We all have those moments in life, moments when the world slows down for a few split seconds and you experience something completely life changing and it makes you look at the world from a new point of view, with such clarity that you never experienced before.
I’m sure that in a lifetime any one person could have a million moments just like that. Moments that make you pause and take stock of life. Moments that you treasure and carry with you for your entire life, regardless of how joyful or painful those moments are. They’re those defining moments in life that we keep wrapped up inside us all our lives because they changed us forever.
For me, those defining moments have been both bitter and sweet. They have taught me important life lessons, allowed me to grieve, shown me how cruel life can be, but also the absolute bewonderment of being alive. Falling in love, taking big risks, hurting a really close friend and being hurt in return, near death experiences, the death of a loved one, a letter from an old friend, a chance meeting with a stranger, the birth of a nephew, an unexpected gift, the realisation that you cannot control life no matter how hard you try, these are just a few of my defining moments.
Sometimes it’s the littlest things that define these moments, like a stranger greeting you on the train. I used to take the same train into work every morning for a year and every morning for a year, the same middle aged man would take the same train as me, each morning sitting only a few seats away from me. Every morning for a year I would politely greet him as we waited for the train and every morning he would ‘politely’ ignore me.
After about 6 months I’d just about given up and began to think that perhaps the man just didn’t like me (although he didn’t know me), as he would greet everyone else in the morning, except for me. So after about six months I just decided to stop. Stop greeting, stop expecting anything and just get on with it. It was so odd, because after six months of greeting him with no response and a week of not greeting him, it just felt weird.
A week later while, waiting for the train, I saw the man out of the corner of my eye, but just continued to stare blankly at the empty train tracks. When the train arrived, I got on and sat on my usual spot, the man got on shortly after me and while making his way to his ‘usual seat’ in the back of the train, he briefly paused, turned around and said good morning. For me, it was a lesson in patience and human nature. Patience because if you really want something badly enough, sometimes you have to be willing to wait for it and human nature because as I learnt from Randy Pausch, if you wait long enough, people will surprise and impress you.