During the summer of 2014, I walked the long stretches of sidewalk along San Pablo Avenue and asked people: If you had the opportunity to meet your 80 year old self, what do you think she would tell you? In asking this simple question, I wondered: will the responses reveal subtle truths, desires, and observations specific to a place, or will they reflect the collective wisdom within each of us?

I’ve always been interested in talking with people I meet in public spaces as part of my creative process. There is something magical about breaking the silent space between a stranger and myself. I have a theory that people are waiting to be asked and to be heard. And in asking, listening, and being listened to, there is an opportunity to see one another, and create an active space of understanding.

I also think it’s easy to forget how wise we can be. We resist our internal wisdom due to any number of reasons: fear, fatigue, or inconvenience. We race through our lives, so busy with the details of day-to-day living that we end up feeling disconnected from ourselves and each other. But what’s great about the 80-year-old self is that no matter how frantic we get, she is always readily available, because she is you. She is present within each of us, reminding us we can be the best version of ourselves, not through some colossal effort at reinventing ourselves, but simply by taking a moment to listen.

Susan O’Malley, January 2015