slubs in the city

Slub (adj): Maverick; unorthodox; independent in behavior or thought.


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i am minnesotan. talk weather to me.

Reflecting on Minnesota’s weather this morning (as Minnesotans are wont to do at intervals throughout the day), I realized that if and when I move away from my beloved North Star State, I’ll have to readjust the manner in which I approach reacting to climate conditions.

If Discovery’s breathtaking show North America has taught me anything, it’s that our continent is home to wigged-out bipolar weather patterns. Minnesota is no exception to this rule (as slub Kat pointed out in her weather post a few winters ago), a reality which has turned many of us people in the Land of Sky-Tinted Water into something of weather elitists. I’m aware of believing, at times, that Minnesotans have the market cornered on strange atmospheric phenomena; still, the rational side of me understands that every person feels as though their state has seen the craziest shit out there by far.

My personal situation may lead me to move to North Carolina at some point in the future – a land of rich and varied geography whose climate differs markedly, in many ways, from Minnesota’s. With this in mind, I’ve collected a list to remind myself of the many ways that I, as a Minnesotan Yank, can strive to be weather-conscious around North Carolinians and Southerners in general.

1. Respecting daylight hours.

I will: go about each day accomplishing great and productive things and contributing as a whole to society, regardless of when the suns rises and sets.

I will not: directly correlate the amount of time I spend in my pajamas to the amount of time I can see the sun. I will not cry tears of joy when the light comes early to the North Carolinian landscape on the Winter Solstice and lingers brightly for a full 9 hours and 47 minutes, as opposed to barely glinting for a measly 8 hours and 46 minutes in the Minneapolitan tundra. Neither will I cry tears of sorrow when those same warm rays bid adieu to Charlotte after 14 and a half hours of sunlight on the Summer Solstice, but stick around 15 and a half hours strong to party with Minnesota.

GLORIOUS SUN, I WORSHIP THEE. [image credit: here.]

GLORIOUS SUN, I WORSHIP THEE. [image credit: here.]

 2. Taking advantage of available natural resources.

I will: actively enjoy the nautical opportunities afforded by the three significant and beautiful bodies of water in Mecklenburg County: Lake Norman, Lake Wylie, and Mountain Island Lake.

I will not: turn into an urban water snob and bring up Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet, Lake Independence, Medicine Lake, Lake Minnetonka, or any the other 90 or so bodies of water in Hennepin County…at least, not too often.

3. Being sensitive to the “cold”.

I will: listen with polite silence, if not complete empathy, if a Southerner compatriot mourns her chilly fingertips when the temperature dips into the 30s on a particularly cold winter day.

I will not: scoff at her pain, inform her that she doesn’t know real cold until she’s experienced tear-frozen eyelashes and crystalized bones after laboring to free her vehicle from its snowdrift grave on a -50° windblown morning, and haughtily throw a pair of thickly lined gloves at her unprepared feet.

don't even talk to me about this. [image credit: ]

don’t even talk to me about this. [image credit: here]

4. Remaining cognizant of social norms.

I will: bring up the weather and its peculiarities when the topic is of particular saliency and I feel my listener would be open to exchanging a few words on the subject.

I will not: discuss atmospheric occurrences with anyone I meet – stranger or friend – with a vigor normally reserved for more globally accepted conversations, like sports or politics. In almost every other part of the nation, commenting on the weather is a way to create risk-free small talk when you don’t know someone well enough to analyze Desiree’s choices in Bachelorette man candy. In Minnesota, however, bringing up the weather is a signal that you’d like to have a deeply personal discussion with another individual on a topic of intense mutual interest to you both, and that you expect, in the course of the lengthy conversation, to cover your feelings about the temperature, the current state of your vehicle, your epic journey in venturing from Point A to Point B, and whether or not your house still has power.

5. Preparing for the heat.

I will: recognize that, in moving south of the Mason Dixon, I have now resigned myself to ridiculous humidity and suffocating heat on a regular, consistent basis. I will thusly approach summertime dress and activities like an enlightened adult.

