I started my morning today with a friend who told me the story of a man she’d recently met in a local photo shop. They started talking cameras and ended up talking about friendship. It was one of those simple moments in which we make a connection with a perfect stranger that stays with us, even days later. Not a romantic connection, but the kind of connection in which there is a recognition of a similar way of thinking, of a similar wanting in this world, of a similar desire for human connectedness. Some might call it a soul connection.
As I drove to work, my mind played with the kinds of moments I’ve shared with strangers. Some are very simple, others life-changing. In some of those moments, I am convinced that the other person shared the experience, but in others, I suspect that I passed through their life with little impression or impact. That doesn’t, of course, make those moments any less special to me.
Hours later, driving home from work, a song cycled through my iPhone and I was reminded of one such moment that I shared with a man, 20 years ago. At that time I was barely 23-years-old, working in the British music industry, promoting artists to radio and television outlets. It was late afternoon on an early summer day, and I was backstage at a radio station-sponsored charity concert, supporting one of our acts. They finished and filed off the stage, grumbling about their performance (and granted, it wasn’t their best). I murmured words of encouragement and offered hugs, then turned to follow them out of the stage area. As we moved, single-file, the next band was coming on, single-file next to us in the narrow, short hallway. From a short distance, I made eye contact with the other band’s singer. We locked eyes, holding the gaze as he walked past me, so close I could smell him and see the flecks in his eyes. As I passed, I craned my neck to hold his gaze, and he managed to turn himself completely around in the tight space, guitar in hand, watching me move away from him until his bandmate shoved him onto the stage. As he struck the first chords on his guitar, my colleagues and I stepped out the door, into the blinding sunlight, and away from him. I’d never seen him before, and I never saw him again. But 20 years later, I still remember that moment.
Now remember, I was a young American girl in the British music industry who favored body-hugging catsuits and thigh-high boots. Turning heads backstage was not an uncommon occurrence in those days. But that moment was different. Deeper. Special somehow. What was it about him that arrested me in that moment? It wasn’t his good looks; he actually wasn’t the physical type I went for back then, and I’d never given him a second thought, despite the fact that his band was splashed all over magazines and tv in Britain at that time. No, as I looked into his eyes, I felt something different… a pull… a desire to sit and talk to and know this person. Likewise, in his eyes, I saw not the simple, hot, predatory hunger of lust that I was used to, but a kind of…. recognition… surprise… attraction. Later, his band skyrocketed to fame and had two gigantic hits stateside after my return. But to me, he’s always been a pair of hazel eyes in a dim hallway.
Life is made richest by those precious, unexpected moments of connection. Some are shared with people we already love, when we discover a new intersection of understanding or shared passion. Others — and in many ways these are the more delightful — are shared with people we barely know. They are reminders of interconnectedness, of the fact that we are not alone in this universe, small islands merely bumping into each other as we navigate the physical world.
I have very few of these moments these days. My life is so constructed as to limit the opportunities for me to meet new and dynamic people. Sometimes when I think of how many of those moments I experienced in my 20’s, I want to go back and shake that young woman. I want to tell her how much rarer those moments become as we age. I want to yell at her to turn around and talk to that young man backstage, to wait for his set to end and him to come find her. I want to inform her that those are the moments that change our lives.
Then again, my life in my 20’s was very different. When I was living in England, I was surrounded by artists of all kinds — musicians, actors, painters. Their way of looking at the world challenged me and pushed the limits of my creativity. I spent most nights in nightclubs and recording studios, often not arriving home until noon the next day. When I gave that up, I plunged myself headfirst into law school. Again, I was surrounded by people who pushed me, scared me with their intellect, and forced me to debate and defend my beliefs. Those two periods of my life were very different in so many ways, but shared a vital similarity: I was open and curious and hungry for the world around me in my 20’s.
In some ways, I am still that young girl. I am still emotionally and intellectually curious. I am still intrigued and arrested by dynamic people who can blow me away in one fashion or another. But age has bred caution, and knowledge, and a certain disappointment in human limitations.
Even so, every once in a while, I am still blessed with one of those perfect moments. And now, the awareness of their rarity makes them all more sweeter.
Someone asked me today what I want most right now.
Moments. I want moments.