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She asked me if I was doing alright; having a good time; not too overwhelmed; wanted some more beer. A grin sprung from my frown of a mouth.

“I’m great,” I said, as she leaned in closer to hear my response over the chatter of the restaurant.

“She’s shy,” another girl piped in.

“Not really,” the first girl shot back.

Not really. My typical response. Or maybe I more often go with, “Sometimes.”  I like to talk when I have something to say. Otherwise, I like to listen. Or not even listen; just sit there, as I did that night, surrounded by sound, watching, not comprehending, drinking my watery beer.

I don’t know how extroverts could survive in this city. Seoul. Maybe they plan weekly meet-ups at Korean-Irish pubs, and there they let out the bottled-up words they wanted to say on the street, on the subway, in the grocery store, to their own neighbors, to the nice-looking old lady sitting with her little dog on the park bench, to the 20-something boy in the cereal aisle in their local grocery mart.

Or maybe they speak in different ways — with their hair, like the Korean teenager with bleach-blond bangs, like the caucasian 30-something man I saw from across a busy street, sporting a bright-red mohawk. And with their clothes, opting-out of the apparent all-black Korean apparel fashion trend, and instead going for jeans, red converse, a plaid shirt, and a ball cap. He looks more American than any American I’ve ever seen, I thought to myself, glancing at him as we sat across from each other on the train.

It’s hard, even for me, the listener. It’s hard to listen when there is no sound, no quiet smiles, no polite small talk. It’s hard to sit, alone, in a subway car full of people who are also alone, each one diving nose-first into their cell phone screens– from the teeny-boppers to the grandmothers in jogging suits — or else taken out from the reality of the world in some other way: an ipod, a book, a nap. Sardine-pressed so closely to one another, yet so far apart; so alone. And there isn’t much else I can do but join them — ear buds in, book out, or eyes closed.

In a way, it is peaceful, and it does, in a way, feel like a community. But it also, in a way, makes me want to be loud. It makes me want to knock the phones from each of their hands, close their books, take from them their music. I want to yell at them, loudly or silently, tell them to look each other in the eye, to smile, to be people together, not just riders; living, not just moving through the motions (of the jerky subway car.)

1. If you find a project you want to work on, or a job you’d like to have, or a movie you want to be in — but for some reason, you can’t work on that specific project, or have that job, or be in that movie — make your own. Don’t give up or change your dreams or goals just because they are not readily available or simple or easy, and especially don’t rely on someone else to make them happen!

2. People are not going to live up to your expectations — ever — whether that be for good or for bad. That’s just part of what makes life so interesting… and also difficult.

3. Speaking of life being difficult (this is a cheery post, eh?)… You know those difficult situations/problems that arise in life, that you struggle to overcome, and once you’ve dealt with those things, you feel like a stronger person? Until, of course, you find yourself in the same situation again later, and realize you haven’t really learned yet how to cope with it. I guess that in itself is a learning experience.

4. I’ll admit it… sometimes the universe seems like it’s either playing a joke on us… or helping us out in major ways. Crazy, right?

5. Don’t feel bad for wanting more.

6. Write down the quotes, words, and/or blips of conversations you hear that mean something to you. Collect them. Keep them in a jar and read through them when you need to.

7. Do the stuff you don’t want to do first, that way it’ll be done and over with and you can get on with the stuff you like/want to do! This is like the opposite of what happened when you were a kid and had a pile of green beans left on your plate after dinner.

8. I’m an introvert, and as an introvert, I totally understand the not wanting to talk to people thing. It’s just so much easier to stay quiet and just listen. However I’ve come to find that talking to people is another way of listening — if you can get people to talk, they just might turn out to be an interesting story. I think introverts have the right idea — the whole not blabbing on the whole time thing — we just need to take that perspective and use it to interact with the outside world.

9. Bad things happen sometimes. A lot of times. Every day. But good things happen just as often, maybe more often. The trick is to accept that both the good and the bad are going to keep happening, and learn to live with this roller-coaster of a thing that is life.

10. Sure, your smartphone can tell you what the weather’s going to be like for your birthday in three years, and it notifies you the second someone likes that picture of your dog that you just posted on Facebook, but don’t let all that take away from how amazing it is that there are tiny cells in your body keeping you alive.

Library guy to his friend: Why do you wear all those fly ass golf shirts if you don’t golf?

 

Guy #1: We have that really smart guy in our group – Ryan?

Guy #2: Ryan?

Guy #1: Yeah, Ryan. He’s super smart and really short. He has a really high-pitched voice?

Guy #2: Oh.

Guy #1: Yeah, he got us like 10 sources already for the paper.

Guy #2: Cool.

 

Classmate: “Is that my phone? Did somebody text me – does somebody care? …. Nope.”

 

“I’M ON A DIET UNTIL MARCH FIRST! YOU KNOW THAT!” – lady looking at candy bars at Meijer, to her friend.

“Hey guys, don’t worry: That snapping and straining you hear is not the support cables breaking!” – Guy at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Mich., as the doors closed on a overly-packed elevator with me inside.