you’d be almost home—says the sign in a shithole town I’m passing by on my train journey from London to Manchester. It got my attention, so I guess it does its job. I spent the next few minutes gazing through the window, observing the town that’s advertised as a London commuter’s dream home.
Cheap, red bricks, tiny windows, wooden-fenced square gardens, every house is exactly the same as the one next to it. Wet soil from the morning rain as there’s no grass anywhere, it’s desolated with no signs of life at all. Just the grey clouds in the sky and the cold wind howling around the box-shaped houses. “Bleak” is the perfect word to describe it. I have no idea how much it costs but it must be a couple of hundreds of thousands at least. I can’t help but see it as a sad place where dreams come to die. A place full of emotionally frustrated people whose best chance to live a dream is to live a broken dream.
There’s a park in the middle of the town, clearly meant for children to play but nobody’s there. It looks like nobody ever was there at all. The few people that do live there are probably too busy commuting to London and their important jobs. Why even bother putting a park in it?
I’m on my way to Manchester but thousands of people ride this train the opposite way to spend 8–10 hours in London and come home exhausted and emotionally spent. I know how it feels because I was there. I used to spend one hour commuting each way. And the trains are not what you imagine they are. They don’t even feel like a train, they feel like being stuck in a can of fish. They’re crowded to the point where you’re standing with your bag in your hand and can’t even move your arms because there’s literally no room. The bag that only weights a couple of kilos becoming heavier with each second that passes by, sweat pouring down your forehead, all the way to the eyes but you can’t swipe it. You can’t move, you’re stuck. And just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, the train stops at London Bridge — one of the busiest train stations in London. The train is completely full but there’s two times more people outside trying to board it. I get pushed further into the middle of the coach and I start fearing if I’ll be able to get off when the train reaches my station. Every breath gets heavier as the smell inside the train intensifies. I feel someone breathing down my neck, I hear another person’s music even though I’m listening to my own. I thought at first it couldn’t get worse but it did. But it will get even worse as the train keeps stopping and more people push their way onboard. Young mothers with baby strollers, commuters with bicycles… where are all these people coming from?!
If you lived here you’d be almost home? No thanks. I’m leaving London behind. It was a dream that turned out to be another broken dream. But broken dreams are there to teach us that what we want isn’t necessarily what we really need. And through that, we grow, we evolve and we mature. I’m thankful I tried living the London dream and I’m glad it turned out to be broken. Now I get to move to the next one. I refuse to live a life of frustrations, distractions and wasted time. A life of unexplored “what ifs”. A life that is outside of my control.