I will not: mention to my Southern friends that Minnesota can get pretty sticky and unbearably hot once in a while too, because I’m sure their heat-hardened souls will dismiss my long-winded weather stories as they pour SPF 80 sunscreen on my head and leave me to sizzle on the frying pavement.

i have accepted my fate. just leave me here on this hot sidewalk to die. [image credit: ]

i have accepted my fate. just abandon me here on this hot sidewalk to die. [image credit: here]

When the time comes, wish me well, my fellow Minnesotan brothers in arms.

con amor,

shan


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to my future child, from your millennial mother.

To my dear future chubby-cheeks:

Lately, your future mother has been hearing a lot of noise about how her narcissistic generation needs to get over feeling like we’re anything special.

You see, a few years before you were born, I attended a Citizens League discussion titled “The Looming Intergenerational War”. The purpose of the dialogue: can entitled, liberal Millennials, ignored and indifferent GenXers, and social security-hogging Boomers sit in the same room without feeling the need to rip into each other for perceived affronts to their dignity and lifestyle? (Am I perhaps being hyperbolic, you ask? Pffft. As my child you should realize that I am never sarcastic. Ever.)

Say nothing about the conflict in Afghanistan: as I write this letter to you, my Millennial comrades and I are currently locked in a brutal socioeconomic fight to the death with our Boomer parents and even our GenXer older cousins. Why, you ask? Mainly because many major news outlets, politicians, and the Twitterverse have trumpeted in no uncertain terms that we are, in fact, at war. How can I possibly look at your grandparents now – my sworn enemies – without being moved to openly weep at the cruel fate that has placed us at opposite ends of the cultural battle field?

Future baby, here is the supposed plight of my Perez-loving soldiers in arms: our older coworkers call us lazy because we refuse to put in our time at the bottom of the employee food chain – after all, we’ve been so used to receiving trophies and accolades for our mediocre work that we now scoff at positions we deem “below us”. They say we whine incessantly (and unjustifiably) about Boomers leaving us to inherit a bleak economic future, even as we’re simultaneously instructed to get our s#!t together because Lord knows we won’t have social security to fall back on when we contemplate retirement. (Someday you and I will have an enlightening conversation about what that s-word means. Today is not that day.) We are looked down upon for being coddled, for having everything from grades to smartphones that we don’t deserve, for being unmotivated. Sometimes, we aren’t even called Millennials or Generation Y – our hugely inflated egos are more likely characterized by the moniker Generation Me.

Okay…seriously though, baby. I want you to know that, regardless of our age and generation – Boomer, Gen X, Millennial, what have you – very few of us today actually believe this crap.

Grandma and grandpa are not perfect (despite what they might tell you), but both your uncle and I will strongly assert that they brought us up in the best and most loving way they knew how. If my mom and dad have ever told me I’m good at something, it’s because I legitimately am. Listen baby, your momma is fully aware that she’s a hot mess when it comes to math and science. My pride has been kicked down a notch on more than one occasion regarding my (lack of) athletic and artistic abilities. So why is it such a complete and utter travesty that I’ve ever been encouraged for being good at something, like possessing a knack for written communication, or having talent with a musical instrument, or being able to think critically and objectively?

What’s more, some of the best praise I have ever received has come to me in the form of criticism. A story (and you’ll probably hear this one often, baby, so listen up): when I was a freshman in college, I pulled an all-nighter to write a large research paper for one class and a one-page literary response for another. Both were deplorable examples of scholarly work. However, when I received a check-minus on the one-page response (the symbolic equivalent of “at least you strung some letters together on a piece of paper…”), I was indignant and felt I had been misunderstood. I went to my professor’s office to plead my case and prove that my argument was clearly articulated and supported by textual evidence. He replied, “No, it wasn’t. You were wrong. I know what you’re capable of producing, and I will always expect more of you.” I thank God for that professor, and for the lasting impact he’s had on my self-esteem, because he was right: I can do better. Remember this, baby: regardless of your strengths, you should never assume you have learned all you could learn. We can all, always, do better.

