In life, we have great days, good days, average days and bad days.
This month has been particularly hard for everyone at work. The hours are long, my colleagues are working days without breaks in between, and the project we are working on has been particularly taxing for everyone. We zombie into work and then zombie back out. Since we started, literally everything that has gone wrong, has gone wrong. Everyone is sick of this project, tired of the protocol, and exhausted from the repetitive tasks that we are given, that seemingly have no end.
Today was particularly difficult. Most of us came into work early and didn't get out until late. As we were finishing with our last few participants, the sun began to go down. My colleagues and I simply wanted the night to be over, so we could go home and rest. Trudging along with our last bits of energy, we counted down the minutes and rushed to get everything done properly.
Despite all that, one of the things that is great about my position is that it allows me to interact with a diverse range of people, from all backgrounds. Some have had a harder journey than others, and one participant in particular has had more than his fair share of challenges. If life has been unfair to anyone, it's him. Yet he still rides the distance his bicycle takes him to our office with a smile each day, and today was no different.
During his visit today, my colleagues and I were lamenting about how rough our day had been, how much we disliked working on this study, and how much we were looking forward to moving onto the next project. This participant sat there the whole time silent throughout our whispering. After his session, he picked up his belongings, stopped for a moment by the window and smiled at us.
"You're so lucky, you can see the trains go by every day"
My first reaction was "what trains?". I looked to where he was pointing and realized that our office was situated a mere distance away from the train tracks. I had always known they were there, but never paid much attention or noticed them.
He remained at the window for a few seconds longer, admiring the train traveling by.
As he left the room, I sat down on my chair as though a rush of adrenaline pulsed through me, feeling like I had just woken up. "You're so lucky, you can see the trains go by every day". His words resonated with me over and over again as I resumed my task. "You're so lucky, you can see the trains go by every day".
Firstly, I had never really properly looked out the window to admire the view. If I was in the office, I had my game mode on, with one purpose only; To finish my task and to do it well. Never have I had the time to look out the window, just because. Secondly, I see trains all the time. There is absolutely nothing special about them, unless I'm stuck in traffic behind one.
I paused my work for a moment to look out the window, to try to see what he saw. And for the first time since I started working there, I saw the train. The simple momentum of each cart as it rolled across the tracks, the sun setting behind it, and the sky which had turned a brilliant hue of orange and purple.
Then I realized "I'm so lucky, I can see the trains go by every day".
This simple sentence coming from a man who had had so much taken away from him was humbling in ways I cannot even begin to explain. This man whom I had seen come into the office with a bright smile on some days, and break down in tears on others. This man who had little, and much at the same time was able to see something that I didn't.
After his statement settled in and I worked through my thoughts, a wave of embarrassment came over me. That I, someone who has had, in society's eye's, a relatively privileged life thus far, was lacking in so much. All I did was focus on the things that were wrong in my life, that I disliked. All I did was fret and worry about tiny little things. All I did was pursue thing after thing after thing, never satisfied. I'm so busy focusing on the next exam, next assignment, that I forget to appreciate the sheer enormity of what I'm learning. So busy tending to my garden that I forget to admire how gorgeous my flowers look.
So focused on my work that I never stopped to look at the train.
The whole time I was busy being exhausted with the project, I forgot to be thankful for the fact that I had a project to be exhausted by. I forgot to take a moment and appreciate the many amazing things I had in my life. Wonderful colleagues, a competency to work, and the train that chugged across my window periodically every day. This reminder coming from a person who's had so much to be angry about, yet finds the beauty in the simple things, is simply powerful.
Then I realized that sometimes we are so focused on a certain thing, we forget to take the time to appreciate everything else that is going on around us. There is so much to be in awe of, so much to be inspired by, and so many things to be excited and happy about. Yet I miss them during my pursuit of something that often brings me no satisfaction. Not just in my work or academic life, but also in my personal life. There are so many things I take for granted because they're always there. Like that train.
So I went into work today expecting that my biggest accomplishment of the day would be to run an efficient and accurate session, but instead, my biggest accomplishment was seeing for the first time, the train right outside my window.
Sometimes, the best things in life are the hardest to see, and usually the ones that have been right in front of you the entire time. They're the ones humming in the background, bringing life to everything else.
I was blind, but now I see.
This article is re-posted from April 1st 2015
This article is re-posted from April 1st 2015