Coffee & Conversation
by John Smith
Address comments to John Smith at email@example.com
The young man had said that he wanted to talk to me about a personal matter, because in our brief encounters in the past, he could see that I was intelligent, and he appreciated the fact that I was a published author. So, at a local coffee shop...
"Good morning, Have a seat; would you like some coffee? Are you hungry?"
"No, thanks. I just ate"
"OK, what I'd like here is open, honest communication; no secrets, no lies, no judgement, no criticism, and no advice."
"What, no advice? Why not?"
"Because a good counselor doesn't give advice. They can make suggestions, but what they're supposed to do is ask questions, draw you out, and help you arrive at your own conclusions.
"You see, no one really knows what's best for someone else. I'm not in your shoes, I'm certainly not in your head, and I have no idea what kind of screwed-up childhood you had. I should also state that anything anyone says is only their opinion; so what I tell you should be prefaced with 'I think...'
"But if someone says, 'You should do this' or 'you should do that' walk away. And even worse is 'If I were you...' - well, I'm not you. I have no idea what you're thinking or feeling.
"So tell me; what's going on?"
"I don't know what to do with my life. My parents want me to take over the family business, but I hate that place and I would be miserable."
"There's nothing wrong with honest work , and any job is better than no job at all, but tell me; what's your "passion" - what would you love to do all day long if you could?"
"Well, I like to walk around with my camera and just take pictures of everything I see."
"So, we're talking 'free-lance' and not say, a wedding photographer?"
"Oh, God NO! Not weddings; I wouldn't like that."
"Any particular reason? Do you hate weddings, or you just don't like dealing with drunks?"
"Both. You see, my parents are religious, and I'm not."
(Little did he know that I have been studying religion for 50 years)
"Well, I usually tell the boys I counsel to find something that they like, that they're good at, and become real good at it, because if you can get paid for doing something that you enjoy, it's completely different than going to a job you hate every day. And believe it or not, most people don't like their jobs. I also tell them not to be in a hurry to get married, because if you suddenly have 'responsibilities' then you're stuck where you are because you have bills to pay."
"That's another thing, my parents are pressuring me to get married."
(interrupting) "You don't have to get married if you don't want to; more and more people are choosing not to get married."
"THANK YOU" (with some obvious relief)
"Normal is just a number, like average is just a number. There's a whole spectrum and everyone is different. It's important to be yourself and do what makes you happy. If you conform and do what everyone expects, you're just another clone. And please don't make the mistake of thinking that there's something wrong with you; different is good. Anything you think or feel is normal and natural, and probably most other people think & feel pretty much the same way, too."
Then he asked, "Well, can you suggest some books for me to read?"
"Ah, yes; that I can do. I think one of the best books a person can read is the Bhagavad Gita. Then maybe the Dhammapada, and when you are ready for it, the Upanishads.
"Eknath Eswaren has decent translations of all of them.
"But if you're looking for good fiction that has a message, I'd recommend Stranger in a Strange Land (Heinlein) and then The Persian Boy (Renault) - it's 'historical fiction' about Alexander the Great. I'm also partial to The Scapegoat by Daphne Du Maurier and The Secret History by Donna Tartt.
"And if you don't meditate, I would suggest that you try it. You don't have to sit in the 'lotus' position, and you don't need to levitate (*chuckle*) but if you can just sit quietly and concentrate on your breathing; stay in the present moment and sit in pure awareness... I find that it helps me stay calm.
"Look, I'm getting a bit hungry; are you sure I can't get you something to eat?"
"No, thanks. I have to get going; I have some stuff to do."
"OK. Well, stay in touch. I'd like to know how things work out for you."
"Will do. Bye."
(Musing to myself - That's odd, we never did talk about the book I wrote. Well, maybe next time.)