Sometimes a stranger articulates something about yourself better than you ever could.
I work part-time at the college library doing social media. It provides me with much needed extra cash and I happen to love the job. While most of my job involves me sitting in front of my computer brainstorming witty library related things to say or scouring local events to post, occasionally a lost student will wander into the staff area looking for help. I especially love these moments, mainly cause I like the human interaction and it’s a nice respite from staring at a screen.
The other day, one of those students wandered in. She approached me and immediately it was clear she didn’t speak English well, as I had no idea what she was saying. She looked to be Chinese and about my age, somewhere in her early 30’s. (At UCLA, we have a huge international student population, so it’s very common to have lots of bi-lingual students.) After a few botched attempts of mis-interpreting her, and thinking she was asking for the “coffee” machine, I eventually realized she was talking about the “copier” machine. She was asking me to take her to the area in the library with copiers.
So, as an excuse to stretch my legs and because I realized there was no way she was going to understand my directions, which involve several twists and turns through a very large library, I get up and say, “I’ll take you there.” As we walked together through the library, I engaged her in some small talk. Since she appeared to be around my age, I asked her if she was a graduate student. She nodded and said yes, she was studying mechanical engineering. I told her she picked a good field, and made some quip that she would definitely have jobs waiting for her after school! She seemed to agree with me.
She asked what I studied, and I said I was a graduate student in screenwriting. Writing for the movies. It took her a second to process what I had said, and then she smiled sweetly and said, “Oh, you do it for the beauty.”
And I just felt…well, understood, I guess. The whole summer I was worried about if I would ever sell a script or get a job on a writing staff of a TV show, thinking about MONEY and how I would live, and in one instant, I was reminded, that’s ultimately it’s not about that. I’m here to make something of beauty – something that allows us to connect to each other as human beings. I know, it’s corny, but there’s truth there. My aim was never to make lots of money from something, it was to create something beautiful.
So, thank you stranger in the library.