Life lessons from an Algerian stranger on the underground.

A French-Senegalese, Algerian, and Brit walk into the tube. Punchline still to come.

It’s not often that you meet people that you remember, and I mean really remember. I’ve already forgotten his name, I’m sure that I’ll soon forget his face. The feel of his 5'clock shadow on my cheek will linger for a few more hours, his smile and eyes might visit me in a dream, but the words that he spoke to me will resonate in my mind whenever I find myself in a difficult position.

I don’t usually talk to people on the underground, in fact I try my best to make myself invisible in fear of confrontation. But when you find yourself tightly packed, strangers inches away from you and a 45 minutes journey ahead of you? Well, small talk doesn’t seem so bad all of the sudden.

We were three to start with. After urging a struggling woman to rest her ikea bags on my suitcase, we formed a little place of our own, a carefully balanced masterpiece of our belongings between us.

He told us he had just been for a run, it looked as if it was something he did weekly. She told us about her new apartment. How when she first got there, it was so bare she nearly cried. I told them about about my travels, and how I don’t really know what to do with my life yet. It was short and beautiful. A moment of peace in the chaos of a buzzing city. When our British friend left, we switched to French. Our tongues heavy with accents that had stories to tell themselves we talked about everything that one could possibly say in the space of half an hour. I told him he shouldn’t let his age restrict his ambitions, a new beginning at the age of 30 is a new beginning still. He laughed and told me to be stupid, to live life before I’d need to settle down and to most of all work hard for what I deserve.

“Il n’y a que trois choses que je voudrais que tu reteigne, avis d’un amis. La famille, la santé, et l’éducation. Avec ça, tu te fais une vie complète. Apprend à oublier tes angoisses, se que l’un ou l’autre ta fait hier ne compte pas. Sens le temps passé, mais ne te laisse pas être contrôlé par une date d’échéance”

I know most people who are going to read this won’t understand this, but there was a poetry about the way it sounds in French. It won’t do it justice, but here is as close as a translation I can get to it.

“There is but three things I would like you to remember, advice from a friend. Family, health, and education. With these, you make a complete life. Learn to forget your worries, what so and so did to you yesterday shouldn’t count anymore. Feel the time pass, but don’t let yourself be controlled by deadlines.”

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