I Was Pushed off a Train in a Foreign Country

Ren D

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I spent two years living in the Netherlands. These were the most wonderful years of my life. They were also two of the loneliest years of my life.

At age 24, I was dating a man who saw me as a debit card. I fell for his constant asks and did more for him than I should have done. One day while looking at the data for our family plan on a phone I purchased for him, I saw a picture of him and another girl. I will forever remember that moment. I felt like an idiot. I was travelling for work when I saw the picture. The room started to spin. I had to step outside to catch my breath. I couldn’t understand how I let that happen.

A month later, I was back home walking down the street from my hair salon. I received a call from my boss that would change my life. There was a project in the Netherlands she thought would be of interest to me. If accepted, I’d leave in two weeks. It was a long-term project so trips home would be infrequent.

I didn’t wait for her to stop speaking. I interrupted and said “Yes, I’ll go”.

The decision was easy to make. I needed to get out of town. I needed to re-evaluate. I needed to find myself.

I packed a huge bag and said goodbye to my friends and family. I looked up some Dutch words but had no idea how to pronounce them. I wrote down my hotel address on a piece of paper in the event my taxi driver to the hotel didn’t speak English. It was a good call.

After arriving at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, I took a two-hour train ride to my home for the next two years: Groningen. While my project was at Shell in the neighboring town Assen, I opted to live in Groningen due to the university. I thought it would be easier for me to make friends this way.

A two-hour train ride following a 6 hour flight to a country you’ve never been is mentally exhausting. I felt scared and exhilarated all at once. Once I arrived at the train station, I asked for a ticket to Groningen. I pronounced it Gron-in-Jen. The ticket agent had no idea what I was saying. I took out the paper with my hotel address. She nodded and pronounced the town the correct way.

The train ride was long, but I was too busy looking out the window to notice. When I arrived, I had to lug my heavy bag up a flight of stairs. There was no elevator at the train station in my new little town. There was no escalator either. My hands hurt. My knees were scraped. I had used them to help lift my bag up. I found a taxi driver; told him the address of my hotel and he didn’t understand. I once again pulled out my paper.

I travelled to the Netherlands in a time where it wasn’t common to have an international plan. I had no way of contacting anyone without wifi. This trip was over 15 years ago, and things were different at the time.

I arrived at my hotel and met a very nice gentleman who helped me to my room. When I was finally settled, I sat on the bed and cried. I was exhausted.

The next day, I woke up early ready to take on the day. I got dressed for work, found my way to the train station, took a twenty-minute train ride to Assen and waited for the shuttle to the office. Once there, I met my colleagues. We got along right away, and I was happy to be with a group again. Unfortunately, they all lived in Assen which made me question why I opted to live in a town I didn’t know anyone. I told myself it would make me grow. I’d have to make friends in my new town.

I commuted this way for months. One day, I had a small bag with me as I had gone straight to work after a weekend trip. I was on my way back to my hotel in Groningen. There were people lined up to enter the train. There were people also trying to get off. The train started moving. I couldn’t miss it. I had no idea when the next train was, and I was exhausted. I stepped to the side of the people trying to get on the train and lifted my bag up. I saw an irate man in front of me yelling words I didn’t understand. I felt him push me. The next thing I know I am falling. The train has stopped. I had fallen on my bag on the platform. I looked up angrily.

I saw several men surround the man who pushed me. They were yelling at him and fighting. I yelled the first words that came to mind. Curse after curse after curse. All in English. People looked at me different. They didn’t realize I was a foreigner. I shakily grabbed my bag and stepped back on the train. A woman apologized. I sat in the first available seat. I was sweating.

This was one of the worst experiences of my life. It was a moment I will never forget. Yet after that push, I wasn’t scared anymore. It was a turning point. I left my home to restart my life. And that is exactly what I would do. I told myself to stop crying, I was stronger than what happened. I told myself I wouldn’t go home. I wouldn’t move to Assen. I would stay in the town I decided to live in, and I would love it.

Eventually I rented a furnished apartment in that town. I slowly made friends. I did move to Assen after 18 months when I was working longer days and it was easier to be around my colleagues. But I didn’t move because I couldn’t cut it by myself. I moved for convenience.

It’s funny how the loneliest time of your life is also the time of the most growth. Those two years were lonely. I missed my family and friends terribly. But I returned a new person. I returned more self-aware and confident than I had ever been.

It’s true what they say about your comfort zone. You only grow when your outside of it. I was so outside of my comfort zone during those years that I did nothing but grow. If you’re in a bad place and struggling with awareness and acceptance, do something uncomfortable. Challenge yourself. Don’t let someone pushing you out of a train be your turning point.

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On a journey to find fulfillment. I write about personal growth and development, love, minimalism and life lessons.

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