Imagination from watching into people’s lives

Photo by Philip Su

As someone who is quiet and reserved by nature, I have picked up a specific pastime that requires no energy and can be done practically anywhere: people watching.

People watching is something that I have acquired a love for and I use it as an entertainment method to make time pass more quickly.

I do it out of habit now and it’s led me to embrace my surroundings, combat my anxiety and appreciate how unique every single person truly is.

I live in the heart of downtown Kitchener: an area that is never short on a variety of eclectic individuals at every turn.

Always choosing to sit by the windows in coffee shops, I’m given a removed insight into the mysterious lives of those passing by.

I routinely see the same man who frequents this area.

He pushes a shopping cart covered in signs and is always singing whenever I see him.

He mainly keeps to himself, but I always wonder what his story is, who his mother was, what he was like as a little boy.

I gleefully survey the dogs being walked, many of whom look like their respective owners.

I thoughtfully give each of them their own name and look on with fondness as children on the street run up to them to give them a pet.

My heart swells as older couples pass, holding hands. They shuffle along, smiling to each other, completely at ease.

I think about how each pair would have met, how long they would have been together and what has kept them looking so happy.

On the bus, I catch glimpses of personal fragments that I otherwise wouldn’t notice if I wasn’t directly paying attention to them.

There’s always that one person I see who lights up at the sight of a message on their phone and laughs out loud — I grin with them.

I collect contentment from seeing people bob their heads to their music and silently move their lips along to the words on the pages of books they’re reading.

I oh-so-subtly make exaggerated faces at the baby bouncing in their stroller across from me and they giggle hysterically.

It’s as though we share an inside joke and it marks a self-satisfied accomplishment to mark the beginning of my day.

I admire a girl with the most vividly coloured hair and beautifully bold style that I could never pull off, no matter how hard I tried.

I see a pregnant woman smiling to herself as she gently rubs her round belly, staring peacefully out the window.

At the mall, I watch tired families grouped together with children in tow, burdened with shopping bags, yet still looking cheerful as the father loudly jokes with the mother.

While I eat my lunch, I observe as an elderly man leaves a twenty-dollar bill in the tip jar at the food court cafe. The weathered baristas perk up instantly, looking eternally grateful.

At the movies, I see a man sitting by himself in the corner of the theatre looking forlorn, while a group of preteens are bouncing up and down in the front with excitement over the movie they can’t wait to see.

No matter where I go, I see countless people of every variation imaginable.

I conjure up stories about who they are, who they might be and what they may be doing.

I create their personas and I question their journeys.

I am fascinated by people and by watching them from a distance. I gain insight into the simple, everyday moments that make us each human.

It’s amazing, the things you can observe, when you recognize that there are so many other unique experiences and stories outside of your own.

All you have to do is watch.

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