Tonight I did something I’ve never done before. I’m pretty sure I know why as well. It’s Friday night, midsummer, and my wife and daughter are back in Des Moines with my in-laws. I’m at home in Austin facilitating the move to our new place. Just two days ago I got the keys to our apartment and I haven’t even begun to settle in yet. Boxes are everywhere, completely stacked, and I’m living just on the basics. It’s like I’m a college bachelor all over again.
So, with not much at my disposal I decided to go out to eat. I enjoy eating out simply because I hate making meals and cleaning up. It’s why I’m such a fan of Soylent. In my new neighborhood there are a few restaurants to eat at, so I walk to the taco restaurant that I enjoy. Eating alone for me is always a love/hate relationship. I love the ability to enjoy the silence of my meal and the opportunity to observe others doing their things, but I hate the idea that someone may be looking at me and judging me for eating alone. While I know people are most likely too wrapped up in their own affairs to notice me, it does bother me a little bit. Still, I decide to simply enjoy the company of myself and I work hard to stay off my mobile phone.
After my meal and a beer, I begin my short walk back to my house. On the way I notice a solicitor. I’ve been approached many times in the past, but this guy was like no others. With a beer to his side he asked for some spare change like all others, but it was the way he asked that allowed me to stop and listen. He was very humble, a little verbose, and most importantly friendly and upbeat. Even in situations with friendly solicitors I continue on, but I think it was because I had no other plans that I stopped and listened. I don’t keep any cash on me and I told him all I have is 5 Euros from an international trip. It’s a note that I keep on me for good luck and wouldn’t give away.
He thanked me for the brief conversation and I was free to go on my way. Instead of leaving I decided to sit down next to him and keep him company for a few minutes. His name is Paul Charles Bellis, and he has longish hair. Actually, it’s of similar length to mine – although his hair was dreaded up from neglect. His beard was also similar length to mine, but salt and pepper in color. When I got home I Googled his name and found out he was arrested for theft a few days before our encounter. That’s where I got this photo of him. Of course the mugshot doesn’t do him justice – he is a friendly guy.
As I sat next to him we talked about a few things, and it was clear he struggled with mental health issues. How did I know? Well, it was one of the first topics he broached. The conversation was all over the place – he’d talk about his family history, the Euros in my wallet, and my style. One thing that caught my attention was when he talked about my watch. I was wearing one of my brand new Nuvo watches that I just purchased from fellow Urban Beardsman, Mark Andrews.
So, when he complimented my watch I took it off my wrist so he could inspect in greater detail. He really loved the look and the design of the watch and couldn’t stop talking about the wood face. I had purchased two watches from Nuvo so I decided to simply give him the watch. The joy that brought him was really great for me. Knowing his situation, he is probably going to sell the watch pretty quickly for a couple of dollars, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that one moment where I felt a connection with another person with a tumultuous past, and that was able to bring a little bit of joy to his night.
It’s a funny thing being an entrepreneur. At times you feel like you are on the brink of insanity. I’m sure the look on people’s faces when I told them I am going to change the way society views beardsmen is the same look that Paul gets when he talks. We share a few more minutes together and then Paul tells me he’s going to run in and grab another beer. We shake hands and I continue on my walk back to my house.
All told, this was about 15 minutes of my life, but it’s impacted me far more than the time committed. I’m going to focus on humanizing all people and not automatically applying labels. I suppose the first step is admitting that I do it. I will continue to detach myself from material possessions and focus instead on experiences. At times, I feel material possessions are burdens that weigh me down and prevent me from achieving my goals. They bring undo stresses into my life and make things more complicated. The more I can strip, the more content I will be with life.
The journey to become a better man is not an easy one, and this experience doesn’t loft me into any type of category. It’s just a small stepping stone. One of many I need to take to be the man I want to be. Life is a wonderful journey and sometimes we need to step out of our comfort zone to see the world differently. I appreciate Paul’s time and hope that he is enjoying that watch I gave him. More importantly, I hope he will remember the time he spent with me. I certainly will remember the time I spent with him.