Updated: May 21, 2020
This week I got to walk through Piedmont Park with a new friend - a man named Kumar. Kumar lives outside the city and came all the way through ATL traffic to give our MeetUp a chance. Talk about taking initiative and being vulnerable - meeting some weird girl in the biggest park in the city to chat about life. Pretty impressive.
What’s more impressive is that Kumar is not a native American citizen or native English speaker. He has been in the U.S. for around a decade, but still struggles finding confidence in his English speaking skills (which were fantastic, by the way). I noticed that when we passed by other walkers, Kumar either lowered his voice or stopped speaking entirely. I don’t think any of the passers by would have noticed his accent for one second - but the anxiety was clearly very real for him. I hope he builds his confidence; he’s a more highly skilled conversational speaker than he knows. I didn’t sense a language barrier whatsoever.
I feel like this was the ideal MeetUp for Kumar. Just the two of us on a stroll. I think that’s why he RSVP’d to the event in the first place. He told me about his history with social anxiety and feeling as though he can’t interact in large groups - he just freezes up. He even had a MeetUp group for Introverted Singles, but quickly deleted it because he had TOO MUCH RESPONSE. The group ballooned immediately and he didn’t know what to do. The introverts worst nightmare; advertising being an introvert and having massive social success - I love it.
Kumar says he’s better interacting one on one. He didn’t know how to manage a large MeetUp and really wasn’t interested in having shallow, expensive nights on the town with a pack of strangers. I feel that, man.
Yet, with all of those concerns under his belt, he still climbed into the car and committed to meeting me. Brave.
Kumar works the graveyard shift at a hotel in his home city and attends college in pursuit of a Business Management degree. Well - I should say - he begrudgingly works at the hotel, where he finds life quite dissatisfying. Kumar described a familiar tale to me - working at a job you hate, living life by obligation, feeling restless and bored every day, being financially limited to create the life he wants, and suffering from bouts of depression in his current living situation. He doesn’t have the life he wants, and he’s tired of just getting by.
However, he isn’t letting his unhappy life continue without a fight. He has grit and determination. In the past few years, Kumar lost over 50 pounds through changing his diet. He recently got fed up with his uninspired career and told his boss that he quit, with the intention of travelling the United States. His boss responded that he could take as much time off as needed for his trip - but please come back to work afterwards.
Kumar departs to drive across the country by himself - all the way to CA - this very week. It’ll be his first time out of the state. He’s stopping by the major National Parks and seeing the U.S. outside of shitty Georgia. He’s also documenting his trip on a YouTube channel that he’s working on. He plans to record the videos in Indian so he can avoid his “bad” English; I think he could use any language and it would still be a fascinating story.
I’ve asked Kumar to keep in touch, and to share his videos as they’re being created. I’d love to share the channel with everyone. I'm inspired by his courage.
What’s so amazing is, Kumar and I (almost positively) would never have met if it wasn’t for Traumatized Motherfuckers. If it weren’t for his motivation to find an online social group that worked for his anxiety needs, we never would have taken an afternoon walk through the heart of Atlanta. If it wasn’t for my mental health progress, I never would have changed my schedule and gone out on a limb to meet a stranger in the park. I would have let my anxiety swell and cancelled, like my fingers itched to do. Because I believe in this project and I believe in my motherfuckers, I couldn’t quit.
Reflecting on the meeting, I have to say, I love his story. Kumar asked, and I told him about the meaning of “Motherfuckers,” specifically. He wasn’t sure why I chose to be polarizing/offensive, however, it felt like he really connected with my intended message of finding strength and self-empowerment to make your own life change. That’s exactly what he did the day he told his boss he was leaving and never coming back because he couldn’t take it anymore. It’s what he did the day that he committed to losing 50lbs because he was unhappy. It’s what he did when he signed up for various MeetUp groups and trusted people to show up kindly because he was tired of being isolated. He’s taking control of his life - probably with more odds against him than most of us.
Be like Kumar. Be brave and be bolder.
Who knows, if you put it all out there and start living for you, maybe your boss will bend over backwards and won’t let you quit, either. You never know how strong and valuable you are until you take risks and get uncomfortable
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