I am staring outside my train window watching the shimmering, glistening ocean pass me by. She is speckled with ships that adorn crisp, white sails. The water is deeply blue and pure, making it crystal clear that I’m not in Pennsylvania anymore. I didn’t realize that I’d been aching for a sense of spontaneity and adventure again until it came back to me after over a year. Traveling is a reminder that there is more life beyond our small corners of the world at home. These unexplored territories reveal that there are better things ahead.
Four days earlier
I wipe the tears of stress from my face as sleep insists I give up and go to bed. I enter my apartment heavy, and tired. My eyes are red and puffy, validating the tough night at work that had ensued. “Gem, this is just a BLIP in your timeline. After these two weeks, you’ll be up so high on Cloud-9 that none of this will even matter anymore. Here’s some medicine.” I clicked a link to “Cough Syrup” by Young the Giant that my dear friend sent to me. The lyrics soothe my soul, as if a trusted friend was stroking my hair saying, “It’s going to be okay.”
After finally falling asleep at 2am, I groggily wake up at 7am to pack my bags. I am traveling to New Haven, Connecticut for the first time to visit Yale University, following my acceptance to their Writers’ Workshop. Despite the program’s virtual transition, I’m determined to make the absolute best out of this experience however possible.
I boarded the Amtrak, lugged in my large suitcase, and was faced with a particularly overflowing car filled to the brim with people. The train took off, and the search for a free seat commenced. Two women gestured for me to take a seat next to a woman who had her black, shiny handbag sitting on the seat next to her. “Excuse me,” I asked, “Could I take that seat next to you?” No response. Let’s try this again – I cleared my throat. “Excuse me. Could I take that seat right next to you?” “She’s ignoring you on purpose,” one woman said. “She doesn’t want you to take that seat. Hey, let the girl sit down – she’s standing on a moving train with her luggage, for Christ’s sake.” I raised my eyebrows, turned on my customer service voice, and said, “Alright, then – thank you!” I turned around and continued my search.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a previously occupied seat had been freed up. I asked the girl sitting by the window, “hey, is it alright if I sit next to you?” With an understanding voice, she said, “Of course. No problem.” I hoisted my suitcase above my head and pushed it into the overhead compartment. Wide-eyed, she said, “Wow. That was impressive!” My stressors and anxieties seemed to drift on by like the scenery of the train that was creating such a peaceful ambiance. After a hard week, I was so grateful for the earnest and sincere company.
And it didn’t end there. I drifted into a daydream with my headphones on my second train ride, and noticed the sign that said, “New Haven State Street Station,” drifting by with the moving scenery. I was jolted awake. “Excuse me – I just missed my stop,” I said to a train worker. Instead of asking me to pay extra, he offered me a ticket for a free pass to the next train. I was filled with gratitude, and breathed in the air of being somewhere brand new.
For the first time, while sitting in the backseat of my Lyft, we reached a stoplight across from Yale University. The sights of the grand architecture made my jaw-drop. I entered my AirBnB wide-awake and energized, knowing full-well that change was coming.