January 21st 2014
Story originally written and experienced: April 13th 2013
I always like when people ask me how I know Kevin.
And I thought that as I saw him standing there on the corner of
56th street and
Plaid button down. Over-sized backpack. Smiling as always.
He was meeting me for lunch as he briefly passed through town on business — and it was nice to see that our friendship had traveled from a war zone all the way >>> to New York City.
It was 2010. A family affair. In Seoul, South Korea where my mom booked 2 flights for my sister and I to visit our motherland and learn a bit about our family roots.
A visit to the DMZ (Demilitarized North/South Korean border) for optimal experience and semi-promised safety
And when we were there, we witnessed the notes and messages left by the South Korean civilians on this one particular wall. Notes that were left. Just in case one day. Just one. Their relatives that were torn away from them on other side would be able to read them one day.
I remember walking around the eery premises, feeling the silk ribbons with sentimental wishes fLuTtErInG against the barb-wired fence, the pulsing marches of the nearby soldiers, snaps of photographs captured by visiting tourists, and lowered whispers of people reading one sign after the next.
And eventually our tour guide shuttled us over to an abandoned train station, that used to function when the land worked in harmony.
But that just wasn’t the case anymore.
And sometime in my self-wandering in this ghost train station, I lost the whereabouts of my mom — eventually finding her engulfed in conversation with another man that was in the station as well.
I approached them s l o w l y in attempts to say hello.
“Olivia! Meet Kevin. He’s on our tour bus too.”
Kevin was Korean. Looked friendly. And apparently was. But when he spoke.
A dutch accent made its surprising debut.
“Ello! I’m Kevin. I was just telling your mom that I just flew here from Amsterdam. That’s where I’m from. I was adopted into a Dutch family when I was very young, and now I’m here. For a month. Trying to find my roots. Everybody looks like me, it’s so strange!”
I liked why he was there. And I told him we were trying to find out roots too. And for the rest of the tour, Kevin kept us company, exchanging contact information with us in the end in trade for our best wishes as he discovered himself in a sea of look-alike Kevs. And later that night my mom said to me at the dinner table full of sushi “You should remain friends with Kevin. You just never know when your paths in life will cross again.”
Fast forward Play >
I saw him standing there on the corner of
56th street and
Plaid button down. Over-sized backpack. Smiling as always.
I always liked when people asked me how I knew Kevin.
And I thought that as I saw him standing on the corner. Where he was meeting me for lunch as he briefly passed through town on business — and it was nice to see that our friendship had traveled from a war zone all the way >>> to New York City.
I gave him a hug and a “How have you been?!” As we strolled to a nearby Thai restaurant to catch up and collect stories from his travels as of late.
“Wow, Olive! The last time I saw you was about 2 years ago. You had just moved to New York, you were living in a dorm room, working for Oprah, not sure if you were going to stay in the city because you couldn’t find a job….and now look at you! Meeting for lunch on your break. Working in a corporate fashion office as a writer. Started a blog. That’s great. That’s really great.”
I guess I never realized it had been 2 years since our last encounter and 3 years since the first time I met him. And it felt good to be far from where I was. But smart enough to stay in the company of great people.
“Yeah! Things have been going pretty great. Crazy at times, if not always, but I’m a lot less lost than the last time you saw me. And I feel good about that. I feel really good about it. And how about you?! How have you been?”
“Well as you can see I have a large backpack. I just got back from this trip to Guatemala. It was quite interesting because I originally went for a wedding, and I ended up staying with a family that I found on www.couchsurfers.com but I became such good friends with the family that I ended up extending my trip. Get this, I hit it off with the family so well, they invited me to their family vacations and I traveled around with them for about 2 weeks or so! Eventually I had to leave because I needed to be here on business, but it was pretty incredible experience.”
All of Kevin’s stories were like this. Brim-full of adventure, self-made luck and free of complaints. But although Kevin was constantly traveling the world and collecting new lists of friends, he always remained consistent with his profession — until now.
