Yesterday I was speed walking through Waterfront Station at my usual frantic pace, distracted from lack of sleep, and suddenly realized I needed to pay attention. Because I wasn’t on my way to the client – but to the German Consulate – so I couldn’t just operate on auto-pilot. I have been traversing this same route a lot in the past couple of months and a routine has been established that I had to break.
It got me thinking about our everyday routines and how ordinary places become part of our life whether we are aware of it or not. I think lots of people don’t realize there are places and rituals that have become an important component of their life – and that they would miss them if they didn’t do them. This is why some people feel a bit lost the day after they retire.
Having moved likely about 40 times – changing everything from neighbourhood to town to country – I have always been very conscious of my daily environment. And have found quite ordinary places and experiences imbued with great meaning and inducing much nostalgia.
Back in 1990, I lived in Sydney, Australia. When I went back in 2000 for my first return visit, I took the train to Artarmon. It’s a residential suburb that no one but a local would know and has nothing to attract tourists. But I wanted to get off the train there and retrace the route I had taken so many times. Check out magazines in the news agent. Walk by the TAB without placing a bet. See if the Indian restaurant where I used to look for my boyfriend if he wasn’t in the apartment was still there. Gaze up at the high rise where I had lived then. Just soak up the atmosphere of my everyday Sydney life and try to re-live some memories.
Moving so much has taught me to value my everyday life and the relationships I develop in each place. My hairstylist, my drycleaner, my tailor. They all KNOW me. It’s a personal relationship, not just a business transaction. It makes everyday life sweeter and more meaningful.
The thought loop finished at the German Consulate, which as I expected was in the same building as one of my other clients. They have moved to a new building but it still feels familiar to enter the door and know where to go. Which made me think of the fun of new routines. It’s good to break habits and explore new things.
I once dated someone who used to not take the most direct route when we were walking – but the most interesting or pleasant. I am all about efficiency (the German Consulate felt like home 🙂 but I had to concede he had a point. And while I generally take the efficient route to run errands, when I explore new cities or have a day off in my own, I just wander and see what happens. In Paris, I might find a wonderful patisserie. In Amsterdam I might encounter someone dressed like Darth Vader. And here at home I might end up helping a lost tourist find the right bus. Going beyond the DNA of my everyday life always offers unexpected pleasures…