When I take cabs by myself, I often feel like I’m playing Russian roulette with what kind of driver I will get. Am I going to get the one that asks a million questions? Or perhaps the kind that wants me to pay cash but can’t break my $20? Or, if I’m extra lucky, will it be the one that has no idea where we are going?
On a recent trip to Chicago, I Uber-ed a cab and spun the driver-roulette-wheel. Much to my surprise, I was met by a sweet old man in his late 60s. While I couldn’t quite distinguish where his accent might be from, he did quickly apologize for his broken English. Then, much like listening to an interesting story from a grandparent, he began to speak of his journey to America. He told me about how he had lived his whole life in Albania and always dreamed about what life in the states must be like. His fears of culture shock, language barriers, and the financial burden of such a move had always held him back. That was, however, until his two sons made the dream happen for themselves — they left Albania and moved to Chicago. He spoke of how proud he was of his boys for taking the risks that he, himself, had always been too scared to take. Being newly retired and knowing of his sons’ success, he and his wife decided to take the biggest leap of faith they had ever taken. They packed their bags and set forth to start a new life in America. He explained that when they reached the ‘Windy City’ five years ago, he decided that the best way to acclimate would be to dive right in. So to learn English and better understand his new surroundings, he began a new career as a cab driver. He explained that while his new life has not always been easy, he would not trade the opportunity for anything.
While reading this story here may not seem like much, his honesty and sincerity touched me in a way that no conversation with a stranger ever had before. As we neared my stop he said to me with a glint in his eyes, “All my life I had dreamed of coming here, but I always let fear hold me back. I love being in this city so much, but now I am just an old man and won’t have as long to enjoy it.”
How often is that the case for many of us? We allow fear to hold us back. We allow familiarity and comfort keep us from new and exciting things. We fear failure so much that we refuse to take risks; when in reality, failure should not be feared. Failures make us stronger. They force us to look at things from new angles and perspectives. They force us to try again. And in the end, it is because of all of those obstacles and hardships that we can truly admire and marvel over our accomplishments. More often than not, we tell ourselves that failure is not an option. But it should be. If failure is not an option, then we are not pushing ourselves far enough or hard enough. The confessions from my cabby reminded me of just that — we are never too old or incapable of pursuing our dreams.