“And are you still at that job in Amsterdam? Consulting for businesses? Traveling the world?”
“I am. I am. But truth be told, I’m on a vendetta to start my own business. A storytelling one.”
“A storytelling one?”
“I want to teach people how to public speak. The ones that want to know how. And I want to help them use stories as their greatest asset.”
“I’ve traveled the world a lot, Olive. I’ve met a lot of people both in and out of work and all of them. Every. Single. One. React so well to a good story.”
“Well everyone likes stories.”
“Better than that, Olive. Everyone listens to them. Takes them to heart. Hopes it will give them an answer and tell them something they don’t already know. And the best part is.
They remember them.
Think about it.
Think about every great speech. Every great piece of advice. Any sort of guidance. Every great conversation. Every quote. Every instance. Where something was said. And it left an imprint. Permanently. You saved them. You cherished them. You archived them. Hell, some crazy people even blog about them.”
“Imagine you go to a speaker. And you’re sitting in the crowd and you’re waiting for it to start. And finally, it’s 7:01 p.m and this inspirational speaker comes onto the stage and he’s walks up to the microphone and he picks it up and he says “Hey guys. Believe in yourself.” Puts the microphone back down. And just walks right off >>. He could have told a whole story to go to with it. But the message was the same, so why waste the time?
There’s a reason why people click on enticing headlines or watch a movie from beginning to end. They want to a reason to believe in themselves. And one that feels a little less lonely. And one where they can relate. You can tell someone to believe in themselves. Do this. Do that — And some people might listen. But. Most people? Will probably forget about what you said 3 minutes into their next coffee break.”
And that night after Kevin and I parted ways, I got to thinking about the things that he said, and I got to thinking about it a lot. About how it’s true. It really is.
How crazy every mistake. Every surprise. Every experience. And everything that just didn’t work out. And everything that just damn did. The climbs. The failures. The successes.
And everything in between
Are one-of-kind chapters in our lives that are completely invaluable to other people — and especially yourself. That every weekend can turn into a “Remember when —” And every heartbreak can be a “I know how you feel – ” And every success can turn into a “Let me tell you how I got to where I am – “
And it kind of makes you look back into your life and realize what a crazy and worthwhile book you’ve been living this whole time.
And how it wouldn’t be the damn same if any.one.thing. went differently.
That maybe taking those risks and making those mistakes really weren’t a waste of time. That a perfectly polished life is incredibly satisfying, but there’s everything right with admitting the road to getting there was a little less than smooth.
And then you think about it the other way and you realize that there’s a certain reason you remember that heartfelt story you read online from 2006 or those epic college nights you made over and over again. Why you call a certain friend who’s been through the same thing. Or watch that documentary of the person who relentlessly pursued it all. Whether you’re looking to feel better about yourself or just need a brief reminder that:
The most memorable advice is one that has a backbone and has a meaning and says something great.
That maybe people like MLK know a thing or 2 about hard work, or the couple who’s been together for X + years through thick and thin could say a genuine thing or 2 about love.
That there’s a reason I’ll never forget that conversation I had with my friend in a movie theater. Why I wrote about it. And why it became my #1 story online even one year later.
And the best part about that was.
She had no idea her story could hold such kickass value. She just thought that her life uNrAVeLeD. And all of a sudden she became 700 other people’s anonymous superhero.
My point being.
Own up to your triumphs and be okay with your downfalls.They’re worthwhile. They’re funny. They’re good. They’re inspirational. They’re necessary. And best of all.
And one day, if not many days, you’ll realize that every day, every week and every year you’ve walked away from a weekend, a conversation, a party, a heartbreak, or an event that will one day stumble into a dinner conversation and you’ll find yourself giving someone the very best advice.
Even if you don’t know it yet.
And they’ll never forget it when you do.
Like this post or have a good story to go with it? I like that about you. I always have. Shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and give me the 4-1-1! OR share this with a person that changed things for you and didn’t even know it. Why the hell not. They deserve to know.