Generational war is largely a myth, child of mine. Your generation will struggle to find its place in the world when you grow up, just as my generation is currently working to build a successful future that we can claim as our own. Rest assured that your grandparent’s generation, and generations of ancestors before them, has done the same. History can give us context for our decisions, but the only person responsible for your life is you.

Someday, baby, you will grow up and leave me. I can’t promise I’ll be the coolest mom in the world, and I can’t promise I’ll always do everything right by you, but I swear that I’ll raise you the best way I know how, just like your grandparents raised me. I will help you to recognize and to grow your talents, because without them, you won’t know how to establish your place in this huge world. And I will encourage you to surround yourself with people who are more talented in other ways than you, and who will give it to you straight when you need a slice of humble pie. You are not perfect, baby, and while you should be bold in the knowledge of your strengths, you must never forget to be vulnerable and open in your weaknesses.

And most of all, baby, I vow that you will always know that you’re special…because to me, you already are.

With love,

Your mother*

*Nope, I’m not currently pregnant. Hope we’re all on the same hypothetical page here.


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a field guide to understanding your introvert: PART TWO.

Do you have a friend, relative, spouse, and/or companion that you suspect of being an introvert? Are you a self-described extrovert that desires guidance in navigating the inner workings of your more reflective mates (we humans are such funny and complex creatures, aren’t we)? After reading Part One of this field guide, are you still perplexed by this quiet yet extraordinary culture of people? Please, take a moment – remember how we did it quietly last time? – to sample this second part of a comprehensive field guide to the introvert, compiled entirely from the author’s own enlightened, first-hand experience with this most subdued of sub-species.

1. Many introverts will complain excessively about their extroverted friends for a variety of reasons. Your introvert may find you to be any combination of noisy, compulsive, judgmental, exhausting, and/or unfiltered. If you are lucky, your introvert will have keen communication skills that she will utilize to explain her complaints to you. If you are unlucky, your introvert will find you annoyingly chatty but will never say so, and you will be left bewildered when she greets your detailed description of the 39 cat videos you’ve watched in the past hour with a disinterested glower.

Note: It is highly likely that your introvert is complaining about you because she is jealous of your social skills. Do not lord this reality over her. In fact, don’t mention to her that you think she’s envious of you at all. Females – regardless of their introverted or extroverted tendencies – do not like to be told that they’re “just jealous”.

2. Like the Moon to the Earth, introverts will gravitate to extroverts in an effort to reap the benefits of their superior social skills. Do you find it strange that your introvert prefers the company of extroverts at the start of a public function, as opposed to settling down on the couch with a red Solo cup and his best brofriend from the get-go? Your introvert, just like you, is highly aware of the social morays that dictate his world, and has no desire to find himself at the bottom of the food chain as a result of his introvertedness. Being a smart and capable individual, your introvert will have at least one extroverted friend in his arsenal of acquaintances who will be able to introduce him to others at parties and whom he can rely on to coax him into various socially acceptable activities throughout the night, like beer pong and spontaneous drunken dance interpretations of Gangnam Style.

Note: The introvert/extrovert relationship, while at times tempestuous, can also represent the perfect balance of yin and yang (SEE Part One, point 5). While the introvert can rely on his extrovert for a wild night out, the extrovert can likewise count on his introvert for a soothing night in.

3. Most introverts can trick others into thinking that they are extroverts by mimicking their extroverted companions’ activities, actions, and vocal volumes. The author of this field guide has surmised that this is because introverts are actually superheroes. By day, the introvert will don her Clark Kent suit and tie, mixing with the public confidently as she outwardly expresses her opinions, doles out her business cards, discusses retirement saving tactics and The Bachelor with her girlfriends over coffee, and busts out a painful rendition of Single Ladies at karaoke night. When she is finally alone in the comfort of her quiet home, however, the introvert’s true superpowers are at play. Donning her super suit (which, to the untrained eye, would resemble a stained t-shirt and a pair of ragged sweatpants), the introvert superhero will thoughtfully and methodically solve every single one of the world’s problems in the hazy twilight interim between asleep and awake.

