The train

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This morning I took the train with my sister in law.

I don’t take the train very often during commuter hours, and it was painfully depressing. Quiet. Sorta dark and gray. People off to the same place they went yesterday; the same place they’ll go tomorrow; in many cases, the same place they’ll be going five … 10 … 15 … 20 years from now.

Not that anything’s wrong with this, if you’re happy and content. But, too often in life, people aren’t happy and content. They settle. Into patterns. Into routines. You get out of college and go for the job that pays the highest salary, suspending your dreams of being an artist or designer or … whatever. You say it’ll only be a year. Two years. Then you’ll get your feet planted and chase the goal. But time passes, paychecks increase, you fall in love, you marry. You need money. A kid arrives. Another kid arrives. Maybe a third. You really need money. Your salary rises. You get the annual Christmas bonus. You’re taking the train. Then you’re taking the train again. And again. And again. You look forward to 30 minutes of lunch, to getting home, removing your shoes and falling asleep in front of the Daily Show. You find yourself living for the weekends, only the weekends tend to let you down. Your daughter has dance. Your son has hockey. You’re doing a job you don’t want to do to attend events that, like everything else in your life, repeat themselves.

Your hair is morphing from brown to gray. You used to weigh 190. Now you’re 215. The treadmill you bought serves as a basement coat rack. You’re 45. Forty-seven. Fifty. All you want is to retire. But you can’t retire. You have house payments. Car payments. The kids need to go to college. They need an education—four years at $50,000 a pop.

It’s important.

How else will they end up on the train?

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