried to shut down the conversation at the earliest chance so I could go back to my world, to my box. But the new me is curious. The new me is not timid. The new me believes in an interconnected world.
Yes, it’s true that Preenie and I appeared on the surface to be completely different people. We had different upbringings, different professions and are part of a different culture.
But when it comes down to it we were able to overcome all of these differences and connect on a profound level. The whole time we spoke it was as if we knew each other. We understood each other. We could relate to each other’s problems. And we both were asking the same questions about life.
That day in the airport, this serendipitous encounter turned into a life-altering conversation with a perfect stranger. Preenie’s affects on me could be felt those two days we spoke and still carries through me as I type these words today.
Whether she knows it or not, she has encouraged me to go further down my path of self-discovery. She saw a potential in me that I could barely even see at the time in myself. She is a believer and a dreamer. She is the type of person I want to surround myself with. She is part of this world that I want to get closer to and why I won’t stop looking until I get there.