This week’s mini memoir was submitting by Greg. Check out his travel blog, Greg’s China, and read all about his day to day experiences in China.
Back when I was a young and impressionable seventeen year-old, I took a train from my home town in West Yorkshire to Oban. Oban is a small city on the west coast of Scotland, and the gateway to the Hebrides. This was the first real time I’d traveled alone. My destination was a tiny 9 x 3 mile island named the Isle of Coll. You may be wondering what business a lone teenager had in the Outer Hebrides; I was going there for a selection course in the hope I would be accepted as a volunteer for Project Trust, a charity that sends volunteers abroad to teach in developing countries (A gap yah, in other words!).
As the train pulled away from the station I remember clearly the feeling of nervous excitement that you only get from going on an adventure. My heart beat fast as the blurred scenery shot by. As darkness gave way to the warm orange of dawn, the familiar sight of rolling fields was replaced by the ghostly desolation of moor land. Opposite me a middle-aged man sat looking out on the same view.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” he said, looking over with a friendly smile.
“Sure is” I replied.
We introduced ourselves and I asked him why he was going up the west coast of Scotland. It turned out he was going to stay with family up in Fort William, a town of about ten thousand way out in the Highlands.
“What do you do?” I decided to ask him.
“I do what I like to do, I suppose.” He said.
Seeing that I was a little confused by his statement he clarified. “I keep a list on me wherever I go. And on that list, I have written down every dream or ambition that I want to achieve.”
He paused to take a sip of his coffee, “I don’t take to it aggressively, but my opinion is that by knowing what you want to do, and being willing to do it, things just fall into place.
“Each thing written on the list is like… a bubble rising from the ocean floor. Eventually it reaches the surface, as it has always been destined to, and just like that,” he clicked his fingers, ”your desire changes from ambition to reality. This is how I’ve lived my whole life, and it’s always worked for me!
“Got a pen?” he asked.
“Umm, yeah, I’ve got one right here.” I replied.
“Good. Take it out and write your own list, right now.”
“What am I supposed to write about?”
“Write down anything and everything you want to do in life. You’ll achieve what’s on your list if you really want to.”
I finished writing the list. It was full of angst and teenage pipe dreams, but at the time it was profound to me. I made to show it to him, but he just said “That’s your list, you don’t need to show it to anybody, you just need to know that it’s there, and that it’s achievable.”
As the train pulled into the station, we shook hands and said our goodbyes.
I never saw Kirk again.
Even though his life was lived out of a suitcase, and I’m sure this must have brought about a fair share of troubles, he emanated a sense of contentment and freedom that I remember being in awe of. I like to think that wherever he is now he’s still carrying that same list and waiting for the perfect moments to execute each of his plans.
What could have just been a standard train journey was instead turned into a lesson that has stayed with me for seven years, and will continue to stay with me for as long as I live.
The lesson I learned was that even if you need to make sacrifices or you need to wait, there will come a time when what you want is achievable.
Some plans on my list have long since been crossed out, and others are yet to be achieved. I’m not anxious though, with enough time and patience every bubble has the chance to make its way to the surface.