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  • Maggie Eliot

"I Miss Strangers"

Hi friends. In my last post, I mentioned having a surgery. Glad to report, it went well and I'm home recovering. I feel "good" in the sense that I can do a lot more things around the house than I'd expected (go up and down stairs, use the bathroom, shower, dress myself, etc.) but I definitely have a good spot of healing to do and am longing for the day when the pain is done. Oh yeah, and it would be great if I could cough, sneeze, or most importantly, LAUGH without wanting to cry a bucket of fat, salty tears and then die.


While I was in the hospital, I had a nice long chat on the phone with my mom. She told me a great long story about waiting to get her first COVID shot and how she made friends with EVERYONE else at the Rite Aid waiting for theirs. It's no shocker. My mom is probably the most sociable person I've ever met. Anyone who's ever been stuck in a long line next to her would give her a glowing Yelp review on her stranger chats. During our conversation, I told her how similar my 7 yr old son is to her. It's a fact we all know already. He looks a whole lot like her, but he also is the chattiest friendmaker on the planet. My fellow play date parents and I always joke that whenever there's a stranger on the playground, we watch my kid closely because he'll instantly run up and make friends no matter how questionable the person might seem.


A couple of weeks ago, the kiddo sighed, turned to me and said, "I miss strangers". I did that parent thing you do where you bite a hole through your cheek trying not to laugh, smooth back the kid's hair and nod with an understanding look. God I love that kid. He's a softy and a big fan of people.


After talking to my mom about all this and lying in a hospital bed for another couple of days, I had a light bulb moment. I'd spent much of my time after surgery fascinated with the array of nurses cycling in and out as their shifts were completed. Some would come back many times, some you'd only see once. Either way, between the nurses, dietary staff, janitorial staff, lab staff drawing blood, and all the doctors coming through, I probably met about 40 new people over the course of four and a half days. For someone who's been working from home, and homeschooling their child, that's insane! It was people overload in the best way.


And then I realize I've been starved. As both an actor and a writer, I'm a collector. I watch people and catalog behaviors, personality traits, physical attributes, and more. Without new people in my life, all of my source material and inspiration for creating characters has been absent. I've been writing in a void. It's like buying a beautiful fishbowl with all the amenities, plopping a fish in it, and then never feeding it.


In a way, it's kind of good. I have a tendency to be more of a starter than a finisher. I see new people who give me new ideas that are so much fresher and more delicious than the ones I'm currently working on. It's a bad habit to write a third of a book and then start a new one. So I spent a decent amount of pandemic time bumping around from manuscript to manuscript trying to finish what I've started. I got one book done that way and did some good editing. But OF COURSE, the minute I was in this rich, mouthwatering environment full of lots of new people (the hospital), I got an idea for a new book. I've decided to write down some notes and save that little plot bunny for later. I've got LOTS to do right now.


So, just like my kid and my mom, I miss strangers, too. And if I'm being honest with myself, it's not just because I'm an ARTIST working at her craft. I'm just like those two. I'm thrilled whenever I spark up a nice chat with someone in line at the grocery store. I'm constantly throwing out a joking observation, hoping that I'll get a chuckle that turns into a new friend. Once, I ended up talking to a complete stranger for four hours on a train ride home from Chicago. I Miss Strangers.

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