New York City felt like living on campus. A comforting, familiar feeling; I was not alone. Everyone existed collectively. We shared thrills and miseries as we commuted from one place to another on ‘campus’. We let bizarre realities pass through us in a shiver. There was no escaping them. After all, you couldn’t move where your body had planted itself. Sometimes you had to commit harder than you ever had before, planting even more firmly, claiming your space, holding onto it because your dignity and sheer humanity was at stake. You had to exist and you had to exist somewhere, and as much as you may wish to disappear for a mere moment to avoid a bizarre reality, you cannot, so just as you let a freezing cold gust of wind pass through you violently on the sidewalk because you have to exist, you let a bizarre reality pass through you for the same reason.
I collected these moments and cherished them. New York City is swiftly humbling. Witnessing these private moments, enduring someone else’s unedited display of pain, shock, discovery, disappointment, terror…this opportunity presented itself countless times in a day and none of us could make ourselves disappear.
The gift in these moments is this: we are all human. We are all one. This is particularly driven home on the day you find yourself expressing unadulterated grief on a street corner and you cannot spare yourself or the onlookers. They are at once enthralled and and unimpressed. You feel grateful.
When I discovered the photography work of Vivian Maier, I relished how she captured life as a bystander, how she found a private moment full of earth-shattering significance for a party of one.
There is a novel, a five-act play inside one fraction of each person’s expression. The simple fact that someone else (Vivian Maier) understood this makes planting my feet and enduring existence a little bit easier.