When was the last time you saw someone crying in the street? A trembling voice asked the lady next to me for a tissue. I knew I had one. As I knelt to dig it out of my bag I looked up and saw big dark, doe like eyes staring back at me through a barrage of tears.
This dark haired stranger didn’t just need a tissue. She needed comfort, she was distressed. She sniffed at me as she waited ”I know I’ve got one in here somewhere – are you ok?”, ”Sorry, sorry, yes, yes I am ok”. Her voice feebly tried to sound ”ok” but her eyes couldn’t lie.
I stood up with the bedraggled tissue fished from the bottom of my bag and handed it to her. Then I grabbed her with open arms ”you need a hug”. I put my arms around her shoulders and she let out a massive sob.
This was an intense situation in the middle of the day with someone I had just met 30 seconds ago but she looked like that was what she really needed; a hug, someone to give her the time of day.
I ended up catching the bus with this girl, actually getting on the wrong one in my hurry to get her on the right one. She was distraught, I wanted to calm her. I knew talking it out would settle her. But I wasn’t sure what was wrong – had she received bad news from home? Had she just had an argument with her boyfriend? She wasn’t from Australia. She was South American so a link to home could be an obvious answer.
She didn’t let up easily though. We sat on the bus together and she just kept apologising for being upset. The tears flowed continuously and she could hardly catch her breath for some time. But I knew I couldn’t help her without her sharing what was up. I waited and then she began to talk. It all came out but she was confused. She ”didn’t know” ”what was wrong with her”. She mumbled she had nice friends, she was ok for money, she had two jobs and nothing had happened but that she ”never felt full”. Every day for some time she had felt ”empty” and she didn’t know why. Today was breaking point day.
As we talked it was like looking in the mirror. Last week I had spent a whole day with ”Why am I in Australia?” thoughts whirling around my head at break neck speed. I thought about my family, especially my two little sisters. I have inner fights every day about what I am missing, what I have given up. I always wonder if I will regret being away for so long in my later years. I had even looked up flights home, looked at jobs and thought about where in London I would live again. That day I had imagined my whole return to home. This isn’t the first time I have done this and I know it won’t be the last.
By the time our bus ride came to separate, so I could go in the right direction (!) I had managed to settle her down a bit. She continued to thank me, which she didn’t need to do at all. I just wanted to make sure she was ok to be on her way. We arranged to meet up for tea in Bondi some time soon. Although she couldn’t pinpoint her problem, I reassured her sometimes it is just good to cry, to get out the tension, to let go, feel lost and then give yourself a chance to regroup.
Everyone thinks being away from home is living in La La Land, that things don’t effect you. Us travellers are seen as untouchable but in reality it can be tough. Of course the life we live is amazing, or we wouldn’t do it in the first place but it all comes at a price. People who say they don’t hit down days are either at the beginning of their trip (I didn’t start to have struggle times until I had been away for over a year), or they are telling porkies to save face. I find it difficult to relate to people who don’t ever hit bumps. People often say to me ”you’re always so happy”, but of course I am not like that 100% of the time. Riding high on life wears you out sometimes – my fights often come because I’m trying to keep up with myself! It is unnatural to never miss home or feel freaked out for one reason or another while being on the road. Bad times portray your compassion for your life.
I’m sure people will read this and think ”if you’re that bad go home then” or ”I don’t get homesick”, well if you think that you might not have been away for 2 1/2 years and have a young family growing up without you. Or maybe you haven’t had an ”empty” day yet like this girl was. You’re lucky but reassured demons get us all once in a while.
My point is, you don’t know what people go through in life. Everyone has their own issues and often, like in this case, you know something is ”wrong” but you can’t pinpoint what is exactly. It doesn’t mean you should leave your current life / go home or make any rash decisions that might effect your future. But it does mean you need to take a deep breath and step back – reflect on what you want, what you need to find your balance.
If I had a dollar for every time I considered upping sticks and going home I would be loaded by now. But if I had one for every time I gave myself a chance to remember why I was away and how much I loved this opportunity to live this life I dreamt of, I would also be rich …
Swings and roundabouts. Never feel like you are alone. Don’t be afraid to lean on a stranger if they try to help you. Meeting this girl really made me take stock of my own feelings. I felt sorry for her and knew that in turn I felt sorry for how I thought some times. This shook me up and reminded me not to worry on the down days. Its all about making the most of this wonderful life that I wanted so badly.
I think me being there at that bus stop was meant to be – to help her see she isn’t the only one. How do you know the person passing you in the street isn’t going through something that you have been through yourself? Always be prepared to give someone a hug.