Mind the gap
This is a District line train to Richmond via Victoria. The next station is Aldgate East. Please mind the gap between the train and the platform edge…
It was half-past five when I got into the tube. There was literally no place to sit as it’s Friday evening rush hour. Without much thought, I opened my big book (that’s a fantastic book) and started to read the fine print as the train oscillated. It was just one of those days when you hardly have enough space to stand and not enough energy to read. I decided to do something which you don’t often do in London, look at my co-passengers.
Many people were staring down at their glowing screens in their hands, few were chatting a bit louder than usual, some were reading books, and some others were just thinking. It started to dawn on me that everyone is going through their own realities. Their own little world of fears, joys, sorrows and victories. Each passenger is living a life as colourful and as weird as mine. Standing in that busy train, I asked myself how it would be like being someone else for a minute. What must be going on in their heads? How would it be like going through all their happiness and pain that they are feeling right now? We must be having different expectations out of the same things and waiting for different consequences.
Maybe the guy next to me is planning a date with his friend, they kept smiling all the while. Perhaps the girl towards the corner just got a job, she is beaming a smile as if she won over the world. The lady who is standing opposite to me is reading all the adverts on the walls of the train. Maybe she forgot to charge her phone today.
We are living in a world under random societal norms, but we often forget that the next person must be going through the worst roller coaster of his/her life. Maybe they need support. Perhaps they just need some space. How do we know? We do not even make any eye contact! We all got busier. We have less time to look at each other and talk. More time is spent in our own heads. Some people almost live like heads that their bodies carry around.
They are all living within you..
We are what we are based on the circumstances, memory, relationships and network. Now imagine this, if you are a composite of all that you have seen, felt, learnt and experienced, those instances would also include other people and their actions. This means they are living within you through your memories and learnings. In that case, everyone around us right now is a part of us in some way. They must be some version of us. This weird concept is difficult to ignore when we all are 99% similar. We are bound to enter similar situations, face similar challenges and opportunities.
Many times people say, if I were you, I wouldn’t have done that. If I were you, I would have not been there or would have done something else. Part of the problem is, one never can be another. Whenever you are talking to/about someone, you are only looking at a snapshot of their life. So you should think before jumping to your suggestions about what they should do or shouldn’t do in their life. This is where the difficulty is for many people, desperately trying to play someone else’s game.
“Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”
— Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
All you can do is to sit by them and listen if that helps. Moreover try to understand how it will be like living in their position, in their mindset, in their financial condition, eating their food, and then think through your words. Often we dont have time for that, and we judge someone’s choice of life within seconds. We desperately try to push a pause button on someone’s life and throw a random comment.
Mind the Gap
Learn that everyone is living their life in their given circumstances. Understand that their life may seem very similar to yours but they are living a different picture. Try to live with them before making statements about someone’s life. And if you are the one who is receiving advise, solicited or not, remember you get to decide what to do or not. The most important thing is to take responsiblity for your decisions. You should never blame someone else for your actions and at the same time never try to take responsibility for someone else’s choices in their life. Because when you advice something and it goes terribly wrong for them, what would you do? Apologise, isn't it? But that won’t make an iota of difference in their life.
Be curious. Stop jumping to judgements. Take any advice with a pinch of salt. No one has figured out life yet. And when you give advice, well, mind the gap.
“The next station is Kings Cross, St Pancras. Please mind the gap between the train and the platform edge”