Note: Introverts really are superheroes. It’s time the world knew.

an effective introvert super suit. [image credit: here.]

4. Introverts have the ability to sit in silence with other introverts and not feel awkward about it. This strange phenomenon is captured very effectively by Emily Blunt and Jason Segel in the movie The Five Year Engagement. Tom (Segel) has just had a fight with Violet (Blunt), and tells her that he needs to be alone with his thoughts for a while. Confused, Violet starts to leave their bedroom to give Tom the space he’s asked for. When Tom sees Violet heading for the door, he stops her, slightly incredulous, and says, “I don’t want you to go. I just need to be alone, with you here.” Likewise, your introvert genuinely enjoys being around other people, but is just as happy to be around them in silence as she is to be around them with conversation.

Note: If you watched The Five Year Engagement and didn’t understand Jason Segel’s character at all during the above mentioned scene, it might be a sign that you are an extrovert. It might also be a sign that you thought the movie was super lame. It is up to you to be the judge of that.

5. Introverts, like extroverts, defy categorization, and as such this entire field guide must be taken with a grain of salt. The author of this field guide, for example, is an introvert who expresses many characteristics that would typically be considered “extroverted”. Human nature is inherently incapable of concrete definition, which means that we are all beautiful and insanely infuriating subjects for science.

Thus ends this current version of A Field Guide to Understanding Your Introvert. The author hopes that it has been somewhat enlightening to extroverts everywhere, and that it will temper their thoughts and feelings about the quieter side of humanity. This list is not exhaustive, however; as such, the author readily welcomes additions and comments to enhance this field guide.

Carry on in peace, my introverted superhero brethren.

— shan


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a field guide to understanding your introvert: PART ONE.

Do you have a friend, relative, spouse, and/or companion that you suspect of being an introvert? Are you a self-described extrovert that desires guidance in navigating the inner workings of your more reflective mates (we humans are such funny and complex creatures, aren’t we)? Please, take a moment – preferably a quiet moment, I know you can do it – to sample this first part of a comprehensive field guide to the introvert, compiled entirely from the author’s own enlightened, first-hand experience with this most subdued of sub-species*.

a wild introvert in her natural state, as depicted by Hyperbole and a Half. fascinating.

1. Alone time ≠ social reject in 9 out of 10 cases of introverts. Did your introvert excuse himself from going with you to a raucous party? Do not worry. He is not being a flake (most likely). Gently remind him that he would probably have fun, because after all, people like him and he likes people. If he still politely deflects your social aspirations, fret not – he simply needs to recharge his battery in peace. In no time at all he’ll be ready to fist pump and white-boy dance with the best of them.

Note: If you decide to go to the party without your introvert, do not be too upset when he texts you later explaining that he made a mistake in staying in and that you were right, he wants to rage. He is only human after all. Permit yourself a sigh and then continue with your life – tension’s no fun.

2. Do try to censor yourself a bitin this way, you’ll be extending the same courtesy to your introvert that she is likely showing to you. Are you trying to bounce a thought off your introvert? If she isn’t saying much, it’s not necessarily because she’s bored or mute or finds you to be moronic (although, to be safe, don’t always rule these options out). Rather, it is highly likely that she’s been internally weighing the value of her thoughts and opinions, and is very precisely sifting through all of her possible comments to present you with the best imaginable response. Value the effort that goes into such internal processing, even if you cannot fathom it.

Note: Understand, extroverted partner, that most often she finds your extraordinary external communication abilities to be endearing and will concede that you often help her to think outside the box. Sometimes, however, you must realize that she genuinely believes that 95% of the words spewing volcanically from your mouth are complete crap and should have remained as mere thoughts in your head.

