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Embracing Spontaneity: A Lesson in Happiness with strangers

It’s 6am on Sunday morning and I’m sitting at Starbucks with a big coffee, a pen and a notebook. There may or may not be an apple fritter on the table as well, that you will never know.




As an insomniac it is quite rare for me to be awake at this time, unless I am still awake from the prior evening. Today however, I am not only awake and refreshed from a few hours of sleep, but overflowing with enthusiasm to write this post, as I think it is a very important message that I am going to share with you today. I’ve found recently that as an aspiring writer when an idea hits you, it is vital to record your thoughts while your brain is stimulated with these ideas, otherwise they may be lost by the time that you sit down to put them in print.


This morning I awoke at 5:24 and was unable to fall back asleep, thoughts of the prior evening still fresh in my mind. After taking Bill the dog (take a drink, if you have a beer cracked at home) out for a pee, I decided to head out and start my day. So here I am…


While last night started similarly to many Saturday nights in the past as my brother and I stopped for a drink, it turned in to an amazing evening with new friends.


I’m going to mess up the flow here and segway intentionally to point out an important idea. A vital practice that I advise to everyone, is setting some time aside each week to lose yourself in time and be 100% in the moment with friends and family. What I mean by this is not setting aside 45 minutes to rush through a dinner, but spending a minimum of 2-3 hours to become involved in deep thoughtful conversation with friends and family. While time management is an extremely important business practice, applying the same laws to your personal life can potentially stunt your emotional growth. Turn off your cell phone, put your watch in your pocket and take this time to not worry about anything but enjoying each others company.


The culture in the US these days is so fast paced that it is easy to let yourself breeze through life on a set schedule, not allowing for randomness and spontaneity. These principals are often the catalysts that seem to drive the most rewarding and memorable experiences in life and should not be overlooked. One such experience occurred just last evening…


Bellied up to a six seat table at the Diamond Knot Brewery on the waterfront in Mukilteo, WA, I sat alone as my brother sprang for a smoke outside. Now I am not one of those people who can’t sit in a restaurant alone, but in a bar that is standing room only on Saturdays, it’s hard not to feel like an asshole that is inconsiderately stretching his legs at such a large table as others wait.


Luckily, after a few minutes Steve reappeared with some new friends he met while outside (social smoker). I briefly contemplated the idea of taking up smoking as a means of bringing new and interesting people into my life. I concluded that maybe it’d be better for my health if I just hung out with Steve more often.

Our new guests were a couple from Kent, WA, a city about an hour or so south. We’ll call them Bob and Cindy to protect their identities, and also because I’m horrible at remembering names. They came up north as a plumbing issue was fixed in their home and planned on finding a hotel nearby. Apparently this nice couple decided to make the most of they’re plumbing induced vacation by having some drinks at a local brewery. We learned that Bob was a home brewer and they had made a habit of checking out local breweries for comparisons sake. Cindy was excited to hear that I was an aspiring travel writer. She explained how she had worked in the travel industry a few years back before switching to a better paying position at a law firm. Travel still was clearly a passion of hers as she described her goal of seeing each continent and one hundred countries.

A fun conversation ensued with topics ranging from my upcoming travels to their daughters crush on New York Yankee outfielder Nick Swisher. Before departing, they invited us to their annual 4th of July party at their Lake home, I thought of how fun and random such an experience might be. It is amazing how much fun can be had by simply opening ones heart to a stranger.


As Bob and Cindy exited, my friend Ashley and her parents arrived. I had met her mother once before and enjoyed her company. She was a “cool mom”, much like I consider my own mom to be. Not the kind that wears Abercromie jeans and flirts with college kids, but the kind with a young spirit and infectious laugh that brightens the mood. Her father, I had never met and to be honest, I was a bit nervous to do so. I always have dreaded the initial meeting of any girls’ father no matter who it is. Images pop into my head, of a drill sergeant quizzing me down with “What are your intentions with my daughter?” type questions, that I struggle to answer while simultaneously trying to appease all parties present.


Luckily her Dad turned out to be a nice, laid back guy who drank beer and talked baseball with us. It seems often times that my biggest fears are those that never actually materialize anywhere except in my own creative imagination.


Time flew by aided by two pitchers of beer and an intriguing conversation. We spoke of Argentine cuisine in Frankfurt and of my exploits in high school Spanish class. As it got late and the bar started to thin, we said our good bye’s and headed home. Before falling asleep, I made a mental note to embrace spontaneity and set aside at least 6-8 hours each week for such experiences.


I find the lives of others extremely fascinating. This is likely why travel protrudes as such an attractive activity in my mind. While I’m a tireless reader, it seems some of the best stories can be found on a barstool and equipped with years of inflating embellishment. While I’ve often attempted to take a solitary approach to life, keeping few friends I haven’t known since youth, I find that with age, the tales of friendly bar patrons become fascinating and the friends made in the process are priceless.


My message today is this, embrace strangers with open arms and dedicate time to friends and family. The emotional enrichment and unforgettable memories that you will enjoy are well worth the time spent. Don’t be distracted by the everyday struggle for material happiness because it is an illusion. True happiness is made through life experiences with amazing people and is impossible to find without a ready mind and an open heart. Any pursuit without these things is futile.


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