101 Days, 101 Strangers, 101 Stories: Day 88

“Schmetterling”, she said.

This is one of Alicia’s favourite words in German because even though it means “butterfly” — something so delicate and gentle and swift — “schmetterling” sounds so aggressive. Alicia laughed and explained that  one of her friends has always found the word to be hilarious because of this.

Alicia speaks 3.5 languages: German, Portuguese, English, and a bit of French. I’m glad English is one of them because we shared a lovely conversation this morning over tea for her and a latté for me.

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She grew up in Lisbon, Portugal where she attended a German school. When she was 18, she moved to Vancouver to study Graphic Design. Now, she works as a freelance graphic designer. Growing up, she never really knew what she wanted to pursue. She chose graphic design because it’s something she enjoyed, but reflecting back on her life, the dots seem to connect.

“I went to a calligraphy class when I was in grade 4”, she said. “And you know those fancy clothing tags with the pictures and designs? I used to collect them.” At the time, these seemed like random little idiosyncratic habits and hobbies but in hindsight they appear to reveal the common thread where her heart was tied all along.

In her free time, she loves to doodle and draw and explore new typographies. She also loves going to aqua-fit classes, even though when she started attending them she was a bit skeptical that she’d be the youngest person there by a few decades. “I thought it was just for grandmas”, she said. But she found out just how much of a myth that was. There were people of all ages, and everyone was allowed to go at their own pace. I’d say she sold it pretty well. Alicia and I might go for a class together.

She also enjoys reading biographies. Something she likes about them is that they’re true. “Everything that happens in the stories happened in real life”, she said. Even though this is virtually the definition of non-fiction writing, I had never really thought of it in this way in comparison to fiction narratives. When we immerse ourselves in fiction, we face the risk of informing our own lives with stories and expectations that are, well, fictitious. But, needless to say, fiction certainly does have a place. Alicia and I both agreed on this. But biographies are a happy medium between story and reality. She finds it to be refreshing and relaxing to pick up a random biography unrelated to anything she’s pursuing, usually to find that there are parallels amidst the completely different.

Alicia’s advice? We need to stop being so afraid of failure. She referred to a quote she heard recently, which she sent me in a tweet after our meeting, in a font she designed all her own:

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We are so often plagued by a desire to succeed that we sometimes completely miss the beauty failure reveals in the falling and tumbling and stumbling of it all.

I knew right from the very beginning of our interaction that it was going to be an especially great conversation. She was smiling right from the start, revealing a character of warmth and a welcoming presence. It was such a pleasure to spend some time with her today.

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