When I was growing up and something did not quite go my way my dad always just said, “It is not a train smash.” For most of my childhood, all of my adolescence and part of my adult life this expression annoyed the fuck out of me. I found the phrase to be dismissive and undermining, particularly when used in regard to situations I deemed to be extremely serious (like when my sister made out with the guy I adored). But the older I get the more I realize that my dad’s maddening idiom is actually the basis for a healthy adult life.
Recently I reflected on the instances in my life that feel significantly upsetting. Sometimes I go on shitty dates. Sometimes I go on great dates with fellas who I never hear from again. Sometimes I fall in love and end up with a broken heart. Sometimes I run out of money before my next paycheck. Sometimes my dog eats my sunglasses or pukes on my rug. Sometimes I lose expensive or sentimental things. Sometimes I make mistakes at work. Sometimes I get overwhelmed, anxious or depressed.
I was quick to realize that none of the issues I perceive as bothersome are anywhere close to a train smash. A train smash is disastrous, the consequences are dire. Death, for example, is a train smash. Train smashes do happen from time to time but every single other thing in life is merely an interruption, a detour, a breakdown or a change of direction. Our journeys may not always go as planned but we will always end up someplace (except in cases of an actual train smash).
Since perspective is all relative I will still allow myself to feel irritation and distress but I will try harder to remember that whatever it is, it is probably not a train smash. I hate to say it, but my dad told me so.