This Friday evening I found myself standing on the platform at Marylebone station with approximately 40 million other people, staring dismally at a board full of glaring orange cancellations. What did I do to deserve this?! Why does this always happen to me?! Why is life so darn unfair?!
In the insular bubbles of our entitled little millennial heads (I know, stereotyping millennial – such a new concept!), it’s easy to feel very wronged by the world a lot of the time. I will admit that for a second I felt like stamping my feet in the style of a two year old (not for the first time: as an actual two year old I had knelt on the stairs and banged my shins against the step until they bled, because I was so jealous of my newborn baby brother. Sorry, Greg!). Because how dare a train not be completely on time and why the hell should I have to spend my Friday night in a queue and oh my god what if I don’t get a seat when the damn thing actually arrives anyway.
But then I found out why all the trains were cancelled in the first place. Somebody had felt so lost and alone in this world, so beyond help or solace from anyone or anything, that they had been forced to leave it. To think that anybody could get to the point where jumping in front of a train feels like the only option just breaks my heart completely. And to hear people describing that decision as ‘selfish’ or ‘thoughtless’ because it’s made them late home for dinner just makes me shudder. Did these people ever think that somebody who has chosen to end their own life might not be making 100% logical decisions?!
So there was my reality check. On a day when a tube train full of people experienced potentially the most horrifying and terrifying moment of their lives, and on a day when somebody else just felt that they couldn’t carry on any longer, thank goodness that I was standing on that platform safe and alive. Thank goodness that I had two legs that I could very easily stand up on for the 1 hour and 40 minute journey if I couldn’t get a seat. And thank goodness that I felt loved and supported in this world.
But it’s not always easy! What I’m really trying to say is that sometimes it’s hard to feel grateful, even though we know we should be. I was still cross that my trip home was going to be delayed and that I wasn’t going to be able to eat anything until 10pm. I was still mad that I hadn’t had time to buy a cheeky Friday can of gin and tonic for the journey, and that my phone was running out of battery.
I hope I haven’t given the illusion with this blog that I’m some kind of sanctimonious, perfect person who walks around in a cloud of flowers and rainbows feeling grateful for the pavement and the rubbish bin and the traffic lights. The world is full of lots of things that I am very much not grateful for, from terrorism to Donald Trump to the weird condensation that forms when you put a hot piece of toast on a cold plate. And it’s all relative. In the heat of the moment we can only interpret what’s happening to us in the context of our own lives and experiences; no, a delayed train wouldn’t be an issue for somebody living in a country where running water is a luxury and public transport is unheard of, but as a Londoner who’s used to everything right here, right now, of course it is. We can’t feel bad for getting frustrated by the things that impact us, regardless of how small and irrelevant they may seem in the grand scheme of things. They’re our feelings and we can’t control what upsets us.
But it’s also important that after that initial screaming tantrum (internal, let’s hope), we take a step back and readdress the situation. On Friday, I really really tried to unclench my fists, breathe and remember that today, I didn’t get burnt in a terrorist attack, and I didn’t feel so hopeless and alone in the world that I couldn’t carry on with my life any more. It helps, I promise.
We all know that life’s not fair, and sometimes the only thing that will help is to scream and shout and to throw something (non-dangerous) at the wall. But when it isn’t life and death, we take a step back and we move on, knowing that things could be a lot, lot worse. When I started writing this blog I hoped that it would help me to appreciate what I do have rather than focus on what I don’t. There really is something to be grateful for in every single day – even if you have to grit your teeth to find it.