I met someone.
I know it happens every day to literally everyone. But for me, meeting this someone was a very big deal.
I was at work, at my store double-masked and keeping a mental headcount of how many people were in the building. While wondering how long it had been since I last washed my hands. So, you know, a typical day in this pandemic life we are all living.
It was a slow day, I was bored, tired and wishing I’d just stayed at home. It was only the beginning of my shift so believe me when I say the outlook wasn’t great. It looked like it was going to be another boring day.
So, I’m going through the motions and counting down the minutes to when I’ll be free when it happens. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a guy walk in. Now I don’t even consider giving this guy, let’s call him Joe, a second glance. But then Joe walks right up to me. Forcing me to, you know, actually do my job and help him.
But here’s the thing, about 10 seconds into our interaction I found myself wanting to help him.
He didn’t stay long, less than 10 minutes. I helped him find a gift for his mom, we chatted about sports or weather or something or other then he left. That was it.
Sounds simple. It went like most of my more pleasant interactions at my job but this one was so different from all the others, because I was genuinely intrigued.
For over a year, the idea of new meeting people had been terrifying.
Somewhere in the back of my mind physical interactions equated to death.
When I finally had to go back to work I cried….a lot. I genuinely thought about quitting my job. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t fathom the idea of once again being surrounded by people. Especially not strangers.
Now don’t get me wrong, I still loved being social. I chatted with my neighbors from across the street as we stay apart. I spent hours talking on the phone, the Marco Polo app had become my new best friend. I even dubbed myself the Queen of virtual everything – happy hours, brunches, tea times, game nights, baby showers – I’ve done them all and even hosted a few.
For a year (and change) these forms of connection were my lifeline. But when the only way you connect to other humans is virtually you still manage to miss out on a lot.
I tend to be more extroverted, so for pre-pandemic Jasmine going out was a source of joy. I loved conferences and parties and group workouts! And bowling, god do you remember bowling!? Pot lucks, BBQs, housewarming parties. If there was a group of people and ideally food then you could count me in!
But then after last March meeting people in real life was no longer exciting, it was really scary. It meant danger. It meant Covid. It was an unnecessary risk that I could not fathom taking.
But then I met Joe.
I met Joe and for a moment it felt like the old days. I wasn’t worried about physical distance or vaccinations. I was just intrigued by the person in front of me. I met him and I felt titillated, I was giddy. I got that euphoric rush similar to that of a school kid crush. You know the feeling when you meet someone new and even if there is zero chance of it going anywhere it’s the possibility.
It’s the full-body excitement to dive headfirst into what could be. It’s the bit of nervousness when you’re talking and not entirely sure where it will go but you hope.
I was charmed and my interest was piqued, and after he left I realized I couldn’t remember the last time that had happened.
Before that, guests coming in and interacting with me caused annoyance, anger and anxiety.
But with Joe, I felt different… I felt a little bit like the old me. I felt excited about meeting someone new IRL. For the first time in a very long time connecting wasn’t a struggle, it was nice. It was fun and energizing. I was hyped up and elated. It felt like I was waking up from some sad, depressed daze, which in a way I kind of was.
Odds are I will never see this guy again. But I am so incredibly glad I met him because he reminded me of something very important.
This season of life is only temporary.
This pandemic will end. There is a light at the end of this incredibly long, windy horrible tunnel we are in and every day it gets a little bit brighter.
All the things we missed. All the things we stopped doing last year will make their way back to us. We’ll give hugs, see family and friends and start traveling. We can start going on dates in coffee shops instead of on screens. Casual hookups will make a comeback. Who knows, maybe “I’m fully vaxed” will be the new “u up?”
Bars, parties, movies, gatherings big or small but most importantly mask free are all things we can do if we stay on our current track. And If we can learn to live with germs again then the possibilities are absolutely endless.
I have something I haven’t had in what feels like forever…I have hope.
Real, unwavering, bone-deep HOPE. That we will get there. We will move forward. This will get better.
Sometimes all it takes is a simple reminder of that fact.
Sometimes all it takes–is meeting a stranger.