3. Be thoughtful when pulling your introvert unwillingly into a social situation if he has not placed himself there of his own accord. For example, are you a college professor that subscribes to the Socratic method of conversational learning and requires each of your students to speak at least once a class period, or risk a lower grade? If so, your introverted students do not think you are brilliant and in fact do not care much for you at all. Just so you know.

Note: The author of this field guide has a very large amount of respect for college professors and their mammoth, unenviable task of teaching all students regardless of learning style.

Updated note: The author of this field guide admittedly would have preferred not to have spent money learning from one or two of her college professors. There – that’s my one contribution to today’s discussion. Enjoy.

4. Exercise control over your facial expressions when reacting to your introvert. Yes, it is very likely that she will interact with her world in ways that you don’t understand, but there is no need for ridiculous displays of guffawing or eyebrow-raising. Suppose you are telling your introvert about a movie that you’d like to see with a group of friends, and she mentions that she’s seen that movie and enjoyed it immensely. You were not aware that she’d been to the theater lately, so you ask who she went to see the film with. When she responds, “I didn’t go with anyone. It’s fun to go to the movies on your own, you know,” do not stare blankly at her in confusion. She will not appreciate your judgment. Just smile and nod, even though you could think of about a zillion other things that would be more fun than going to the movies by yourself.

Note: In the name of science, the author of this field guide recommends that you try going to the theater alone at least once in your life. You may even become addicted to the freedom you gain when you realize you don’t have to share your popcorn with anyone.

5. Remove your introvert to a quieter environment when he becomes cranky and no longer finds your off-color Apples to Apples word pairings even remotely amusing. It is likely that he is feeling fatigued by being “on” in a given social setting for a long period of time, and would appreciate a moment in a less stimulating atmosphere (SEE point 1, above). On the other hand, it is recommended that you likewise allow your introvert to help you relax a bit – it’s not always essential for the extrovert to set his or her life meter to Kenyan Runner Warp Speed. Your introvert is a thoughtful, reflective, intuitive and empathetic being; just as you help them to find quiet when they become insufferably bitchy, so too must they aid you in becoming less of a preachy loudmouth.

Note: If your introvert is in need of some alone time but is stubbornly refusing to leave the party, drop the issue and go back to your Apples to Apples witticisms. Being an ass is not a hallmark of the introverted soul – it is simply an indication that your introvert is also (albeit temporarily) an ass. Take heed and proceed with caution. And remember, extrovert, sometimes you can be an ass too.

And now — A Field Guide to Understanding Your Introvert: PART TWO.

–shan

*The author of this field guide would like to concede that, as a social scientist, she is fully aware that not all introverts uniformly act in the above stated manner, nor that all extroverts exhibit egregiously insane social tendencies. The author of this field guide would also like the reader of this field guide to approach all commentary with a sense of humor. Thank you.


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interesting. mclovin appears to be more successful than i.

Some rare days, I’m quite productive. Earlier this week I went to work and contributed my thoughts and talents to the greater Thrivent good, and then I went home to drop off my dry cleaning, go grocery shopping, clean my room, and pay a dental bill. And then I rewarded myself for showing some initiative by watched the Bachelorette.

First, if you would like to understand why I watch this show, I will refer you to this post as it explains my feelings about the entire Bachelor(ette) franchise. And let’s not fool ourselves by pretending you don’t “occasionally” watch guilty pleasure trashy TV.

To acquaint the audience with the contestants on the Bachelorette (and undoubtedly force them into a subtle yet undeniable emotional connection to one contestant over another), the show’s producers regularly flash the name and age of each contestant being interviewed during their regular video diary session. At the beginning of the season, when viewers are still trying in vain to recognize any of the multitudes of faces on the show, the producers also display the occupation of each contestant.

