Connections: Missed and Otherwise

Recently, for the first time in over a decade, I posted a Missed Connection. It read:

I was sitting on the bench below where you were standing and was peeking at the table of contents in your copy of The Economist on the Q train this morning around 9:15. It was really cute the way you caught me and I wished I would have struck up more of a conversation with you, but my brain was foggy + pre-coffee at that particular moment.

I will never ride the Q at that hour decaffeinated again. Promise. Can I see you again? I have so much to say about your freckles, the primaries, the $20 dollar bill, and India’s rural economy……Sarah

I checked back a few hours later to find a flooded inbox of men telling me about their magazine reading habits, their commute patterns, and their feelings on the macroeconomic climate in general. I guess the 90’s really are back and people still do missed connections.

While my train car neighbor did not emerge in the responses to my post, I learned that people still troll missed connections all the time looking to expand a fleeting, but real moment they shared with someone. A glance that lasts a few seconds too long. Friendly banter in the coffee cart line. An intoxicating cloud of perfume in the revolving door quadrant. A regular customer who stopped coming in. Each seeking to learn whether a moment that meant something to them was reciprocal.

One guy was particularly persistent and really wanted to meet. He said he could get on a Q train and asked which car I preferred. He would be there. Waiting. With this week’s copy of The Economist. For various reasons I won’t get into here, I did not meet him, but I did continue the conversation with him. It was exciting to me that I didn’t know his age, his job, his income bracket, his race, his height and weight and BMI, how much education he had, what he smells like, what kind of music he likes, etc. The same held true for him. I decided this was THE PERFECT time for the Aron questions and an experiment with getting real.

“What is your greatest fear?” , “What are you proudest of?”, “Do you want to be famous?”

It was AMAZING to ask and answer those questions and to learn how similar we are, at an emotional level without all that other stuff that makes us feel so different from each other. How when you boil it all down, we want to be safe, loved, shown respect, and to feel joy and meaning in the things we make.

I’m exploring the idea of authenticity a lot right now. In architecting my supply chain, in steering a company built on good ethics, in a new venture Leah and I are announcing this week, in deepening friendships and understanding what levels of authenticity I expect in myself and what levels I expect of others.

It’s almost trite to say it at this point, but I’m struck by how many times I find myself in a dumbstruck state of disbelief in the wake of unfathomable current events: Brexit, the horrible tragedy at Pulse in Orlando, ISIS, Rodrigo Duterte and Trump’s looming presidencies, to name a few.

Each are powerful proof points that we now live in a world where we are so frightened of others who aren’t like us, that, in some cases those differences are grounds to shame or to block or to kill. Are we beyond a point where, in the face of differing opinion, neither party has to be right or wrong, but one where there is space for a third mode? A mode in which we can explore our differences and where there is room for coexistence and mutual respect that this other person is just a human being, just like you, with an evolving story line filled with fears, ambitions, and dreams?

With a weary sigh



P.S. This song called Real Life by Joan as Policewoman

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