Sydney is the first city I have ever lived in.
I was born and raised until I was 9 years old in The Middle of Nowhere, Ontario (Emsdale and Kearny to be exact).
I then moved with my mom and sister to the Middle of Nowhere, British Columbia (Fort St. John to be exact.)
In the middle of that, I was on exchange in The Middle of Nowhere, Belgium (Mol to be exact.)
I’m sure you can see a pattern here.
So, as you can imagine, living in a city with four and a half million people (thanks Google) is a little strange and disorienting for me. I am no longer walking down the streets and running into neighbours or people who I know from high school, in fact I can go weeks going without seeing anyone I know at all! That may also be due to the fact I’ve only been here for a month and a half.
But the biggest, most stand-out, disarming thing that I’ve noticed is that people look at you, but they don’t see you.
As I walk to work everyday, I see hundreds of people. As a fundraiser, I am supposed to talk to and engage with hundreds of people every day. I wear a bright, in-your-face yellow t-shirt, and people still walk past as if I’m a ghost. And to them I guess I kind of am.
Here is my theory.
The city is huge. And loud. Pigeons cooing, horns blasting in your ears, the constant ding-ding of the cross walk signs. People talking, shouting, screaming, laughing, singing. Music, both good and bad, coming from vendors, stores, cafes, bars and guys on the street. The lights are bright, people are brushing and pushing past you, men and women are begging for loose change, and buses are screaming out you to get out-of-the-way. To deal with this everyday, all-day, would drive anyone and everyone mad.
So people start to ignore their surroundings. Ignoring the beautiful music coming from the street corner guitarist, the sweet smell of fresh coffee from the shop across the street. Everyone walks briskly past the small flower garden in from of the Cathedral, and down the steps of the graffiti painted tunnel. And people walk past you on the streets, without so much as glance. Headphones are in, iPhones in hand on the train, barely acknowledging the person beside you. I can go an entire day without anyone saying a word to me in this beautiful city.
There is a quote I once read, that sums what I’m trying to say quite perfectly.
“If there is a need that is perpetually unmet on this planet, it is the need to feel seen. To feel seen in our humanity, in our vulnerability, in our beautiful imperfection. Where we are held safe in that, a key turns inside our hearts, freeing us from our isolation, transforming our inner world. If there is anything we can offer each other, it is the gift of sight. ‘I see you’ – perhaps the most important words we can utter to each other.”
– Jeff Brown
It’s a strange feeling, to be in the middle of a city and feel so small and insignificant. To be surrounded by people, but to feel so utterly alone. In all honesty, I almost can’t wait to get back to a small, country town or city and interact with people again!
I think that’s enough rambling for tonight, time for bed!