The new neighbourhood I work in is just a quiet streetcar and a stroll away from my apartment, but it feels every day as if I’m travelling to a different city — Toronto being, as it’s called, a city of neighbourhoods.
And each neighbourhood is so different that you look at it with fresh eyes, surveying things the way you might a place you’ve never been. I find myself thinking of The Junction in the context not of my own neighbourhood but of other cities I’ve lived in. The main strip reminds me a lot of Inglewood or Kensington in Calgary. Some of the residential streets remind me of Marino or Fairview in Dublin.
I’m struck by how much I see things now through that lens of my own past. And how the past can suddenly seem more present just because of a certain type of building façade, or a certain height and spacing between homes. It’s remarkable to me that I can be in the same city and find myself time and space travelling in this way, with prismatic impressions of past lives surfacing in unexpected ways.
And I love this. New streets: they hold a certain sort of magic all of their own, don’t they?
In this way and in others, I’ve been thinking about how comfortable we become with a certain kind of confined life. How it surprises us to learn there are alternatives, there’s a wider world, there’s stuff we might want beyond the boundaries we set ourselves. I’ve been thinking too about how we think we know ourselves but we only know ourselves within the world as we’ve defined it, within the boundaries of a certain paradigm.
But self-knowing within a paradigm is not the same as self-knowledge in a real way. It’s just a version of yourself, and it keeps things confined and narrowly decipherable. We strain for this because it gives us a sense of stability, of security and confidence. We delude ourselves into thinking we know things about ourselves. But rip that paradigm away and suddenly many of those things no longer apply.
And perhaps this is why one change can cascade so quickly. The divorce leads to a career change which leads to moving cities. The weightloss leads to a revolution of style and identity and lifestyle. We don't start out intending to change so much. In fact, we cling tightly to our current idea of self.
But when you start to see small cracks in the paradigm you occupy, suddenly everything is up for grabs. And then you can start to startle yourself in extraordinary ways. Whole transformations can happen.
I am always terrified of this process and yet I find myself most interesting when I'm in it. And even if it’s just the small change of a new job and a new work neighbourhood, I feel it ripples through my life: Everything comes into focus a little differently. And it’s intriguing to feel myself out in all of that.