“How are you?” She asked, standing on the corner of 42nd and Tillamook, waiting next to me for the light to change. I turned, headphones in, sunglasses on, fairly hungover on a Thursday afternoon. As I turned, and she looked up at me. This mid-50s hippie woman, red hair in braids, with a kind expression, framing kind eyes. I definitely did not know her.
“I’m fine, thanks, how are you?” This town is full of hippies and weirdos, homeless and eccentrics. This exchange was not completely out of the norm, yet she didn’t neatly fall into any of those boxes.
“Are you okay?” She asked gently. Staring at me intensely, but in a way that expressed concern, compassion. Not quite a smile on her lips, but more of an easy understanding. The type you share with an old friend.
“I will be.” I said. But in that moment, I was very much not fine. I was anything but fine. At that moment, before she broke through my cloud of self-loathing, insecurity, sadness and anger; I couldn’t decide whether to take off for South America, cry, or jump off the Fremont bridge. I looked at her, my eyes still behind dark glasses, and tried not to cry.
“Yes, I believe you will be.” And with that, the light turned, and we went our separate ways. I took a deep breathe, and watched her walk away without hesitation.
Six days ago, I either quit my job, or got fired. I’m still not exactly sure which. One of those awesome stories you see in a movie, “you can’t fire me, I quit!” is really not that awesome in real life. Six years at a company I truly enjoyed, with people I enjoyed, and I was too stubborn to make it work. One day ago, I got dropped by a girl who I really thought I had a future with. A lovely girl, who I truly adored. I was feeling very lost and out of control in my life. I got to be a certain age, my mid 30s to be exact, where I thought I had some things figured out. I can rationally look at it, and understand that no one truly ever has it figured out, that life is journey, an adventure, and we’re constantly learning and evolving along the way, but in that moment, I was not rational.
How did she know? How could that woman on the street possibly have known? I was wearing a ball cap, big sunglasses, had my headphones in…the universal sign of, “I’m not interested in talking to you.” And yet she did, she reached out to a stranger, because she knew that stranger needed it. She could feel it. I am grateful to that woman.
And I am not okay, but I will be.