Having been living in a small city for long, then moving to a similar calm & small city, in a residence locating at a quiet area, I have forgotten how to live in big cities.
I used the word “forgotten” because I was born in one, in a city which has much much more people, traffic and activities. 18 years living there, my life is attached with the presence and close gaps of human around. Air is polluted even. I later spent 6 months living in London, for which I grew love. I formed attraction to those crowded stations and to the people the world might assume being cold. Nights in my city and nights in London are one of my favourite memories. The laughters from people sitting at restaurants or pubs, the breezy wind touching your face, the lights being on the whole night, all those combined make those nights alive in an urban way. I have never compared much London or Ho Chi Minh City with Jyvaskyla in Finland; as I’d like to think deep down I am still a city girl—born with noise and lights and dinner nights surrounded by friends.
Today was my fourth time being in Cannes. Mandalieu La Napoule is not far from Cannes, so my chance of being there is in fact the highest. But today was my only second time actually walking further outside of the train station. Original plan was me being offered a company and a ticket to see Cannes Film Festival (you know what I’m talking about, it is probably all around your social media pages). Plan was changed at last minute, partly because of me. It was okay, I felt a bit relieved. I was in no mood for having a company, not to mention a company who might not communicate the same language. So, I was alone in Cannes. I wanted to see what the fuss was all about this film festival.
Cannes today was different and surely much more chaotic. I didn’t feel the French touch in the atmosphere as in other cities I went to. Cannes wore a glamorous but serious outlook today. Getting off the train station, people will be faced first with polices everywhere. Then, cars and stop signs. Following the crowd, you might walk towards where the film festival and red carpet is placed. Along the way, you might see all people dressing in suits and dresses with amazing makeups, filling in almost every restaurants or pubs. You might pump into few people with professional cameras or filming equipments. You will see many people wearing tickets over their necks, some look rather relaxing but some look focused and busy, carrying many things at the same time, speaking to the phones or holding salad boxes for dinner and walking urgently. You won’t distinguish between locals and tourists, because even the locals wear different outlooks. However, you cannot help but noticing the contrast corners, where there are workers cleaning public toilets, picking up trashes or simply sitting patiently inside a shop with their eyes staring at the crowd outside. You cannot also help but thinking there would be many other people who did not even bother about being inside the festival as they have to work, and festival time seems to be most profitable. Well, at least these experiences were what I had.
But really, I forgot how to live in a city as such. I kept everything into myself. I could sense my face appearing grumpy to others around but I couldn’t help it either. There were so many people backwards, besides and behinds. They all dress so nice, it makes me feel smaller. They all have groups to be in with, it makes me scared of going into a restaurant alone and sitting there to look at the streets. I have been puzzled of what caused this forgetfulness.
Back when I was a little kid, I always had this fear of doing something in front of a lot of people. I got nervous imagining myself behaving embarrassingly and getting “the look”—a glance people give you for being different or doing something not considered common. I grew up and tried and learnt to also grow out of that fear. Days like today, I realised seed of that fear is still under the soil and plant of that fear is never really dead. Maybe it was my needs of blending in. Maybe it was the fright of people’s eyes following me even though I know those looks don’t mean anything, just a meaningless act people do sometimes looking at the streets. Maybe it was both, but I felt overwhelmed and walked towards a beach side, which was much calmer.
I spent years living in Finland. I probably have talked about these many many times in previous posts of how I found the country’s silence rather shocking at first but then growing affection for it later on. Maybe it was too much of affection for that private space and quietness. Maybe it was me struggling determining my own identity. I used to be more extravert. I have never liked taking a personality test though, but I used that term as I did it once together with my group of best friends back then, it was just for trying. Anyhow, I used to be more outgoing. There were periods me being more quiet, but I did jump back to being outgoing, talkative and enjoying companies. Nowadays, I do not know who that girl is anymore and where to find. Socialising requires much effort these days, or even just being surrounded by socialised people. Maybe it was the frustration of being unsure what to do next: walking towards the crowd to see Film Festival and proving to myself I do not need any company to survive, or allowing my fear of attention to blossom a little; but I walked towards the beach.
I sat there for a while.
This forgetfulness tires me out, and leads me doing things I don’t wish to. People’s eye contacts towards me, I found irritated. People’s waving or talking towards me, I just walk away ignoring. What is up with my will for human contacts? The moment I walk away, I feel bad for treating other humans in such way. What if they need help? I have always blamed ignorant people, now I might become one. The city life, chaotic and unpredictable, leads me to be so doubtful.
So, I craved for books. So, I took a bus and went home. Along the way, I thought of an Austrian proverb I pumped into earlier this week (sorry, I did neither remember who wrote it nor could ensure every words here would be exact):
He who does not know who he is, can say anything.