Public displays of weirdness unlocks human potential

And other reflections from New York city ๐ŸŽ

Hey! I'm in New York City this week for a work trip and am currently sitting in a cafe called Butler Soho in Manhattan, New York. I have some spare time before my flight so I thought I'd write a timely reflection before going back to writing the usual posts. ย 


It's nice to hear people speaking English around me again

The primary language in Singapore is English. The main language in Berlin, where I live nowadays, is German. If you know someone who lives in Berlin, they'll tell you that Berlin isn't typical Germany because so many people there also speak some English. *Some*.

The first thing I noticed when I got off the plane was voices uttering in English. I'm suddenly able to understand 100 percent of conversations around me. That put a smile on my face.

I hadn't realised this, but needing to stay aware of whether someone spoke English or only German is quite taxing. Many conversations die mid-flight because I can't carry myself conversationally in German!

Here, in NYC, I not only understand people completely, I'm able to have fun conversations. Like when I was in a Sunglass Hut in Manhattan to buy a pair of sunglasses. Two saleswomen helped me. They looked at me, said some things, I replied to them, and they lined up a few pairs of glasses for me to try on. As I tried them on one by one, a lively dialogue ensued.

I said in jest that I probably shouldn't take their opinions too seriously since it was technically their job to do what it takes to make me buy. To which they replied with equal jest that they don't get any commissions for selling glasses, so the only thing they had to lose was me wearing ugly sunglasses, which might make them look bad. Of course, that's not true - commissions or not, a store has sales numbers that they try to hit. But the point stands - we had a fun, lively conversation that I haven't had in almost three years living in Germany.

^ Outside the Sunglass Hut with my new hexagonal Ray-Bans.

A final point on speaking English: American English grows on you. I wonder why that is. Fast guess: American TV exports. One of the salespeople told me that they couldn't hear an accent in the way I spoke, which I think meant that I spoke American-sounding English? At this age I no longer consciously force myself to talk in a particular way, so that must have been the environment's effect on me.

Every big city should have a Central Park

This is my second time in New York city and my first time visiting Central Park. And man, it was beautiful.

I started walking from the southern part and did about one-third way through the length northwards of the park. People picnicked with their families, dogs ran after squirrels, and children competed in a remote-controlled sailboat race in one of the big ponds. Some brooded on the park benches. Others were lost in their minds reading. Everyone was there for their own reason, away from the bustle of the city the epitomses bigness.

The coolest part about Central Park is that it is surrounded by skyscrapers. To me, it's the perfect amalgamation of work and play. You work your ass off (or, as they say here, "bustin' my ass") to try and create something through your work. And when you're tired, you have a perfect respite close-by.

As I walked the park and looked up, it hit me that this is the physical manifestation of the cycle of modern life. Work, work, rest. Rest, rest, work. It is all possible on an island 22 by 4 kilometers without leaving. No wonder NYC has such a big name in the world.

Public displays of weirdness unlocks human potential

One thing that I don't see a lot in Singapore are public displays of weirdness. People don't wear fishnets on the train. People don't dance in the middle of a public square with black ink on their hands and feet, stroking a piece of canvas as artifactual performance art. People in Singapore stick to rules that narrow the band of acceptable behaviour.

In New York City, this is not the case.

^ Found on the wall above a urinal at a restaurant.

Here walks many people who wear or act out their weirdness. I'll bet it still takes courage for these people to walk out of their apartment wearing their weirdness on their sleeves, even though you'd never think that when you come across them on the street.

I love this about the city, because I think when people express themselves authentically, no matter how weird that authentic self is, they are happier. And while they're doing it for themselves, they inadvertently encourage us to consider doing the same.

I think my weirdness is not in clothing or bodily movements. My weirdness is more like whipping out a physical keyboard and typing Bluetooth-transmitted characters on my iPhone in the corner of a cafe. I would be a lot more self-conscious about doing this in a cafe in Singapore than here in New York, and I'm certain it's not just because I'm a tourist here. As a direct result of being okay with being weird, I wrote this post you're reading. This is what I mean when I say I think public displays of weirdness unlock human potential. We've gotten too good at holding ourselves back, and being true to oneself even in publicโ€”especially in publicโ€”is a powerful way to make life better for everyone. ๐Ÿ––

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