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The Most Important Life Lesson (According to Albert)

My favourite thing about Saturdays is waking up early and exploring new neighbourhoods and finding new and quaint little coffee shops to read a book and do some work. I pack my backpack full with my computer, journal, planner and the newest book I am reading - and then get started on whatever I feel like. (Yes, I travel with a backpack on weekends.)

So last Saturday, I posted-up at a new coffee shop just five blocks from my house. I  unloaded all of the materials I needed to ensure I had a full day of productivity. My computer was out and fully charged, planner was by my side to remind me when my next client appointments were, my workbook and journal open and ready to go, and my latest book club read, "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle was at my side for my next study break.

I am fully aware and perfectly content that most people would classify me as a big nerd. Totally cool with that. Let's continue.

As I was saying, I had set up shop, soy latte in hand, and was ready to dive into some much anticipated learning, when a very bundled up, elderly and kind-looking man moseyed on into the coffee shop with his walker.

I didn't pay much notice to him, until he placed his big wooly scarf, hat and jacket next to mine. He parked his walker beside the table, made it about two steps towards the cash register, before slowly turning to me and inquiring, "You'll fight off anyone that tries to take my table, right?"

His eyes looked kind and full of laughter. His face bore the wrinkles of a very long and full life, I'd have thought he was dead serious if not for a slight smile creeping up at the side of his lips.

It took me off guard before I responded, "I'll beat them off with sticks if they try".

Albert threw his head back and erupted into a full-belly laugh and continued on his path towards the counter where he ordered a cup of coffee and an oatmeal raisin cookie.

I barely got through two sentences of my book before Albert returned and was sharing his life story. Though in the hour and a half that we spoke I anticipate he only got through a very small chunk of it.

He was incredibly sweet, what most people would describe as jolly, and seemed incredibly passionate about all of his stories. He grew up in Toronto, graduated from U of T and began studying library science. Against his parents wishes, he wanted to become a librarian and he wanted to travel. So he did. I liked him immensely already.

He had been married twice with two kids and two grandchildren. He lived just up the street at a "home for the old and dying" as he put it, and his favourite activities were coming to this coffee shop to meet new people, which he did every day. But not if they were boring - he added - he didn't like meeting those people.

Albert asked me what I was working on - to which I replied, "My life coaching course". He nodded his head excitedly and exclaimed, "Life! That's a big field!"

From there he proceeded to share the details of his life and all of the lessons he learned along the way. As he talked, other apparent regulars passed by our tables, smiling and happily greeting Albert, as if old friends. He informed me he was 96, only four short years away from turning 95.. (His math was a bit off but I got the idea.) He was incredibly kind and smiled at every person who entered the coffee shop.

At the conclusion of his fascinating story, where he met his second wife in West Berlin while doing a report on a library, (prior to them picking up and traveling all over the world for several months, right after they met) I asked him, "What would be your one piece of advice for someone wanting to a live a life as full as yours?"

He nodded as if he thought this question was coming and replied with two simple words:

"Study Possibility"

I paused to let the brilliance of his statement sink in.

He continued, "And don't listen to your parents, don't listen to anyone who tells you what you can or can't do. Travel, grow, and explore the world. Don't stay in a life or a career that doesn't make you happy. So many people find themselves stuck on educational paths and careers that make them absolutely miserable. They listen to the suggestions of their parents and friends. Yes, you should take into account what they say, but don't let them prevent you from doing what you are meant to do. They are giving you suggestions based on their own experiences, their knowledge, their interests - you need to create your own experiences and you need to do it your way."

I was feverishly writing this down while he spoke. This was an incredibly wise 96 year-old man, four years from turning 95.

He stopped his train of thought only once to take in the long line of people lined up for coffee. He looked each one up and down and as if they couldn't hear him, or more than  likely, he just didn't care if they could, leaned over and loudly noted, "Look at them all, they all look the same; the same bored looks on their faces, the same jackets, the same pants, the same type of shoes". Then he motioned to the back of the line towards a man covered in paint, wearing extremely colourful clothing and seemingly the only one smiling in the establishment and said, "We should all be a little more like that guy."

After Albert finished his oatmeal raisin cookie, he stood up, began slowly bundling himself up, and, fascinated to learn more valuable life lessons and incredible stories, I blurted out, "Can we play cards sometime?"

Yes, out of all of the brilliant and sophisticated, grateful or appreciative things I could've said to Albert, I asked him to play cards.

Albert chuckled slightly before replying, "Well Sarah, I don't much care for cards and I have a bit of a memory problem see, so it's likely I won't remember you". And with that, he moseyed on out of the coffee shop.

I don't have any big lessons to share with you this week, besides the only relevant one I can think of: We should all be a little more like Albert.