This season of the Bachelorette introduced us to “One F” Jef Holm, who is vying for backwoods hoodrat Bachelorette Emily Maynard’s heart with a powerful hipster combination of skinny jeans, skateboard skills and a killer bouffant. A few years ago Jef founded his own social enterprise, People Water, which provides clean water to one person in need for every bottle of People Water sold. Jef is 27 and actively working to change the world.

basically true love. their individually perfect hair alone screams chemistry. [image credit: here.]

I find this depressing. Some days it’s very difficult for me to do simple things like brush my teeth or change out of my pajamas or crawl out of bed to eat lunch. But I have the rest of my life ahead of me to make a name for myself and my pajamas are more comfortable than business casual anyway.

Apparently, however, there are many people – I’m looking at you One F Jef – who get off on achieving big at a young age. And to them I say, with only the smallest amount of envy: hats off.  

5 notably accomplished young people:

  • Tatum O’Neil is the youngest person ever to win a competitive Academy Award, having received the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1974 at the age of 10. By the time she was 23, O’Neil had been involved with 8 film productions.
  • Blaise Pascal discovered Pascal’s Theorem in 1639, at the age of 16. When he was 23, Pascal was busy conducting experiments with barrels to establish Pascal’s Law, also known as the principle of transmission of fluid-pressure.
  • William “Willie” Johnston is the youngest American to receive a Medal of Honor, earning the award in 1862 when he was cited as the only drummer boy to bring his instrument off the battlefield during the Seven Days Battles. Johnston was 11 at the time of the citation and 13 when he was presented with the Medal.
  • Joan of Arc played a folkloric role in aiding the French army to victory during the 1428-29 siege of Orléans, when she was about 17. This historic triumph paved the way for the July 1429 coronation of Charles VII. Two years later, at the age of 19, Joan was burned at the stake for heresy.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart“penned” his first musical composition, Andante in C for Keyboard, in early 1761, when he was 5. The piece was notated by his father, given his youth. At the age of 23, Mozart had composed over 300 of his eventual 626 musical works.

    one badass french peasant. [image credit: here.]

5 people whose accomplishments at the age of 23 represent the stuff my dreams are made of:

  • Orson Welles directed, narrated and starred in the infamous radio broadcast War of the Worlds, terrifying millions of listeners and landing him the cover of the May 9th, 1938 edition of Time – 3 days after his 23rd birthday.
  • Alexander Pope published one of his earliest poems, An Essay on Criticism, at the age of 23. The poem includes two still-famous lines: “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread”, and “To err is human, to forgive is divine”. Behind Shakespeare and Tennyson, Pope is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.
  • Jane Austen had written initial or final drafts of three novels by the time she was 23 – including her two arguably most famous works, Sense and Sensibility (published in 1811) and Pride and Prejudice (published in 1813).
  • Jack Nicklaus is a professional golfer who won his first Masters Tournament in 1963 at the age of 23. Nicklaus holds the record for the most Masters won (claiming victory a total of six times) and for being the oldest winner of a Masters when he was 46.
  • Isabella I of Castille ascended to the Spanish throne of Castile and León in 1474 when she was 23. Along with her husband, Fedinand II, Isabella would go down in history for completing the reconquistaof the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslim kingdoms collectively known as Al-Andalus and for financing Christopher Colombus’ famous 1492 voyage.

    just convincin’ our terrified citizenry that aliens are attacking. nbd. [image credit: here.]

And for your pleasure, here are 10 modern-day 23 year olds who are more famous than you and I will ever be:

  1. Julianne Hough, dancer… and country music singer? And actress? Really Wikipedia? (born July 20th, 1988)
  2. Princess Beatrice of York, royal and first female in the line of succession…but fifth overall for the crown (born August 8th, 1988)
  3. Rupert Grint, Ron Weasley…er, actor (born August 24th, 1988)
  4. Candice Swanepoel, Victoria’s Secret model, like whatevs (born October 20th, 1988)
  5. Emma Stone, my personal favorite young actress(born November 6th, 1988 – one day before me, which puts my life in dismal perspective)
  6. Hayley Williams, lead singer of Paramore (born December 27th, 1988)
  7. Elizabeth Olsen, actress and apparently related to the more famous Olsen twins (born February 16th 1989)
  8. Chord Overstreet, trouty-mouth Gleek (born February 17th, 1989)
  9. Chris Brown, singer on many peoples’ shit list (born May 5th, 1989)
  10. Christopher Mintz-Plasse, only known as McLovin (born June 20th, 1989)

23-year-old, cute, spunky redhead — emma or shannon? you decide. [image credit: here.]

con amor,

shan


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this is for you.

