Saturday, September 20, 2014

to live somewhere VS to know somewhere

I would say that I've lived in a number of places.  From living with my parents in grade school, to their divorce and subsequent separate houses, to moving away to Peterborough for University (and then moving from year to year),  I have lived in a number of neighbourhoods.

And yet I've learned that even when you live somewhere, that doesn't mean that you know that place.  I still remember standing at my bus stop in the fall of my second year at Trent.  It was the morning and I was heading to class when a car pulled up beside me and a window went down.  "Do you know where a garden center is?" a middle-aged woman asked, sitting beside her husband.

I could only shake my head and apologize.  I didn't really know much of where anything was beside the University, my house and downtown.  By the end of my four years, my mind map had greatly expanded, although there is still a lot of holes in my mental representation.  And that took four years and a lot of exploration to build.

Last weekend, a few friends and I travelled out to Wolf Island on the free ferry here in Kingston.  It was a lovely day and we all wanted to cross it off our list of things to do while here at Queens.  When we came back, I made a detour to the grocery store before heading home.  Again, a vehicle pulled up near me while I was waiting to cross a street and a window lowered.

"Do you know how to get to the fairgrounds?" was the question this time.

At first, I felt a rock drop in my stomach.  I've only been here 3 weeks, and I was currently downtown, an area I'd only been two-three other times.  I don't know many street names, but I really want to help.  However, I had been to the fair with friends on the Thursday before and I remembered the way.  So, I opened my mouth and told the lady to drive up Princess St and turn right on Nelson, happy to be of help.


image via google
I did my groceries and then walked back toward the bus.  When I got to Princess St, I realized my error.  Princess St is a One-Way street this close to the lake and you can only go down, not up.  I have no way of knowing what that lady thought when she got there, but I felt awful.  The sad thing is, I knew where she wanted to go and I knew in theory how to get there, but I didn't know the city well enough to account for One-Way streets.

The whole episode just made me realize how big a difference there is between living somewhere and knowing somewhere.  Simply living somewhere is passive.  Within your own bubble, you don't interact with where you are and only do what you need to get by--the typical university student life.  School, home, grocery store.  Those are the staples--maybe a friend's house or two.  Knowing somewhere though, it often takes courage to step away from the small world you may have constructed and to go places you haven't gone before.

I think knowing is more attractive than merely living.

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