She left no word unsaid. She poured her heart out, leaving no space for ambiguity, comfort lies or a fake display of strength. No, she was not going to play that role. Not with him anyway. He was just a stranger, a kind man in his mid-forties, who was accustomed to hear out life stories over a drink or two. In fact, listening to these spur-of-the-moment confessions was part of his day job. He was a bartender for more than a decade in this little bar on Rue des Saints Pères.

“Sometimes we tiptoe through life”, she said, “trying to be everything to everyone and press pause on our wild and precious dreams. We doubt ourselves, our abilities, our native talents just because someone is rude or has a different opinion on things. We fall short, our knees wobble and our voice starts shaking. Perfectionism, self-doubt, isolation, handling naysayers and pessimists, fighting our interior shadows and doubts…”

“Oh, yes! And then that voice in our head never stops talking, telling us that we are not worthy or not good enough. Or that it’s too late to make a change”, he continued.

She smiled. His rough, unshaved look was sweetened by his piercing blue eyes and at times, it seemed that he was looking right into her soul, taking off layer after layer of hidden fears and tucked away vulnerabilities, leaving her exposed and decipherable.

“But out of nowhere”, she continued, “In our weakest hour, at the end of the tunnel, a light is beaming through the darkness. We shyly step into the light, hoping that there is more to life. That we can still make it. That there is enough time left and a ticket to happiness waiting for us.”

The bar was half empty. People rushed to work at that hour. The heavy grey sky outside and the chilly wind rushed them even more. She had her double espresso and a croissant and while her heart was longing to stay a little longer, she took her coat and asked for the bill. Étienne, the bartender looked surprised. He too, wanted her to stay a bit more. He enjoyed her company, but oh well, she had a train to catch.

It was freezing outside and there was no taxi in sight. Étienne had warned her: it was taxi rush hour. Walking through the haze, tons of questions and restless thoughts danced in her mind. This trip had been amazing. The meetings she had, the people she met. It was all incredible. And though it was beyond what she had imagined, it all felt so natural, so normal, so familiar. People were incredibly nice to her – easy-going, cheerful and happy to meet her. Each meeting left a trace in her heart and a smile on her face.

Life was finally showing her good side, showering her with spectacular, magical and truly serendipitous encounters. Everywhere she turned there was someone bringing a message of some sort. Words were powerful and her wide open heart took it all in, every little message she received. Every person left an echo in her soul and like mirrors, they revealed one more piece of the puzzle. The Universe spoke to her in a variety of ways. Only this time, he wasn’t so subtle.

The minute she hopped on the RER train that was taking her to the CDG airport, some of her questions were answered. Stiflingly crowded during rush hour, the RER passengers were tightly packed and there was hardly any space for luggage.

“Isn’t life the Grand Central Station? Isn’t there a specific train and a certain destination for each and every one of us?” she thought. “Don’t we all embark on a journey, seeking a great adventure or hoping to arrive quickly and safely back home?


Sometimes we sit in silence secretly wishing the ride to be over, because we feel we’re on the wrong train. Or living the wrong life. Other times, we patiently wait for our turn, as we pass through different train stations.

Each and every one of us has a step to take, a life lesson to learn and to resolve before our train pulls into the right station. But as imperfect as rail itineraries often are, so too, life has both bumpy and sunny routes in store for us.”

*Photography via Brief Encounter, 1945