Wednesday, August 6, 2008

On My Mind: Shut-In NYC

Confession. I haven't left the house in two days. Okay, not so unusual for someone who works from home, but it made me think of how easy it is to be a shut-in in this city. With the Internet, Facebook, email and phone...oh, and TV (the people are almost real!), it's easy to think you're connecting with people when you really aren't. And it's easy to stay home and avoid the crowds, the dirt, the noise, the spending of money, and it's way too easy to start spiraling into an inner world of your own creation until your next scheduled dinner/lunch/social outing.

According to the Census Bureau, this city has 8 million plus people living in it. A person shouldn't get lonely with that many people around, but sometimes it's like trying to reach out and grab a fish when a school of fish is swimming by (I just got back from diving, so excuse the metaphor). When you're not going to the office every day, your social interactions have to be formalized. There's very little spontaneous human contact. You have to make a real effort, and I can imagine that for some people, that effort becomes too much. I wonder how many people live this way, just walls separating us from them, but silent and invisible.

I have this idea about small towns and cities. I imagine everyone's in your business, all the neighbors talk when you don't mow your lawn and know more about your marriage than you probably do, but they'll bring you soup when you're sick, and if your newspapers pile-up, they knock on your door to see if you're okay. I've never lived in a small town, but I fantasize that it's a little like living in Stars Hollow. Sometimes I wish I could knock on my neighbor's door and offer up cookies I've baked, or ask someone to water Begonia while I'm away on vacation. I wish I had a group of friends, like Seinfeld or Ross and Rachel do, people who just come over unannounced...but maybe this kind of neighborliness gets annoying in real life.

Maybe a great number of us who move to New York are control freaks who really do like being able to control how, when and where people interact with us and how much they know about us. Maybe occasional loneliness is the trade-off for maintaining the illusion of perfection? Maybe all that neighborly intrusion would just be a form of procrastination, a reason not to get the things I really want to get done done?

Whatever. I need some fresh air.

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