Last year, the pandemic forced me to take a different approach to this social experiment of mine. For example, people knew what I was doing because I had to schedule interviews with them. And those interviews where not in person either. Instead, they were done by video.
However I loved doing it this way because it allowed me to meet people from around the world, including two who live just down the road in San Diego and go to the same university my daughter attends. So, this year I went back there, via video to meet Yasmeen. I have met her a few times before, but it was always in large groups and in passing. So, when I heard she wanted to participate in this weir little experiment of mine, I jumped at the chance.
Growing up with two older sisters, Yasmeen split her time between her mom’s and dad’s house. Her dad still lives up there, while her mom and stepmom live in an RV, closer to her in San Diego where she studies political science. Today, she shares a room with my daughter.
I asked her what’s that like to be the youngest kid in the family living with the oldest kid in her family. Well, let’s just say she gushed so well that it made me wonder if my kid was there telling her what to say.
While I am enjoying learning about different people, places and things this KNOWvember, it’s really nice to learn more about people I already had a connection to. Sometimes we "know" people without really knowing them. That's part of the reason why I started this in the first place.
Case in point, I learned that Yasmeen and I both love creamy peanut butter on our PB&J’s. And we both think soup is not a meal, because it really doesn’t fill you up like a meal ought to. “I only eat soup when I’m sick, because it doesn’t fill you up and make you feel worse.”
If she were to eat anything for her last meal it would be an assortment of sushi, followed by her stepmom’s mac and cheese, and strawberry cheesecake for dessert. When I asked her who she could share a meal with, living or dead, she thought about it for a moment then sweetly said, “I’d pick my soul mate. I don’t know who he is yet, but that’s who I’d like to sit at a table and share a meal with.” Come on! That’s the kind of sweetness you get to know when you get to know Yasmeen. And it shows in her smile and eyes.
At 5’10” Yasmeen is still no longer a little girl, but a 20-year-old still transitioning into adulthood – with all the challenges that come with it. She is learning to see the world differently and how to navigate it properly. She doesn't always make the right choices, but she tries to always do the right thing. I could have spent the time advising her and guiding her, but as she is discovering herself blazing your own path (as difficult as it can seem) is the best way.
Yasmeen has a good heart and a good way of looking at the world. When I asked her what a good deed meant to her she said, “It should be an act where you do something that makes someone better no matter how it makes you feel.” I take her for her word because I learned her go-to lie is, “Telling people I’m too busy when I’m not.”
When I asked her what she likes to do with her hands, she said without hesitation, “Type on my phone, type on my computer, and crack my knuckles” (which she did immediately following her answer). And when I asked her what time in history she would choose to go back to live in, without hesitating she said “The 80’s. It seemed like a fun time.”
Fun as it was, I’m sure wherever Yasmeen is, fun is bound to happen no matter what year it is. She told me that herself. Answering my question how she hopes to be remembered after leaving a party she said, “I hope they think that person was fun.” Then, for some reason, she just randomly confessed, “I don’t like awkwardness. I get second-hand embarrassment when someone else is feeling awkward. It’s my least favorite thing.” Okay, that was kind of awkward, but I didn’t tell her because it’s her least favorite thing.
Another thing Yasmeen does not like is exercise. Like her roommate, my daughter, she begrudgingly does it from time to time, but no longer likes it. I did find it kind of ironic that the last place Yasmeen intentionally walked to (class no included) was to the gym. “And to Halloween parties.” Both of which my daughter, her roommate, did with her.
I’m sure there’s a theme somewhere in all this because the one place that Yasmeen has visited but would never, ever go back to was “The Pillbox hike in Hawaii. I loved Hawaii, but I don’t like hiking. And that hike in particular caused me all sorts of anxiety. It wiped me out for the entire day.” It turns out that hiking makes Yasmeen anxious because she believes she will be “attacked by an animal. Or fall. I’m sure that’s how I will die.”
I think we all can agree that such a death would not be fun. Although between you and me, it would make for a fun, albeit awkward, story. And I guarantee, out of all the people I have met, Yasmeen would still be smiling and having fun while it happened. Or at least, that’s how I’m going to remember her.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”