The Girl in Purple

9 Nov


I saw a photo on Humans of New York this afternoon that touched me as no other photo from that series has. It appears to the left. A girl with both sadness and hope in her eyes expresses disenchantment with the loneliness of city life. She spends time alone doing what she wants, but her solitude seems less like a choice and more like a burden to live with. The last two sentences of her quote are: Everybody tells me: ‘You should do this,’ or ‘You should do that.’ But nobody says ‘Let’s do this,’ or ‘Let’s do that.'” And I think her words resonated with me because, although I love city life, I also recognize that the anonymity that comes with it comes with a price.

When I lived in San Francisco, I made friends, but I often felt like the girl in purple. People talk to you about cool things that are going on, and you wonder, “Why don’t you invite me?” In the comments, people advise the girl in purple to go out and propose activities to people instead of waiting for them to reach out to her. But I’m sure she has, and she doesn’t want to all the time. It can be exhausting to always be the one to make the effort.

Here in Mexico, I’ve adopted the same posture as before, as the girl in the photo. I go out and take long walks in the city, I eat at restaurants alone. It’s either that or stay home. And I want to soak up this great city, even though I don’t know a ton of people yet. I’ve only been here about 10 weeks. And when I have my weekly Facetime conversations with my best friend back home, I’m reminded that it takes time to make friends. It won’t happen overnight- I met this good friend back home after living in San Francisco for three years, and we’ve been friends for the last two. So I know I won’t have activity partners overnight. It takes time.

In general, the Humans of New York Facebook page is a joy; it’s the pleasure of travel in small vignettes. For the reason we travel is to get a glimpse of distant lives and realities. We see what is foreign to our experience and what is universal. I often wonder if the subjects of the HONY photos look themselves up to read the comments that people post. People send well wishes to those going through crises, they express their admiration for touching or inspiring stories. I hope that the girl in purple has seen the comments on her photo. She’ll see how universal her solitude is.

2 Responses to “The Girl in Purple”

  1. mediaeconomicsgroup November 9, 2014 at 7:09 pm #

    Thoughtful essay, enjoyed reading. Reminded me of living in DC for several years in my early 20s. DC supposedly has the highest share of young adults of any major US city, yet I often felt (painfully) alone. (You know you have no life when, by the time Sunday rolls around, you are actually looking forward to Monday morning and human contact at work! )

    Being single and alone in a big city is tough. I often think it would have been better to have roommates rather than my own place in DC and the tradeoff of company for privacy would have been worth it.

    • lebanexican November 9, 2014 at 9:16 pm #

      Thanks for your comment! Yes, now that I live in Mexico City I don’t know what I would do without my roommates. If you have a good roommate situation, it’s a good bulwark against solitude.

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