If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears the beat of a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.
Henry David Thoreau
This week’s Snippet Sunday has both a very literal and figurative connotation; Let’s start with the literal. In New York it is easy to see that everyone literally walks at their own pace, and while there are those of us like myself that do a ten minute walk in four. I should not begrudge those around me who do it in twenty, or thirty. While it may be an inconvenience, and a truly unpopular opinion among most city dwellers, it’s not my right to force them to move any quicker.
The same of course can be said of life in general. I have friends at all different stages of life at this point. Some are married and looking to build a home, some are engaged, some are in long term committed relationships, and others like myself may be single. The important thing to note is that just because others are “ahead” of you doesn’t mean that you are behind, we all move at our own pace, just like individuals on the streets of New York.
8 Million… Seems like a big number doesn’t it? When you realize what i’m referencing it will be even more absurd. The number i’m referencing of course, is the approximate number of people currently living in Manhattan. That is the number of people living within 302 square miles of land. That equates to about 26,490 people per mile. Just for a little reference, my hometown is 33 square miles, with a population of 11,944 people in it. This of course doesn’t include the literal 1.63 million people who flood into the city on either Metro North Railroad or any of the dozen bridges that enter Manhattan each day; it’s main lines drawing from all of southern New York, and Connecticut.
And yet, an unbelievable number of people my age complain that they feel alone living in this behemoth of a city. An outsider might wonder why that is, an outsider being someone who has never experience the fervor that NYC can induce. So why is it in a city of 8 million people, any one of them can complain that they feel alone.
The simple answer? Technology.
We live in a generation glued to technology, Cell Phones, Smartwatches, Bluetooth Headphones, Augmented Reality Glasses, and Social Media. I myself as part of the generation of millennials find myself falling party to this fallacy time and time again. Technology, the pinnacle of what we’ve designed, what was supposed to bring us closer together, inevitably drove us further apart. From Online Dating, to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Reddit, all designed to help us find, and maintain companionship; whether platonic or otherwise. We’ve stopped looking around, we’ve stopped living outside our own little bubbles. We bury ourselves so deep into our Social Media, Online Dating, our technology that we don’t know how to co-exist outside it anymore. The number of times I’ve seen people out on dates, both staring at their phones is incredible.
So, as I realized this, as I realized I was in a city of 8 million people, each with their own story, and with their own unique life; I started to stop burying myself in my technology. I began to look around, I began to listen, and as soon as I did wouldn’t you know I started running into people I knew. Just this morning, I ran into a former employee from a past job getting off of the train in Grand Central. All because I took my headphones off, and looked up as I walked. I paid attention, and as a result I was rewarded with an interaction I otherwise wouldn’t have had. It’s amazing what a little observation, and a little listening might reward you with.
So, lets wrap this up in a nice little bow. You live, and work in a city of 8 million people. You are about as far from alone as you ever could be. I’m not saying that you need to do this every day because let’s be honest there are still days I bury my face in my phone, headphones blaring, tuned out of the world around me, and that’s okay; sometimes you need that time to yourself. But, I do implore you, once a week, take off the headphones, shove the phone in your pocket or purse or what have you. Look around as you walk, as you ride the train, as you traverse the subway lines. You might be pleasantly surprised as you run into someone from your past, or perhaps you’ll meet someone new, perhaps you’ll meet your next lover? Who knows… but what I do know is if you bury your face in your phone, you blare music in your ears, if you tune out the world around you, the world is going to tune you out too. An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, so take the time to look around, stop being blind to the beautiful world around you. Open up to it, and it will open up to you.