A Train Ride Home Where He Learned How To Stop Setting Unreasonable Expectations For His Family

This short story is great for people who want to improve their personal relationships and it can help people understand why it can sometimes be very hard to get along with family.

Original cover art by Paola F. Rey

Oscar was hoping his idea would finally be the one that his family would love and support. He diligently looked over his notes that explained his new business plan to open a cafe in the heart of London.

Beautiful green trees and hills greeted Oscar’s eyes as he looked out of a window on the steam engine powered train he was riding. He was traveling home to visit his family for the holidays and was in the process of mentally preparing himself to face their criticism once again.

Since as far back as he could remember, Oscar had come up with business ideas and asked his family what they thought of them. They would always find a lot of things wrong with his ideas and it made him want to try harder to come up with something they would finally approve of.

Oscar was sure his plan for a cafe was it. He thought the plan was good enough that his family would finally give him the respect and praise he felt he deserved.  Oscar always left holidays with his family wondering why he even bothered going, but he was excited this year because he could not think of anything bad they could say about his cafe.

His plan was to start a cafe in London because he had tasted an incredible coffee from Peru after a trip to Edinburgh, which was over 8 hours away from London by train. After visiting every cafe in London, Oscar had discovered that none of them were selling coffee like the Peruvian coffee he had tasted.

He imagined people lining up in the streets to taste the coffee at his cafe. He figured that the only difficult part would be opening for business, which was why he was hoping his family would love his idea. It was going to be difficult for him to afford opening the cafe on his own.

Oscar noticed the woman in the seat next to him glancing at his notes. He would not have minded if she had only glanced at his notes for a moment, but she kept on looking. He had to say something.

“Can I help you?” Oscar asked the woman.

“Oh I’m sorry. I just couldn’t help but notice the words ‘cafe’ on your paper,” the woman replied.

Oscar nodded in response. She seemed like a nice person and he didn’t want to tell her off, so he wasn’t sure what to say.

“I owned a cafe once. Very hard business,” she said.

Oscar spent a lot of time talking to himself about his ideas and he was not going to pass on the opportunity to discuss his cafe with someone knowledgeable. He started with the most important question that had been bothering him.

“Really? Would you recommend it?” he asked.

“Not really,” she replied.

That wasn’t the answer Oscar wanted to hear, but he assumed she probably had a standard cafe. He knew he had something special.

“Well, I know it will be hard, but I think I have a great idea to make my cafe different. I’m even hoping someone in my family will want to invest,” Oscar said.

“Oh really? Tell me more,” the woman replied.

Oscar could not deny that it felt good that someone was interested enough in his idea to ask about it. He also saw this as a great chance to practice explaining his idea. It would be a trial run before he explained it to his family.

Oscar and the woman talked about his idea for the next twenty minutes. She said her name was Leona and she shared some of the difficulties she had faced while running her cafe and he took note of them. He was delighted to find that Leona thought his idea could work, but still insisted it would be difficult. Hearing that the idea could work was enough validation to make Oscar happy.

“Why can’t my family be more like you?” Oscar asked, during their discussion.

“What do you mean?” the Leona asked.

Oscar explained how he had imagined his family being like her. He had imagined them asking questions about how he came up with his idea and how they could help him. He even considered the possibility that his parents would want to invest. Having his parents truly involved in one of his projects felt like nothing less than a dream.

“I know it hurts when you feel like your family doesn’t understand you, but that’s because you are expecting too much out of them. You are expecting them to be made up versions of themselves. Think about it. There is a reason you keep imaging them as being interested in your ideas and wanting to help you with them,” Leona said.

“What reason is that?” Oscar asked.

“You have to imagine them being interested simply because they are not the type of people who are interested in business ideas. If it weren’t for you bringing up business ideas, such things would never be discussed during the time you spend with them. You are living in a fantasy in which you go home for the holidays and your entire family has changed into completely different people,” Leona explained.

Oscar did not like being told he was living in a fantasy. He had been greatly enjoying the conversation up until this point. But he could not deny what Leona was telling him, even though it made him uncomfortable.

Oscar felt the train beginning to slow down, indicating that they must be close to their destination. He reached into his pocket and took out his Grand Period themed black pocket watch to check the time. It was a rare piece and he did hope Leona would notice, but instead she asked him a question.

“Let me ask you, do you generally have a good time with your family, other than discussing your ideas with them?” Leona asked.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Oscar replied.

“You are taking their criticisms of your ideas as a personal attack on you, which is why you get upset. You are expecting them to be a certain way, and when they don’t act that way, it hurts your feelings. Your expectations for them are unreasonable and kind of controlling,” Leona said.

“Isn’t it reasonable for me to want my family to support me?” Oscar asked.

“But you aren’t asking them for support. You’re asking them for validation. You are making it too much about yourself by bringing up your ideas and expecting them to praise you,” Leona answered.

“Yeah, I guess I see what you’re saying,” Oscar said.

“I used to be like you. That’s why I’m being hard on you. Let me tell you something from the other side. Everything is going to work out. Stop looking for validation from others and instead focus on following your heart. The more you try to do things based on what other people think, the more distracted you will become from following your heart,” Leona said.

Oscar nodded in response. The truth of what Leona was saying was dancing around his mind. He could already tell that this knowledge was going to change his mind permanently. It was basically magic.

“Let’s keep this simple. The success or failure of your idea does not depend on whether or not your family likes it or not. So why don’t you make having fun with your family your goal for the holidays this year?” Leona asked.

“I agree with what you’re saying. But I still kind of need to get them to invest if I’m going to open my cafe,” Oscar said.

Leona started laughing as Oscar felt the train come to a stop.

“Well, that’s just another an entirely different problem all together,” she said.

Leona stood up, shook Oscar’s hand and said goodbye, as she got off the train.

Oscar stepped off the train and took a moment to stare at the setting sun. He was home.


Post Story Extra: You have certainly heard the saying that people don’t change. We know this, yet we still expect the people we love to change. We are all on our own personal journey through life and we want the people we care about to come with us. But the fact is that they are on their own journey too and they are not always going to change with us. They are definitely not going to change to fit our expectations, so it’s important to make sure our expectations are reasonable.

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