Today, I went to Berlin and had a great time. It’s an awesome city full of stories and today I was lucky enough to hear one:
I had split from my family to have time to myself for all the important capital errands (aka Breakfast at Dunkins’, lunch at Starbucks and dinner at Vapiano cause we don’t have any of those where I live) and, since it was an extraordinary hot day, I sat down on a park bench to rest for a while. After five minutes or so, a man sure over 70 sat down next to me and we both pretended not to notice each other (German style, chit-chat is just not the way to go here).
Suddenly though, the old man turned around, looked at me and asked: “If someone promised you that you couldn’t fail, what would you do?” That was easy enough for me to answer, I had often thought about questions like that. “Move to the States.”, I said. He nodded thoughtfully and we went back to ignoring each other….for a minute.
“Why don’t you?”, he asked further.
“Erm…well…it’s not that easy. I mean..there are visas and money and relatives here and…I mean…it’s not like I could just…go.”
“Erm…because?”, I started to get a little annoyed. Who did this guy think he was?!
There was silence for a bit. Then he said: “When I was young, I wanted to do things but couldn’t. My family needed me and times were bad after the war and I was scared to jump, so I started working instead. By the time I could have done all these things, I didn’t want to anymore ’cause I had grown comfortable. Now, I’m old, it’s ok to admit that, and old people always look for young people to teach them a lesson, so here is my lesson to you: I regret not having jumped back then. How old are you?”
“Ok. I’m promising you hereby that you can’t fail. So go!”
I laughed and he starred at me. “Why are you laughing, it’s true. You can’t fail, I promised you.”
“Yeah but…I’m sorry but I don’t know you and you know nothing about me. If you promised me I wouldn’t die if I jumped off a bridge, I wouldn’t do it either, right?”
“I’m not telling you to be stupid! I’m telling you to go after your dream.”, he snouched.
I had enough. “It’s not like I’m not trying!”, I said more angrily than I had intended but I somehow felt like I had to justify myself. “I’m working on it but it’s a pretty big dream and I don’t wanna get my hopes up.”
He looked a little happier. “Well, it’s good you’re working on it. Just always keep in mind that you can’t fail. And even if you think you have, it might just be a detour, that’s all I’m saying. I wish someone had told me that when I was 21 but now I’m telling you and that’s it.” and he got up and left.
I don’t know if I had looked particularly lost but I definitely needed that. An old man who might not be able to give me warranty on life but who did remind me of one my all-time-favorite quotes:
And because I found this encounter so beautiful, I thought I’d share it with you guys 🙂