Hello World. I'm Ankita.

Technology, Innovation, Impact. Humor on the side.

“Strangers, Then Fiction”

I became highly interested in psychology when I was quite young. During one “researching” escapade—while reading anything [kid-friendly] that made sense of human senses in a rather senseless/irrational world—I realized humanity’s dirty little secret. Well, perhaps not a ‘secret’ per se but something so simple, so blatant and yet so very much overlooked:

We are all the protagonists to our mind’s story.

In our conscious mind we are the lead actors, the heros, the main character. Never really is there a time when your mind naturally perceives you to be in a supporting-role to someone else’s story. And, this is true for all 7 billion+ humans on the planet. I don’t know why this was such an epiphany for me; however, ever since that realization I have made a conscious effort to immerse myself into deeper understanding other strangers’ stories whenever possible.

Once, when at a hotel with some spare time after finishing up at a national out-of-state competition during high school, I quite literally rode the same elevator up-and-down for 2 hours. I took the concept of an “elevator pitch” and turned it around. Instead of focusing on myself, I tried to learn about my elevator-mates and make a real human connection with at least one of them.

I’m also generally THAT person on planes. Assuming it’s not a red-eye flight or a quick flight and my seatmate(s) are not conspicuously engrossed in something else, I try to weasel in deeper conversations. On air carriers like Southwest, where you choose your seat, I’ll sometimes intentionally choose the middle seat between seemingly opposite individuals and make a game out of it: how long will it take me before I can discover a topic that engages both individuals in conversation? I’ve learned so much about life, loss, love and struggles from these conversations. And, people have really surprised me…

There was the brunette woman, who kept her sunglasses on the whole flight between Austin and LA. She turned out to be an animator by profession and had worked to develop the dinosaurs for the film Jurassic Park. She kept me laughing as she slowly revealed stories of mistakes that I (and any casual movie-watcher) would have missed.

And, there was the blind African American man who sat next to me between New York City and Houston. He was graying and talked in low, hushed voice – but you could feel his excitement as he talked about being reunited with his wife. He recounted tales of prom, proposal, anti-segregation activism (all with his sweetheart in tow). After we landed I noticed tears coming down from behind his glasses…and shortly thereafter learned that his wife had actually passed away 11 years prior and he made a yearly pilgrimage to visit her grave in Houston.

With such richness in humanity, why do so many of us actively ignore rather than actively engage with those around us? If you have the opportunity to make a human connection – why don’t you?

After all…strangers’ stories are just as interesting (if not more) than fiction…

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This entry was posted on January 14, 2014 by in Social Good, Travel and tagged , , , , .
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