At the risk of sounding like Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, I like trains. In fact I like them an awful lot, but probably not for the same reasons he does. Unlike Sheldon (played by Jim Parsons) I can’t name them model, and if there is a way to get somewhere that is much faster I’ll choose that option rather than make my friends add hours to their journey just so I can ride on a choo-choo, but they are one of my more favoured modes of public transport.
For a long time I was just as afraid of them as I am of the bus. I’d heard all sorts of horror stories from people about them being left on board and ending up in all sorts of places they’d never intended to be, but given that I knew you could book ramp assistance and seats to help with disabled access I knew it was one thing that I would have to conquer in the end. I started out small at first when I found myself an internship at a company that was based a half-an-hour ride away from my home. Mum came with me the first day to make sure that everything went smoothly – and it did- so for the rest of the time I was on my own. Although this short journey was a massive victory for me, the real turning point came for me a few months later when I decided to travel back home from university by myself to surprise my dad for his birthday.
This was an even bigger challenge than the one I had faced getting to my placement and back. I had chosen to go to a university that was about 70 miles away from where I lived and would take me two trains – yes two – to get there. I’d had the idea for weeks, as soon as I realised that I had the afternoon of his special day – a Tuesday- off and I didn’t have another lecture until Thursday afternoon, but it took me about a week to pluck up the courage to book the tickets. I paid for them instantly and made arrangements for assisted travel before I could change my mind. I hardly slept the night before with nerves. I’d never got more than one train per trip before and all I could think about was all the things that could go wrong. Every time I had a thought like that I tried to push it away and think only of how it would all be worth it to see the look on Dad’s face. This wasn’t about me, it was about him.
Thankfully on the day things all went according to plan. Members of station staff even walked me from one platform to another which was more than I had been expecting (in a good way) and when I saw my mum and her new partner waiting for me as I got off the last train so that she could take me to my Dad’s flat I thought that I might fall to my knees in relief.
When the three of us wondered into his kitchen together he just looked between us all and saw that my Mum and her partner were both in their work uniforms. For a second he looked confused and then he realised what I had done to get there, smiled and looked as if he were about to cry.
I learned an important life lesson that day, two actually. I learned that I could manage the train by myself (with a little help, but there’s no shame in that) and I learned that it is important to push ourselves sometimes, if not for ourselves but for the sake of those around us.
That was almost two years ago now. It is my Dad’s birthday again on Friday and I really have no idea what to get him this year. I’m not sure if I can ever top my surprise, but I’m always willing to try.