The Little Engine That Did
I had always been very sheltered as a child, even more so as a teenager.
“ Can I go to my friend’s house for little while?” I would ask.
“Ask your mom first,” my dad would reply. I would sigh, defeated, already knowing the answer my mom would give.
“No, you can’t. I don’t know their parents and I don’t know what they’re like,” my mom would retort. As a kid, I grew accustomed to these interactions and eventually learned not to even bother anymore when it came to wanting to be with my friends outside of school. Because of this, I never really ventured out- not that I really wanted to at this point, especially with the scolding I received. Most of my life I was always afraid to try new things or go to different places on my own- comfortable with what I already knew, too afraid of change. And so being introverted came very natural to me, almost instinctual. So, I had a hard time actually being a teenager without the constant need to be attached at my mother’s hip in order to feel confident and secure. I had not realized just how negatively this affected me: never really knowing what true independence felt like- doing things for myself, by myself. I would always rely on others because I was too afraid to trust myself and my own instincts.
So, being adventurous was something completely out of the ordinary for someone like me and something that I would never see myself being. Fast forward to January of this year, I had the opportunity to finally leave the nest on my own volition and see the rest of the world through my own eyes with just one phone call made by my closest friend Sandra.
“Hey, do you want to take the train to LA with me, Maria, and David on Saturday?”
Almost immediately, my mind forms excuses- like a knee jerk reaction- already knowing the answer my parents would give me; my mind then conjuring scenarios of what my parents will tell me: “LA is dangerous and sketchy.” “You’re too unobservant of your surroundings.” “You always walk like you have blinders on.”
And I acquiesce, thinking they are most definitely right. Knowing myself enough and realizing the danger I could possibly get myself into because of the aforementioned reasons, I am further discouraged to go.
“Come on let’s just go and have fun! It’s not like we’re going late at night, plus Maria’s been in that part of LA so many times already. We’ll be fine,” Sandra tries to convince me one final time through FaceTime Friday evening.
“I don’t know dude. Are you completely sure it’ll be safe? And we won’t get lost?” I contend, scrunching up my face in a grimace.
“Jeez Em, you worry too much, I’m surprised your head isn’t full of white hairs! Of course we’ll be fine. We’ll have fun too, I’ll even pay for your lunch,” she replies, laughing at her poor attempt at a joke. And with that I cave in. Who can pass up a free meal?
“Okay fine, I guess. But just for that comment, I’ll make sure I get something ridiculously pricey,” I finally surrender, giving her an evil toothy grin.
“Whoa, whoa, who said anything about an expensive lunch? You’re ordering from the dollar menu at McDonald’s!” she cackles to herself. Not being able to keep a straight face, I burst into laughter as well. And with that, we set plans to wake up at 8 in the morning on Saturday to meet at Maria’s house since she lives closest to the train station.
Arriving at Maria’s house that Saturday morning, Sandra and David were already there and I was the last to show up. Once we all check to make sure we have everything, we set out for the Santa Ana Train Station. As we walk to the station, the morning breeze nips at my nose; luckily I decided to wear a knit long sleeve under my leather jacket. Precaution begins to set within me and I tune out my friends’ chatter, remembering to be alert of my surroundings. Look both ways before crossing. Remember street names. Always walk in a busy area, I chant like a mantra in my head.
The station comes into view and anxiety slightly loosens its grip on me. After purchasing our tickets, all four of us gather and sit on one of the few benches in front of Track One and wait. I notice the wearing paint on the bench we are sat on and begin to pick at it, once again the anxiety makes its appearance. Sandra, who is sat next to me, notices and turns towards me.
“So once we get to LA Union Station, we’re gonna take the Metro to K-Town. Do you think we should eat first or shop around a bit?” she asks-her attempt to distract me.
“Um, I guess maybe shop around first and then take a break to eat would be better? Maybe just get some coffee or tea at a café nearby?” I suggest, thinking about our plan lulled the anxiety.
“Yeah sounds good! Everyone else agree? Maria? David?” Sandra asks the remaining two, nods of approval greet her. Soon after, the train arrives and the uneasiness stills, replaced by a childlike wonder, for I had never ridden on a train before.
Forgetting the apprehension, I focus on the adventure to come. Finally, I can say I did something on my own. No parents, no fear, just pure fun with friends. We board the train, searching for seats in the already packed cart. Finally finding four seats that were close to each other, we settle down. I plug in my headphones and the music further soothes me, remaining doubt fleeing my mind like the passing views of the cities outside the window. In my twenty years of living, I finally reached that point in my life where I could gain the confidence to start being more independent and going on adventures without the need of “parental supervision”. Hell, I AM an adult and I should be more self reliant and trusting of myself.
“We are now arriving at Los Angeles Union Station. Please proceed to gather all belongings and exit the train once it has come to a complete stop. Thank you for boarding the Metrolink. Have a nice day,” the automated female voice instructs.
I pause my music and make my way off the train. Jumping down to the platform, I ogle at the towering buildings surrounding it.
Sure the world can be quite vast and frightening sometimes, but remembering that there is more to life than being fearful of every minuscule thing, makes it that much easier to go roaming anywhere on my own. And with that Sandra, Maria, David and I hightail it to the Metro, I am nearly skipping my way alongside them, the giddiness completely replacing the dread.
Credits: Photos - Harald Landstrath; Jose Alba; Khusen Rustamov; Ella Limoge