I was in college. The guy that I had been seeing had just dumped me like yesterday's newspaper. My roommate decided that I needed distracting, so she dragged me to see a cover band playing in one of the many small towns around San Marcos. Cathy figured that loud music and dancing would take my mind off of my heartbreak. She didn't have to remind me that she had a crush on the drummer; anything was better than sitting home alone moping.
We danced in front of the stage all night and generally frolicked. When the everything was over, Cathy and I hung around so she could talk to the drummer. I was left just sort of hanging about near the stage, both for moral support and because Cathy drove. I sat at a table by myself and let myself get down in the dumps about a stupid boy.
It wasn't just about the ego bruise. I had it in my head that I should be married by a certain age. At the time, I think that just about every girl had that same idea. We even made fun of the girls who went to college to get an "MRS" degree; they were only there to snag a husband. We laughed, but there was still that fear, that imaginary deadline. If we weren't married by this age, we were losers and would never marry at all. It was beyond stupid, but it was there. I sat there in the quiet dance hall and felt like a failure.
One of the guitarists suddenly appeared in front of the table where I was sitting. He put his guitar case flat on the table in front of me and began pulling wires and straps off of his guitar. I looked up at him. He was older than his bandmates; with dark hair and blue eyes. He had an enormous black mustache; it seemed to take up the entire middle of his face. He smiled at me as he dismantled his equipment.
And then I just started bawling my fool head off in front of a complete stranger with a guitar.
I hate to cry. I especially hate to cry in front of strangers. I don't know what the heck they do to those actresses in movies who look fresh as a daisy covered in dew when they cry onscreen, but I just look a mess when I cry. My face gets all blotchy, my nose gets red and snotty, and my eyes just swell right up. Yet here I was, horrified, waterworks gushing full time.
"Damn!" the stranger said. "I can't be that ugly!"
This had the intended effect of making me laugh. He handed me an honest-to-god cloth hanky so I could wipe my eyes and nose, and then just stood there wiping down his guitar. I apologized for my outburst, and told him that my boyfriend had dumped me.
"He's an idiot," he said as he laid his guitar into the case. "What are you doing crying over an idiot?"
I laughed; he was right. But what if that was my last chance to be married? What if I was alone for the rest of my life?
The guitarist just shook his head and smiled. I could see that he was trying very hard not to laugh at me. He closed up his guitar case and picked it up, ready to leave.
"Another train comes by every five minutes," he told me before he walked out into the night.
I sat there. That random guy was right. What he said resonated like only the truth can. I got over that guy who dumped me at that very moment, and I stopped worrying so much about whether I was going to get married or not.
I've heard his words said lots of different ways since then. Tomorrow is another day, for example. As one door shuts, another door opens. For every loss, another opportunity. I've said those words to myself many times at the low points in my life since that night, and I am heartened by them. Those words give me hope.
Another train comes by every five minutes. It might not be what you expected, and it may take you in a completely different direction. But the train does come. We just have to be at the station when it does.