Penny’s for My Thoughts (12 March 2016)
I love Austin, Texas. The capitol’s nonconformist twist on a traditional southern nature and the high spirits (no pun intended, well maybe) ordinarily radiated by its residents inexorably forces my deepest esteem. These inevitable characteristics of the hippy haven have considerably constituted my belief that Austin is incontestably one of the most vibrant, avant-garde, and free-spirited cities in the world. I will be candid in admitting that I have not traveled to every city fostered by earth. However, personal and empirical occasions have advocated my independent opinion of Austin as a place that disseminates a special kind of magic. There is no other location in the world capable of conjuring an identical sentiment of liberation like this Lone Star city has and continues to create for me.
In wake of owning that my spring vacation needed to move beyond the solace of my bed covers, I decided to accompany my dad on his early Wednesday return to the bohemian burg. The approaching hours situated me on the historic grounds of burnt orange and white, where I was later reunited with my best friend, Tara, in an up-rush of kumbaya. Around an estimated two in the morning when she and I finally winded down from our eleven-hour escapade of excessive caffeine consumption, poorly phrased puns, obnoxious cackles, and humorous flashbacks to overrated high school dances; I relayed to her a goal I instituted for the upcoming day, which entailed initiating sincere interaction with a person or persons I have never met before. Although this gesture may seem slight, its purpose acted as a monumental genesis of what I was optimistic would achieve, for all singles or parties involved, the following: encouraging awareness of one’s environment, satisfying facets of one’s curiosities, appropriately forcing strides beyond one’s comfort zone, inaugurating raw human connection, refining one’s self-confidence, and the altogether wholehearted blooming of individual quintessence.
Night fell and day rose. The prevailing of March tenth, another chance at actualizing goodness and happiness, was manifested in the chiming of my mobile alarm and charging of my nostrils with the enchantingly rich aroma of freshly brewed coffee. I greeted the gloomy day as I would any other, in a clumsy attempt to wake up that ultimately resulted in my tumbling off of a spongy mattress onto harsh tile floor. Tara’s time in the day was severely limited, because of the demanding preparation a nearing Chemistry midterm required of her. In turn, I opted for a day that devoted a greater sum of my time to solo endeavors, which I initiated at the student library adjacent to Tara’s dormitory. Upon spewing pages of scholastic vomit across a desk (so much for a spring “break,” eh?), a crave for exploration reigned over me. When spontaneity calls, it’s typically wise of one to answer. So, I ditched my belongings in a trusting manner and raced for the pavement to commence my upcoming adventure.
After paying numerous apologies to my fellow pedestrians on account of my snail-like saunter and over-sized umbrella poking inappropriately at their bodies, I finally reached an outlet chain of popular clothing stores and restaurants that university students commonly refer to as the “drag.” I navigated the congested sidewalks of 21st street and Guadalupe, infatuated with the many places and things that appeared so worth seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, and experiencing. There were people, a lot of people. I was tossed into a melting pot of intricately crafted human beings, so naturally seasoned by eccentric beauty and unapologetic individuality. What were these bodies that I materialized as so valiantly draped in self-assurance? Who were the spiritual agents beyond the physical guise implicating self-credence? I would have pleaded my mind victim to their harmonious overflow of foreign realities, pervading my ears with ugly and pretty universal verities like the lyrics to one of my favorite songs. My intellect was engulfed with intrigue and struck with profound admiration.
I moved on with my stroll and absorption of the good vibes Austin so famously exerts. Nevertheless, I could not escape nor fake ignorance to the increasing number of homeless people I noticed resting their heads on grimy steel rails and chalky brick walls. My sight was clouded by parts of cardboard box that read “need money for food” or “retired war vet with no family and no home.” Inconsistent sensations of sympathy, guilt, and inquisitiveness encompassed my heart. Specifically, I recall an older bearded man sitting under the public awning of a high scale store. Was that his only reliable source of shelter? At his knee was a scrap of plastic, barely capable of holding his minute variation of pennies, nickels, and dimes. He was collecting change for his one meal of the day, a meal that was more than likely a lesser equivalent of what I would eat as a snack. The man extended his arm, reaching out to brush his index finger kindly against my ankle in an attempt to draw my attention. In subtle disregard of this action, I proceeded to walk until I was through the doors of American Apparel. Within minutes I was out of those same doors, comically entertained by a forty dollar labeling of a thong made up of as much material as the shoelace on my left converse (it was still cute though). It occurred to me that I already shared something in common with the bearded man. Neither of us could afford much of what the drag had to offer, thus constraining the hand of our content to mere observation.
The glum of day grew to become a tad miserable as heavy rain drops started shooting down from the sky. I might as well have been a character in Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs. As could be previously inferred, I am an exceptionally clumsy human being that effortlessly attracts awkward confronting’s. So, you can imagine the mockery I made of myself as i ceaselessly slipped along the saturated concrete and untangled my “jumbrella” from lofty tree branches. In recollection of the time and above facts, I thought it best to embark on my trek back to the library, but I didn’t move hastily. I was keen on redeeming my most recent pass-up, one that slapped me in the face with rewarding opportunity to glance into the life of an absolute stranger. Behind the retracing of my steps, I knelt down next to him and we were locked in eye contact. “Were you trying to get my attention earlier, sir?” I said. He nodded. The conversation progressed nicely and casually. We peered briefly into the conditions of our day and in doing so subconsciously apportioned characteristics of ourselves with one another. Contrary to stereotypical belief, he did not bring up his need for money. I took it upon myself to notify him that I had no cash, but what little change I did have was all his. Never in my life have I seen firsthand a grown man, a person, near tears after having received all of about two dollars in fingertip size forms of copper and silver. It was apparent he smoked too, hence my offering of a light to him. I suppose that’s only fair, isn’t it? My offering him a physical light in reciprocation for the light he brought to my face in his vulnerable expressions of extreme appreciation and thanks. There was so much in that moment I wished I could have asked him, but I feared intruding or insulting his person and chose to keep my prying a mindful distance away from what looked to me like a sensitive livelihood. I wondered what he was like when he was younger. I wondered what his aspirations and dreams were. Did he ever come close to almost reaching them? I wondered if this is how he saw himself in the future. Oddly enough, I got an assuring feeling that this bearded man was not only at peace with his life but with himself, despite the present conditions his life involved. If my assumption is true, monetary standings aside, he humbly achieved one if life’s most supreme successes. Could you imagine attaining faithful emancipation from all of existence’s limitations? Someday I hope to be this free too.
I love Austin, Texas and all those that assemble it. There is no other location in the world capable of conjuring a synonymous personal and empirical occasion such as what I experienced on that gloomy Thursday.
“It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.”
TAKE CARE (:
(David Brooks “The Social Animal” pg. 369)