According to the US Census Bureau, there are over 7 billion people sharing our planet today. There are 7 billion people eating breakfast, talking on the phone, walking to work. 7 billion of us are brushing our teeth, becoming a parent for the first time, battling a disease, losing a loved one. Throwing a baseball, throwing a tantrum. Doing our homework. Singing and dancing. Shouting and fighting. Giggling. Weeping.

Over 7 billion people are living today. Isn’t it ironic, then, that in a moment any one of us can feel alone?

To date, our blog has been mostly about happy events and solitary reflections. But to me, the purpose of blogging – more broadly, of writing in general – is to chronicle a variety of emotions and experiences. Not every day is going to be a happy one. It can’t be, and it shouldn’t be, and that is a reality which every person in this sea of 7 billion must reconcile himself or herself to. Sometimes our day doesn’t end on a good note, but that’s all part of being one in 7 billion, and in certain instances a lack of Hollywood-like resolution should be embraced.

Aside from serving a functional purpose, in taking the bus I have found that public transportation can also provide a study in the human condition. I have overheard plenty of congenial and warm conversations, but I have also been witness to tense phone calls and outright verbal warfare. Some people quietly read a book or fiddle with their technology. A few listen to music.

Others, though, stare listlessly at their hands, at the passengers sitting near them, or out the window. Sometimes these individuals convey a sense of thoughtfulness, and I wonder what images or stories must be playing through their preoccupied minds. Sometimes they seem to imply a sense of weight, and I wonder what their lives have witnessed.

I was struck by these same reflections yesterday as I served an afternoon meal at a homeless shelter in downtown Minneapolis. Many of the individuals who wandered through the doors of House of Charity were polite, well-spoken and well mannered. They said “please” and “thank you”, just like my parents taught me to do, and they sat down to their meal with friendly conversation for whoever wished to join them at one of a few dozen communal tables.

Like on the bus, though, some of the individuals seeking a warm meal and a sturdy chair came to the shelter wearing their unhappiness on their sleeves. A few stumbled through the line, clearly intoxicated. A couple chatted nervously to themselves and to the servers. Many held their trays out to receive food, neither speaking with the volunteers nor making eye contact. Who has the right or the responsibility to judge their story? Who among us at the shelter was spotless enough to throw the first stone at the drunk, the drugged, the mute? I wondered at their lives as I passed out rolls and slices of bread. Some of those individuals no doubt had every reason to be heartsick. But while I was serving food from the other side of the table, with my own lunch waiting for me back at work, I couldn’t help but feel that our experiences might in some basic way be similar. I have felt the expressions of contentment and doubt that are reflected on the faces of bus passengers and meal-seekers alike register in my own features.

And yet their experiences are not mine, and mine are not theirs. Our world may be tumbling into the dangers of overpopulation but we each have our own lives to straighten out.

When I spend time wandering aimlessly through an internal dialogue on the human condition – what makes us be happy, and what makes us be sad – I find personal inspiration in the poetry of Brian Andreas. His written work is a mixture of simple statements and bold theories, and is illustrated by strange and fantastical representations of human beings that oftentimes I don’t understand. It’s one thing to document experiences with strangers on the bus and at the soup kitchen, but since Andreas has captured that quiet part of me that resonates with beauty and despair alike I wanted to end this post by sharing one of his best pieces. This is for you.

[image credit: here.]

con amor,

shan