Life is Like a Train Ride
For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by trains and rail travel. My father was a railway engineer, so as a young boy, I was very fortunate to travel the length and breadth of India with my family, exploring the varied landscapes and cultures. On some trips I could sit with the train driver and see the journey ahead. Other times, I got to fill the engine with coal to fuel our onward journey. Since then, the rails that crisscross the countryside, passing through States, cities and villages have captured my imagination, evoking a sense of adventure and freedom. Several months ago, on a train journey with friends, to visit holy sites, south of Delhi, I was reminded of those childhood train journeys. As I reflected, the expression “Life is like a train ride”, came back to me. I feel it is a very accurate metaphor for the journey of our life.
The Tracks of your Life
Like train tracks, our life stretches out in front and behind us. From the time we are born we are onboard. Like a passenger riding a train, we have the choice to get on and off, explore new routes, choose new places to visit, or to stop and enjoy the scenery for a while. Some people take an express train, never taking time to enjoy the journey. Others like the regular commuter routes, happy to stay on a single route. Some choose to change trains and head in a completely new direction. Before taking any journey it’s important to consider the options, navigate the route and keep an eye on the timetable.
When we are born, we board the train at a particular time at a particular station. Our parents will journey with us for a while, but eventually we have to choose the train that gets us to our own destination. When we leave their train, we carry with us the memories and lightly hold them in our hearts with gratitude for all they have given us.
From time to time, other people who will be significant in our lives, will board the train — siblings, friends, children, teachers and perhaps the love of our life. Many of these will disembark and leave a permanent vacant seat in our carriage. Other passengers will come and go unnoticed.
Our train ride will be full of joy, sorrow, fantasy, expectations, hellos, and goodbyes. It will be a journey full of hopes, dreams, challenges, setbacks, successes, and failures. We must make the best of it no matter what.
For a while it might look like all the other passengers are heading to the same place as us, but depending on our values and beliefs, developing as we go, we or many of the other passengers may get off at a different station. Only a handful of people in our life will take the train ride to our end destination with us. These people we share our hopes and dreams with. They become like family to us. These are the jewels that believe in us, accept us without judgement, and guide us to stay on the right track. We must have love, respect, and gratitude for these people. They are rare. Sometimes our train ride can be difficult and lonely. When we meet someone, who will sit with us when all others have left us, we are blessed. Remember those people, they are special. Always hold them dear to your heart.
Always remember, this train ride is your personal journey. Don’t waste your time with those who sneak off the train without paying their dues, those who loudly declare they are leaving you on the train, or those who betray you. Take care of and prioritise the passengers that are still on the journey with you, they are the important ones. If they wish to get back on the train with you later, don’t hold a grudge. Become an observer, watch how they behave when the train hits a treacherous bend or breaks down. If they are buckled in and still with you — accept them. If they are pulling the handrail alarm again, let them get off the train freely and don’t waste your head space on them again.
Full Steam Ahead or Chugging Along
There will be times the train will move slowly, at a snail’s pace. Relax, appreciate this time, and take in the beauty of life around you. Sometimes the train will travel so fast that everything is a haze. Enjoy this sense of speed in your life, as it is exhilarating but unsustainable. Of course, trains can be derailed. If that happens, you have to deal with hurt and pain and it may take a long time to find the strength, courage, and resilience to embark again. During this time there will be people who will appear out of nowhere to get you back on track. Those will be the people that will matter most in your life. Love them forever. You can’t repay them, except by becoming that source of strength for others on their journey.
End of the Line
Eventually your train will get to its final stop and you will need to disembark. At that time, you will realize that life is about the journey and the destination. Know and have faith that at the end of your ride your train will have the right passengers on board and all the passengers that were on board at one time or another were there for a distinct purpose.
If you have examined the tracks of your life and are feeling unsatisfied, you may want to explore changes you could make to find a more fulfilling path to follow. Perhaps you’d like to slow down a little bit more and take a winding path rather than traveling down the straight and narrow. Or maybe, you’d like to experience your life more as an adventure rather than just a ride that gets you where you need to go. Changing your route can sometimes give you a chance to “get on the right track.” You may even discover that the something new you’ve been waiting for is just around the bend.
The mystery is that we do not know at which station we ourselves will step down. A successful train journey is one where we do and give our best, have good relationships with all the passengers we meet along the way. Be kind to those who travel with you, for a day or a lifetime. Travel lightly, with love, forgiveness, and a determination to live every experience of the journey in awareness. If we can achieve this, we leave behind a suitcase of warm and loving memories for those who continue to travel on the train of life after we have disembarked.
I wish you a joyful journey for the coming years on your train of life.