Bus Rides

Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

Every bus ride is marked with either utter serenity or galling racket. At eight years old, I found both equally unbearable. “The world,” my mother would often say, “isn’t always going to be the way you want it to be.” Innumerable repetitions of this proverb eventually convinced me to tolerate the situation, but bus rides still made me uneasy. The crowd of swarming people during rush hour always made me uncomfortable, the violation of space sometimes severe enough to stifle my breathing, and my aversion toward buses only grew over time. As a preteen, I had to endure countless school field trips. The bus rides were always an ordeal: either an hour of screeching cacophony or an eternity of dull silence. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I had a change of heart and found buses bearable.

I took the Greyhound alone and planned to mitigate those miserable hours by spending the time doing homework. Of course, all the seats were taken. Just before I decided to jump out the window into oncoming traffic in an effort to alleviate my pain, a kind man offered me his seat. I thanked him for his generosity and sat next to a college freshman. I know she was a freshman because we talked for the entire ride. Time froze as we conversed about our goals, our lives, and how we viewed certain events covered in the media and the local newspaper. We both agreed that tea is better than coffee. She refined my perspective by sharing stories about her childhood and her college experiences. Connecting with her made me feel that I was a part of a greater community, something beyond my private world. I had dreaded that two hour journey, but I now see it as a watershed moment.

My hatred of buses wore off immediately. I realized that every experience is what I make of it, and I wouldn’t have understood that from any other event. I learned that adulthood means looking at life differently. “Don’t talk to strangers” may be an appropriate message for children, but that advice can lead to an awfully boring existence. Challenging certain ideals is necessary for growth and development. I understood that, at some point, you have to abandon platitudes to become a unique individual. I am grateful that this opportunity came to me. My younger self wouldn’t have understood that something so seemingly dull could become so meaningful and interesting. I felt empowered on that ride. I felt like a new person when I stepped off the bus. I was enlightened, full of new insights.

While my days are typically too rushed to have genuine conversations with strangers, I will no longer succumb to my own preconceived notions. I’ve learned that having a biased perception only impedes one from gaining knowledge and experience. Anyone can step off a bus the same person they were when they stepped on. Not me. I choose to take every opportunity and use it to my full advantage by gaining new awareness during the few hours that I have the undivided attention of that someone in the adjacent seat.

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