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A Silent Date with a Stranger Changed My Life

Taking an awkward risk helped me overcome my fear of “not enough” and follow my dreams.

Two hundred folks from all over the world gathered for this self help intensive. I was one of them. This was a no-messing-around kind of program. Rules were strict: no caffeine, no alcohol, no phone, no news. We were at a remote location, cut off from friends, family, and the outside world. If you found yourself here, you were damn committed to working through your limitations. This was far from a “retreat.”

The fear

My own personal limitation was fear of scarcity. This familiar tune of “not enough” had many flavors. Throughout my life I felt not smart enough, funny enough, thin enough, pretty enough, feminine enough (the list goes on). It had been holding me back for years, in many different ways. But, at this particular time, it was holding me back from 3 immensely important dreams:

Leaving my job



I felt ready to take the leap into self-employment but I just could not understand how. I believed I didn’t have enough money, enough connections, enough experience… that I was not educated enough, not savvy enough… not good enough.

The risk

About 5 days into the intensive, these fears became a startling reality. The organizers told us we were going to be dropped off at an unknown location for the day. We were not allowed to bring phones, money, food, or water. We were told to branch off alone and find a way to eat, drink, and make friends without speaking, writing, or gesturing. We could make eye contact and we could smile. That’s it.

Panic, panic, panic… a sharp and familiar sensation crept up my chest and into my throat.

This kind of “exercise” was one of many extremely un-freaking-comfortable learning experiences I had during this intensive. Now, I am no noob to self-development or vulnerability, but this little field trip proposal was pushing my comfort zone way beyond what I felt was acceptable, necessary, or safe.

What if something happened to me? What if I needed help? Where were they taking us?

That 3-hour bus ride was miserable. My scarcity fears and “what ifs” ran completely wild, rearing their ugly heads in a compilation of imaginary clips starring me and all bad things ever. I was exhausted.

The unknown location turned out to be a heavily populated beach boardwalk in a major city. I’ve never felt more thankful for fountains and restrooms. As the group dispersed, I told myself I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to do. I didn’t have to approach anyone or participate in this exercise. It was just too much. I could just sit tight, enjoy some people watching, and ride this out until the day was over. It was a cop out and I knew it.

The stranger

Seconds after I admitted to myself that this lesson wasn’t going to happen, a stranger approached me and asked if I would take his picture. I accepted the outstretched phone and snapped a few pics for him. He was likely not prepared for how abnormal this simple interaction would turn out to be. “How’s your day going?” he asked.

I froze.

He tried again, “Uh, what’s your name?”

Oh dear god… Damnit, damnit, damnit… It’s happening. Am I really going to do this right now?! Am I going to be a total weirdo?


I looked into his eyes, let his questions hang in the air between us, and said… nothing.

A few very awkward moments passed as this poor man tried to read the situation. He looked at me curiously, almost as if he was searching for a clue to my peculiar story. Maybe he assumed I didn’t speak English? Or couldn’t hear? Or that I was, in fact, a total weirdo.

The uncomfortable feeling of this one-sided silence lingered.

Then, to my absolute surprise, he slowly and thoughtfully gave it a guess, “Hmm. I bet you are… a celebrity, or a writer… doing some kind of… silent meditation.” I smiled and felt my face start to glow. I’m not sure if I lit up because he didn’t laugh at me and walk away or that my ego was overly flattered to be perceived as a celebrity. Either way, this day just got interesting.

As I began to surrender to having nothing and saying nothing, the discomfort of the unknown lifted and my panic turned into excitement.

His reaction was nowhere near anything I had imagined would happen. I was too busy conjuring up unpleasant scenarios that ranged anywhere from embarrassment, social anxiety, and judgement all the way to actual danger. And kidnapping. And other bad things. But, he just stood there, looking back at me.

I had no name. No personality. Nothing to say. No one to be.

I suppose my glowing expression confirmed his guess, and just as I took a chance on this awkward meeting, so did he. He slowly held out his hand to me with a shrug and a little “shall we?” glimmer in his eyes, almost as if he (also) couldn’t believe what he was doing. And despite all my fears and “what-ifs,” something just felt right about it. I decided to ditch the fear, take his hand, and trust myself.

And, just like that, this complete stranger took me on the most unforgettable silent date.

The date

We walked down the pier to watch the sea lions.

We gazed out into the glistening water.

We took pictures.

We rode the ferris wheel (I love ferris wheels).

We ate ice cream.

We held hands.

We petted dogs.

We strolled along the boardwalk.

We danced to the street performers.

We shared “is this even real?” laughs.

We looked into each other’s eyes in awe.

We were joyful.

We let love surround us.

I had everything I needed. Everything I could want. I felt magical. Alive. Abundant. And free.

Then it was time to go.

Much like this entire encounter, our farewell was equally mind-blowing. With a shaky voice, this man opened up and explained that he came down to the pier alone. There was deep sadness in his tone.

He told me I saved him, that I was an angel, that this happened for a reason, that I had no idea how much this meant to him. I was in disbelief. Then he reached for his wallet, took out his license, and pointed to the date… “Look, I’ll show you why,” he said, as his eyes welled up with tears.

And if this day couldn’t get any more unreal…

“It’s my birthday.”

I started tearing up as well. Time stopped and I hugged him like he was a long lost soulmate. There were so many things I wanted to say to him. But, it was time to go back. That hug was our goodbye.

I walked away not knowing what this man was going through before we met that day, what was causing him pain, or what led to him feeling sad and walking on the pier alone on his birthday. But, I know I helped him feel less alone. Worthy of love and trust and joy. And hand holding. I knew we would never forget this day.

This exercise that I perceived was so ludicrous and dangerous that I shouldn’t even participate in ended up being one of the most profound experiences of my entire life.

Not only did I survive the day, it was beyond my comprehension of what is possible — a lightening bolt of clarity that no plan could have ever given me.

The dream

It was time to make some changes. If I could trust myself to attract the kind of energy and abundance with nothing — no phone, money, food, water, or the ability to communicate, I could most definitely take a chance on my dreams. In the real world. With all of the resources and abundance available to me. I felt like I could do anything.

Since then, my life changed dramatically. I returned home with the courage to act on my 3 dreams:

I left my job.

I am going to Africa in 2 weeks.

I wrote this story. (You need to start somewhere, right?)

I probably will never see that man again, but sharing this story is my way of thanking him. He taught me to take a chance. To believe in abundance. To get after my dreams. And that, despite all of my fears…

I am enough.


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