I met a stranger on tram no.8 today. I was talking to the tram driver about the delay on the no.8 trams in melbourne and this stranger asked what was going on. He asked where I was from (apparently, I have an accent “go figure”). We talked about the weather and he mentioned how much he liked the weather today and I mentioned how I prefer spring over summer. Then it went on like this,
S: How old are you? You look like 18
K: im actually turning 21 this year, im a student
S: everybody’s a student here in melbourne
K: haha, yeah it’s a student’s city
S: so where are you studying at?
K: the melbourne university
At this point, I could see a faint change in his face. He said,”I should have gone to university. I’m the only one in the family that didn’t go to university and get an education”. I wasn’t sure of what to say but I just blurted out the first thing that popped in my head, “you don’t need education to be successful, its how you see your outlook on life. I have known quite a number of people who made it without education”. He just kept quiet and smiled politely. i dont know if ive offended him in anyway but then he started again.
He continued asking wether I have travelled anywhere and so I mentioned a few places ive gone to. He said I was lucky to have travelled so many places and how he never travelled outside australia before. He told me that he always wanted to go to Egypt and see the pyramids there. So I asked, “What’s stopping you?” I really saw him literally finding an answer and said, “I have nobody to go with”. Then I asked wether he was married. He didn’t really gave an answer so I quickly asked,” what about nephews, nieces…” He just said, “my nephews are in university and my friends…well, they are busy working”. At that moment, he pulled the line to stop to tram. He smiled at me and before he went off the tram, his last words were just, “see ya”.
Before I could say anything else, he was gone. As I was sitting there waiting for my stop, I thought about the conversation we had and what he said. I started having pictures in my head how life was to be him. Alone and having regrets, a lot of regrets. He regrets for not going to university as he sees as everybody around him grows older, they have their own lives to lead and he feels physically disconnected with the people close to him which in turn, affects him emotionally. Imagine during parties with his friends or family, he can never tell stories about what happened in work to him that day or how his little girl made him a drawing that made him laugh after a bad day. And every night, he’ll come home to his bed, not alone but with his regrets. And now I regret for not telling him to not give up on himself. For me, education is not a direct guarantee for happiness in your life. It takes a lot more. I should have told him to not wait for anybody else to go travel with him. Life is not going to wait on you. I hope I do see him again or better yet, I hope he finds what he has lost.