It’s a bit alarming how quickly I have adjusted to the callousness associated with cities. I drive aggressively– at least compared to how I used to– and I am really good at avoiding or shutting down people I don’t want to talk to. My unfortunate habit of dealing with people in a disconnected, goal-driven way comes in handy when I need to get past a chatty housemate or an aggressive person on the street, but it’s something I want to be conscious of and challenge so that I can nurture another ability that I know I possess, even if it’s less often used: the ability to appreciate the uniqueness of people and situations.
When I’m in stop-and-go traffic, I love when I suddenly become aware of all the bodies and brains around me, each with their own complex stories and personal goals. It makes the situation instantly less stressful when I look upon the strangers around me not with aggravation and impatience, but with care and curiosity. (I probably drive more safely, too.)
I’ve been making small personal gains, too. I sometimes force myself to linger in the kitchen with my housemates instead of scuttling up to my room to eat my meals in solitude. Other times I invite them out with me or accept their invitations, even though I’d rather be alone. And it’s been exhausting, but good: Some people feel like friends when they probably would have felt like acquaintances, had I not put in this effort.
Callousness is a good personal defense mechanism. It helps me not to constantly despair over homelessness or get chummy with questionable wanderers in the street. And as an introvert, I don’t flush my energy into this vast whirlpool of people around me; my reticence allows me to save that energy for people who mean more to me.
Still, I think it’s less important to make myself comfortable than it is to make myself strong and more connected to the humans around me. Sometimes I feel love for people I see in the city that I’ll never speak to or see again — but I don’t feel that love often enough. It’d be naive to expect that love from other people, and perhaps even to expect it from myself more often than it already comes… but it’s worth trying to foster anyway.
Listening to the news every morning in my car before work, I came close to tears a few times this week. People are scary; the world is scary. I don’t know how to bring more love into it, and even if I did, I don’t quite believe I’d be strong enough to follow through with it. But, I’m still young. Maybe practicing these everyday challenges will get me a little closer to making that kind of difference. Writing helps.