I was waiting for the bus with my music jammed into my ears, ready to be antisocial and bored like all over public transport voyagers.
“Are you going on holiday?” The lady waiting beside me asked, interestedly.
I tugged my headphones out of my ears, startled.
“Oh, erm, yes! I’m going home.”
“How lovely! And where do you live?”
And so we chatted as we waited, Foo Fighters still blaring inside my pocket, furious at being ignored for Human Interaction.
The lady introduced me to her mother who stood next to her. She had a thick Italian accent and I discovered had moved here with her husband and kids many years ago. I asked them about Italy and their eyes glazed over nostalgically as they told me about the wonderful food and the fabulous family life and the warmth.
They asked me what I wanted to do after I’d finished studying. I mumbled something about journalism and something about not being sure.
“These girls, always with their big dreams.” The mother said, as she shook her head and looked crossly out at the world, as if blaming it for what she was going to say next; words which almost winded me.
“They never reach them.”
It took me a moment to recover but eventually I managed a little laugh in response. It turns out her granddaughter had got unexpectedly pregnant and had had to put her life on hold. Nonetheless, you never expect someone to be so brutal about your future. She basically stripped me down to the very essence of what I am: an idealistic student, with too big dreams and too big a capacity to waste time on Instagram.
This terrible comment, so viciously sharp and tragically true, may have had more effect on me than any word of encouragement or blank recital of “You can do whatever you set your mind to.” These words are so often repeated, you begin to take them for granted and they stop meaning anything.
However, get an old lady on the side of the road tell you that you’ll never achieve what you hope to achieve, that triggers a spark of indignation that is difficult to extinguish.
I think they liked me. As we approached the station they made me double-check I had my passport and ticket and the old lady eventually beamed at me, delighted in my hopelessness of not knowing where to get off for the station.
And, as much as I liked them too, I will work tirelessly to prove them wrong.