One aspect I always overlook when moving is just how quickly everything novel becomes mundane. I’ve heard of theories like “The Blinking Factor”, which makes assumptions based on our brain’s ability to parse familiar data and streamline the ingestion of new information.
In a nutshell, when you change your environment and pass your eyes over a new room, you’re likely to take in far more detail than you will a week later. It’s a theory that attempts to explain how we can miss minute changes in a familiar environment. Your brain knows what it expects to see between points A and G. Why waste valuable computing power re-encoding it? There’s a chesterfield, a TV, a really embarrassing pile of laundry you’ve been dealing with tomorrow, some hipster kitsch, a box of tongue depressors, and a guitar you’re going to jam on someday. I’m not judging. Your hypothetical mess, your business!
So you see point A. You turn your head. You see point G. You assume the couch, kitsch, and depressors exist unchanged.
Step outside in your neighbourhood and the same theory applies on a larger scale. Of course, at such scales, it’s very easy to overlook items in your environment. Most of us have been the victims of the “damn, how long has that been there?” effect.
And that, children, is an example of a blogger beginning to digress in order to fill out his post.
I have my own theory as to why our surroundings become mundane. It’s a little crude, but it breaks down to 2 very simple factors.
- We love fitting in. Even if you lean towards the periphery, and enjoy living on the outskirts of the expected, you still want to feel like you fit in. At the very least, we hate appearing out of place in our own neighbourhoods.
- We like to fucking hate tourists.
The first point is easy. Walk like you know where you’re going, look comfortable, and don’t try to blend in. Eventually you’ll look like you belong. Years of avoiding the target that ginger hair and freckles painted on my back has gifted me with an innate ability to fly under the radar.
The second point is a little more complex. Don’t deny it, you fucking hate tourists! It’s ingrained in the core of what makes us human. Never-mind the money they bring to the local economy nor how friendly most of them are. Tourists get in your way. They drag horribly awkward luggage around at rush hour. They dress garishly. They tend to meander after you’ve slept through your alarm and are desperately trying to make it to the office before HR notices.
It’s fine. You’ll get angry at them and their stylish-yet-somehow-ugly-functional-trousers and they won’t have deserved it. Their rucksacks will prevent you from claiming your usual morning perch on the train. Everything comes full circle when it’s your turn to whip out a selfie stick in foreign lands.
Stay in any place long enough, and you’ll find yourself blending. You’ll level lethal glares at passing tourists who no longer consider you as one of their own. You may not be a local yet, but there’s no fucking way you’re getting mistaken for one of those camera jockeys!
Or maybe this is all particular to me. I’m bitter and jaded. I may own a broom for the sole purpose of shaking it at neighbourhood children.
I’ve experienced this phenomenon every time I’ve moved house. When I moved to Toronto, it was the first time I’d lived in a big city. The sheer volume of culture that was now available on my proverbial doorstep was staggering. Which is all fine and exciting for perhaps a week.
Then you become a local.
You wake to rush through breakfast and a quick shower before trundling off to work. At the end of the day, replay the same routine in reverse. Forget about doing touristy things. That was your old life. You live here now and you must be somewhat maligned with your lot, even though you love every second of it.
I’ve lived in London for over a year now. While I love it and actually have started feeling at home, I’ve become a Londoner. I wouldn’t be so arrogant as to call myself a Brit. I’m not. I will never understand the often sublime focus a quality biscuit will illicit. However, I live and work in London. I intend to stay here at least long enough to become a citizen. I can often find my way in the city without the use of Google or a Tube map. In a city with a transient population, I’m just another goofy accent among thousands.
Why the diversion?
This is all part of the experience. I’m surrounded by incredible sights. These are things that I’d only seen in movies until a year and a half ago. I’d figured I’d see them in person someday, but never thought I’d live amongst them. I certainly didn’t expect them to become commonplace. Even after recently relocating to the East End, I’m increasingly feeling at home and surprised at how quickly that happened. While I still experience “holy-fuck-I-live-here!” moments, I feel very much the local.