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The Compassionate Modern Human

I awkwardly move down the aisle with my large roll-able suitcase, two carry-on bags, and a massive 20-kilo hockey bag, stuffed with a random mix of my clothing, electronics, and daily essentials. Moving out is a bitch. I landed in Taoyuan International Airport about an hour ago, and now I’m on the Taiwan High Speed Rail train, southbound for my hometown, Kaohsiung, known for its hospitality and unbearable summer heat. For an Asian man in his mid-twenties, I’m unusually bulky, mostly from the 5 years of lifting. Couple that with 4 travel bags, one the size and weight of a small human, it’s a lot to process for most locals. As I awkwardly shuffle down the narrow aisle towards my seat, people give me disapproving frowns.

I’m sorry I finished my Master’s degree and decided to move back to Taiwan for a while, and in the process interfere with your evening by lugging around a few heavy bags. Sheesh.

 

There it is. I see it. 19E. It’s a window seat in a pair. There’s a middle-aged Taiwanese woman in the aisle seat beside mine. Her eyes are closed, brows frowned, but I know she isn’t sleeping because about 15 steps ago I saw her eyes open and I know she caught a glance at the monstrosity I was carrying. I stood in front of her and my seat for a bout 10 seconds, hoping she would open her eyes so I could ask her if she could kindly switch seats with me so that I could have a bit more space and look after my luggage as they’re tucked to the side in the storage compartment. Her eyes remain closed after 20 seconds.

 

Okay… I guess I’ll have to sit my hockey bag onto the seat, and then stand by the rest of the luggage.

 

Now, am I a bit annoyed that she didn’t have the courtesy of asking if I needed help? A little, sure. But truth be told, more than anything else, I was just disappointed. She may have her reasons for being apathetic – maybe she was having a really bad day. I get it, we all have those once in a while. But to be so closed off from the world, to be so uninviting towards people, what must that feel like?

 

I’m not bashing on her because I think I’m holier than her. No, not even close. I’m sure that sometimes, without realizing it, I can come off as really unfriendly or cold. I wanted to write about this incident in hopes of reminding us all to be more compassionate towards each other, with the ultimate goal of being more compassionate towards ourselves. The modern human is faced with a myriad of stressors, things to do, bosses to please, family and friends to deal with, and more. It gets freaking overwhelming sometimes. Hence, it’s not surprising, and frankly quite understandable, that we can be closed off from the world at times. It’s precisely for this reason that we should practice to be compassionate towards ourselves, to let things go. I will go into greater depths on being a Stoic another day in another story, but for now let’s revisit the scenario just now in a parallel universe:

 

There it is. I see it. 19E. It’s a window seat in a pair. There’s a middle-aged Taiwanese woman in the aisle seat beside mine. She sees me approaching and comments:

 

“Wow, that’s a huge bag! Do you need any help, young man?”

“Haha, yeah actually. I would really appreciate it if you could switch seats with me so I can watch over my luggage in the storage compartment?”

“Of course, no problem.”