MARIA OGNEVA'S BLOG
Her name was Velita, which roughly translates to “have seen it” in Italian. After a lifetime of hardship and life that had taken away everything, but given her faith, Velita was on her way to the top. Sitting on a bus, Velita was coming back from her class with a Master Chef at Cordon Bleu. “I’m writing a book about the coming of age of a young girl. Its last chapter ends with her going to the Cordon Bleu.”
I met Velita on the 19 bus last weekend, as it slowed to a crawl because of a demonstration downtown San Francisco. I was trying to go to a movie and missed my regular bus. I usually hate the 19; it goes through Tenderloin and oftentimes riders are strung out on drugs. One time this one dude kicked the door so hard it shattered. But I digress.
It was a weird confluence of events that led me to that bus, seated next to Velita that day. With roads at a standstill, it crawled along its detour. While I’m usually annoyed when public transportation’s inadequacy blows my plans, this time I was secretly wishing the bus would take longer. I was listening to Velita as she told us her story. I wanted to absorb her, feel her, hang onto every word. There was something so poetic in her quiet strength, such wisdom and forgiveness of everything and everyone who’d done her wrong. Eventually, we parted ways, but I have a feeling I’ll be seeing her book in a bookstore very soon.
As I got off the bus, a peaceful melancholic lightness wrapped around me like a blanket. I felt at peace with the world, Velita’s strength having rubbed off on me. I was melancholy because my time with her was over, and I wanted more. I felt a light with inspiration to write again myself. With tears in my eyes, I shuddered at the thought that I almost missed this brush with inspiration. I could’ve missed it if I didn’t take the bus; I could’ve also missed it if I was listening to my headphones.
Inspiration can come from the weirdest of places, and from the people with whom you have nothing in common. All you have to do is give it a chance and listen. Somewhere along the way, I forgot how to listen. I forgot how to open my mind and just let go. Somewhere, somehow, life became this race to do things. These things demand to be done and thought about, cluttering my brain, leaving no room to process what it is I’m doing and why. Mental clutter, much like physical clutter has backed me into a corner, making me lose the feeling of freedom I had when I was younger, when my mind wandered, and a new possibility was around every corner.
Everybody’s got a story tell, and if they want to share it, I want to hear them. Stories inspire me. Stories are the molecules of our world, of our humanity. They are both an outcome and an input into what we do. They color and are colored by the prism with which we look at the world. I want to hear more of these stories and fall deeply in love with humanity. I want to let my brain wander, free of clutter and “what ifs.”
Perhaps I can do different things every weekend, immersing myself in things I never knew were there. Perhaps I can talk to more people I know, but never bothered to really know – and see where that takes me. Maybe I give myself a goal of having a lunch or a coffee with a new person (or someone I lost touch with) every weekend and just talking – with no agenda. What do you think? Want to grab a coffee? What are the things that give you inspiration?