I have taken Caltrain twice in my lifetime.
As I sat and watched the landscape fly by outside the window, I was also extremely conscious of those surrounding me. The man with the bright orange bike and even brighter shirt. The girl with a tired-looking book-bag slung across her shoulder, headphones in and eyes closed. The young boy chattering excitedly to someone that looked to be his mother- “Mommy, train run fast? Train fly far!”
And then there’s me, regular, familiar old me with my no-longer white Converse and paint-splattered jeans. My hands are covered in ink as usual, and they compulsively play with the strings on my favorite hooded sweatshirt. My fingers soon switch to fiddling with my hair, which I haven’t cut since last August. I recently decided that I rather like my hair when it’s longer.
That’s when it hits me- I am the only one aware of this. I am the only one fully conscious of my strange habits and non sequitur thoughts. None of the people with me on the train, none of the hundred that may be in just this one carriage itself- none of them know that my favorite color is green, none know that I always set the dial on my locker back to zero after using it, none know that I dropped a hot pizza roll on my foot on junior prom day and ended up with a scar, and none know about the internal collapse I faced when my dad died from cancer in October five years ago. None know about the little, unimportant things that make me myself, and they will never know unless I go out of my way to tell them.
And just the same way, it is likely that I will never know their stories, either. I could spend all day trying to figure out what that girl with the headphones is listening to so intently, wondering if she has the same music taste as I do, but I would never know unless I found the courage to go ask.
I believe that there is a never-ending supply of stories out there, and that a large part of life is learning from those stories. This year has made me realize how much I love listening to what people have to say, because it helps me not only understand them as a person better, but also further understand my own beliefs.
I’ve learned that quick judgements can be dangerous. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said, simply looking at a single story is dangerous because it can lead to misconceptions and stereotypes. There is always an ocean under the surface of ice that is typically chosen carefully to be revealed, and I believe that it’s important to remember that, especially when people-watching on the train.
There are so many people in the little universe we call earth, too many to ever fully uncover for ourselves. I often regret that there are incredible individuals out there that I will never have the pleasure of knowing. There have been so many times where I’ll look at the people around me who I’ve known of but not known about, and I’ll rue the fact that it’s only now that I’m starting to realize how much I am probably missing.
I believe that there will always be more, and that I need to make sure to keep my eyes and mind open to discovering as much as I can, no matter how minute it may seem. It’s a belief that’s largely founded on regret, since I have the feeling that I’ve wasted precious time in not branching out more, but part of the beauty of life is that this train I’m traveling on will always fluctuate in its passengers. I will be given more opportunities; it’s likely that many different people will board just as often as they will leave before I get the chance to learn their stories, and there’s never harm in striving to know as much as possible while there’s still that window.
Inspired by Rory, written as the last assignment for the best English class in the universe. More on this to come soon. Hopefully.