Proof That I Was Here

Sometimes I wonder if the reason I write is so that I have proof that I was here.

This morning on my daily commute, I decided to forgo my usual reading time and just observe the people around me. Every person on the train has their own story – when we are gone, what’s going to be left behind to continue it?

Not my picture

Not my picture

Her name is Molly. Holding the compact in her left hand, she balances the eye liner pencil in her right and steadily draws across her top eye lid. The bouncing of the train does not faze her. The ear buds in her ears project hip hop music, and she bobs along to it. The necklace around her neck is round, the size of a half-dollar coin, with a stenciled tree printed on it.

Maybe she is on her way to an interview. She will get off the train, walk up to the street into the bright sunlight and the movement of the city, and confidently walk toward Macy’s or an Indian Restaurant. During the interview she negotiates her pay, as she has a sick mother and a child of her own to take care of. She says she can start immediately and starts training tomorrow.

Next to her, Brian sits. No headphones for him. Lost in his thoughts, he daydreams about the vacation to Maine he’s leaving for next weekend with his family. They go every year. His wife is a nurse, making their work schedules conflict often. This vacation is his escape, his time to spend with family, and the highlight of his year.

Molly takes her phone into her right hand and starts playing Candy Crush. Hugging her purse across her lap, she plays through a level before changing her mind and just enjoying the songs on her iPhone. There’s a small tattoo in Latin on her right foot. Brian also grabs his phone – checking his calendar to see what time he has a meeting today, when his bills are due, or to enjoy a quick game of Temple Run. He, too, retires his phone to his pocket after a moment.

Both pass me as they get off the train at their designated stops. I smile as I move out of their way. I can’t help but wonder what their real stories are. Maybe Molly’s on her way to a brunch date with a guy her best friend set her up with. She doesn’t even know what he looks like and she’s extremely nervous. Maybe Brian dresses up for work everyday, just to ride the subway for 8 hours so he doesn’t have to tell his wife he lost his job two weeks ago.

On my commute, I am often in my own world. I don’t look around at anyone and I stick to myself. Headphones in ears, book in hand. And yet, there is so much happening right around me. Things that are beautiful, interesting, and full of life.

I often forget how large this city is. Every one here is an individual through and through. Everyone wants to leave their mark. They want to do what they are passionate about and leave proof that they lived their lives.

I want to leave my mark.

Sometimes I wonder if the reason I write is so that I have proof that I was here.


46 thoughts on “Proof That I Was Here

  1. I LOVE this! I’m a people watcher too and sometimes, I eavesdrop on people’s conversations. It’s a terrible habit I started when I was in college but I can’t help myself. One of these days, someone’s going to catch me 🙂

    • I’ve been keeping a journal since I was in 6th grade, so I have over 15 notebooks of journaling done. I was home visiting family a couple months ago and looked through them and I honestly believe that this is the reason why I write. After I pass away, these notebooks will (hopefully) still be around to prove I was here.

      • That is amazing, and I am so glad you kept all those journals. Mine from high school and college got thrown out. But maybe it’s better that way, as there’s lots in there I’d prefer to forget about 🙂

    • They really are. For an acting class I took, we just had to sit in Washington Square Park and watch people for a half hour. You never notice the mannerisms people have until you take a second to just observe. It’s truly fascinating.

  2. It’s so fun to imagine strangers’ stories! I was recently saddened realizing that part of my family is kind of dying out. There were a lot of people who had one kid or no kids and there are so few people left to tell their stories. I think I’m going to begin a story file for them. I’m glad you’re writing your own. 🙂

    • That’s a fabulous idea – you could be like your family historian! I actually think it’s SO important to document these kinds of things, especially in families. And thank you so much for the kind words 🙂

    • Hm, thanks so much for letting me know. I’m not sure what was wrong with it, maybe it was a issue? I’m thinking about taking the dive into self hosting pretty soon so hopefully that issue won’t happen again! Thanks so much for letting me know!

    • Thanks so much for commenting, I really appreciate it. I didn’t even think about what other people might be thinking about me. What an interesting concept – maybe I’ll write a follow up to this in the perspective of somebody else on my train?

    • I didn’t realize it until recently. I’ve been journaling for years but only to get whatever was in my head out. But lately I’ve been noticing that there’s a reason I like to document my day.

    • Thank you so much! And seriously, it’s so interesting just to watch people. My acting teacher likes us just to observe people frequently because we forget different mannerisms and whatnot of just natural behavior. So interesting.

  3. Beautiful post. NYC has always been a mix of beautiful chaos and overwhelming metropolis to me. I think it helps when you step back and realize that each and every person you pass is leading a life all their own. This makes me even more excited to head into the city tomorrow for the weekend! Thanks for this post =)

    • I hope you have a great weekend here! (Even though it’s rainy 😦 ugh). It definitely helps to just look at it with a different perspective. It can seem so crazy but it’s amazing how a different outlook slows the whole thing down.

  4. This is so well crafted. I like that it’s melancholy and hopeful at the same time. Imagining the back story behind a stranger is one of my favorite past times. Thanks for the beautiful glimpse of your day.

  5. When I worked in the city for the summer YEARS ago, I think I just became one of the masses, but now when I ride the train in with my kids, it feels like we are just on the outside watching the show, never thinking of our own stories…just, like you, watching the lady put on her makeup!

  6. I’m in Chicago and I love people watching on the train and bus. I sneak looks at people, hoping they won’t catch me staring as I imagine what their lives are like, where they’re headed, what they do during the day. I’ve totally been caught looking, and pretended I was looking out the window, my cheeks turning red cuz I was bused! Loved this post. I have the same suspicion about myself, that one reason I write is so that the world can have a little something to remember me by.

    • I’m so glad I’m not the only one who watches people haha. It’s actually great when I have writers block and want to write some creative fiction. I just sit and watch people and then create their story. It’s such a fun exercise. Thanks for the comments!

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