Veronica was a kind and selfless soul. Charismatic, witty, and adventurous. We had only known each other for five minutes before she offered to take me to Brentwood park.
We turned into a dirt parking lot. At first glance, the park appeared to be somewhat ordinary. Scattered trees, perhaps a man-made lake, and several “please keep your dog on the leash” signs. However, my time in England was short so any new experience was appreciated.
“Veronica,” I began, “you mentioned that you like traveling?”
“Yes. Anywhere with beautiful nature. I really want to go snowboarding in the Alps, but I don’t want to go on my own.”
“Do you know who you would want to go with?”
“I don’t know,” she chuckled. “I don’t really have any friends.”
“Why is that?” I asked surprised by those words.
“When I was a student, all my friends were forcing me to drink but I don’t like drinking. Alcohol, to me, doesn’t taste nice but they never understood. So I thought that having friends causes too much trouble. I decided to stay on my own and instead learned to be by myself.”
We continued on our walk. The park was deceivingly beautiful. Birds chirped from their branches while the sun danced through the willowed oak trees. The further we ventured, the more tranquil it became. At times, feeling somewhat magical.
“So what would you say is the most interesting, or even quirkiest thing about you, Veronica?”
“I don’t know. I’m working so much I forgot myself to be honest. I was never taking time off because I always felt behind, underachieved, and as though I was not fulfilling my goals. It was a comfort zone that I got stuck in. The thought that, ‘I could be doing something more useful’ was a burnout type of thinking. Introducing myself to you and going to the park is my first step to remembering who I am.”
“Do you think you’ll ever get to where you want to be?”
“Yes, I’m sure I will because I’m working for it. It takes time, but I know that I’m doing something to get there. It already has brought a lot of change. Right now it’s really strange for me to hangout with a stranger who I have only met for the first time. This is a big change. It’s not the park we’re visiting that is different, but taking a stranger, initiating something with a stranger is different. The change is moving slowly but it’s good. I like it.”
The sun was nearly set and we made our way back towards the car with two memory cards worth of photos. Perhaps it took a little bit of walking, but Brentwood Park is still one of the most spectacular places that I have ever seen.
Like Veronica herself, the park was a hidden gem. She just didn’t know it yet.