Was there ever a time that you decided to meet up with an acquaintance knowing and expecting absolutely nothing from it and then you leave the conversation with your heart full to the brim?

Most of the people we meet will slide down into the awkward status of semi-acquaintance to obscurity. There are some folks that you’ll meet one moment, say hello and then forget their name entirely after a minute or two. However, there are those people whose name you remember clearly. One of those people for me was Michelle.

When I first started with my apprenticeship in a big name photography studio, there were so many people in the current program that it took a while for me to learn the names of everyone. I wasn’t able to spend as much time with people because they already had their own little groups, so being the introvert that I am, I naturally observed from a distance. I learned each person’s names and followed them in their Multiply accounts.

Anyway, one of the “heavy hitters” of the batch that followed us was Michelle. She had started way ahead of most of the people in the program because she already had a very successful following before the term “following” had been used in that way. I remember visiting her site, seeing her photographs for the first time and I thought she had the most beautiful photos of kid’s birthdays. Everything was well-lit and it just had an air of freshness when you looked at her photos.

That was all that I could remember from Michelle.

Until this year when I posted the following status: “Anyone who needs a new profile photo, I’m in Baguio right now.”

To which Michelle excitedly replied, “Me zeus!”

I would like to say that I obliged her request, scouted for a location, photographed her for an hour and went our separate ways but I always find myself being surprised whenever I meet new people. I always think that whenever we meet someone for the first time, we can either welcome them with an open heart or simply take the easy way and shut them out. We have both options. And most of the time, we shut most people out–maybe out of necessity or perhaps immaturity.

I think every time we come into contact with someone new, it’s an opportunity offered. The reins are handed to us, Providence nods approvingly and says, “Give it a go.” More often than not, we stick to the groups we know and fall in love with the familiar. We talk about the same things with the same people who meet us on the same scheduled days. And we wonder why the highlights of our life pale in comparison to a four-year-old’s.

I photographed Michelle in under an hour and came away with these images that you see here. However quirky or candid you find her here, it will pale in comparison to the kind of spirit that you will find in her when you talk to her in person.

Every day, we are given chances. And every day, we make choices. The hand we reject or accept is a choice we make and not the fate we are dealt.

We talked for around 3 hours–far longer than I ever anticipated spending time with someone I barely knew. Longer than I ever thought possible because I never knew her apart from the lady who took beautiful photos. We ended up talking about our photographic journeys and how we ended up shooting what we’re both shooting nowadays. We reminisced the “good old days” and the “not-so-good days” when we were just learning the ropes. It was such a good way to start the year–to do something different, to step out of your self-made bubble of comfort and reach out and encourage someone without asking for anything in return.

The chances we are offered are sometimes few and far between. May you have an open heart and a willing spirit to take chances–to risk kindness and vulnerability and to believe that the memorable is often hidden in the serendipitous.