Live Like Nobody’s Watching

IT’S A GREY, gritty day in the city. This city has a beautiful soul. I’m sitting in the back of a coffee shop, one of those that seems unassuming from the outside.

But when you step inside, you’re tunneled through different eclectic, colorful rooms with books and artwork. The tables and chairs are a mix of metal and wood.

I’m in a dimly lit room, sitting by a fireplace. There’s a Britannica encyclopedia collection on the wall beside me.

In the past few days I’ve walked the city with a sweet melancholy in my heart.

It’s hard for me to fathom that I’m now out in the world, something I’ve been dreaming of for years. Every decision I make will either lead me towards comfort, or growth.

Going out to dinner solo, asking people for recommendations, starting conversations and seeing where they go. It’s just me who will benefit from facing discomfort.

I’ve quickly come to realize that the less we can care that others are watching, that they care or have an opinion of us, the more life opens up.

I’m as self-conscious as anybody.

When I sit at a restaurant by myself and just stare at the walls, I wonder what people think. I’m starting to embrace that because I have no other choice, and it’s awesome.

What does it mean to be alive if living in the fear of judgement? It’s wonderful man, making those connections, speaking up to strangers. We’re all just people.

That doesn’t mean everybody will be friendly or open, and that’s fine. I’ll open up the door. If you want to come on through it’s up to you.

I had my recruitment session yesterday to teach English in Japan; that’s why I’m in Toronto. I’m flying to Lisbon, Portugal today. I think I’m going to be there for three months.

I sold some things, gave away others, and have a backpack and a small suitcase. It was sad to say goodbye to so much that I love — my best friends and family, a chapter in San Diego — but I’ve been waiting for this. I have what I can carry; my spirit feels ready.

Everything I did in San Diego set me up for where I am now. I began to find my voice through writing and my podcast.

I met people for the first time — they only knew the person standing in front of them, not my past, or who I think I am.

That’s what’s exciting about this chapter. I’ll better understand myself through every experience in which I’m challenged to grow beyond my shell, my horizons, my self-constructed limitations.

To break beyond our shell, we must simply follow our inner light and not be afraid to embrace where it leads us.

Nobody knows what we know as individuals; nobody else is curious about the unique notes of life which speak to our souls — I stood outside a gothic cathedral last night, just looking up at the spires in the grey Toronto sky.

That’s so interesting to me, the way an ancient-looking building exists in the middle of modernity. This curiosity means something, and that’s all that matters.

That’s why I’m here.

Follow the notes which play to your heart until the ends of the earth; listen for the music which stirs up your soul. Go where it tells you to go.

Churches stand for more than we can comprehend. Light shines through colored glass on a dark night. When I walk past a church, a cathedral, a semblance of the past, I’m curious.

Beyond the religious connotation, the church is a symbol of faith in something more, of comfort and love. My great-grandfather Max Lerner was gripped by what gave a city its essence, its vibe.

“In almost every culture the town or city is built around some venter to and through which the blood of the community flows,” wrote Max.

“It may be the agora, the commons, the pub, the crossroads store, the market square, the green or the church. But in each case it is the pole between which and his home a man can move. It is a place of quiet talk, of bantering association.”

It’s not the sites which make the city, but the people, the attitude, the spirit. I feel at home in a city with students walking around, both young and old, NYC, Montréal, Toronto, Paris.

Parks, unique architecture, landmarks make these cities interesting — but the people are their soul.

On my second night here I took my journal and went to a Barcelona-inspired bar called Bar Raval. The bar is Gaudí themed after the Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí.

The walls and tables seem to melt into each other like a Modernist painting. They’re smooth and wooden and flow throughout the entire space, never ceasing.

Outside the sky was dark and rainy. Drops of rain covered the windows, and on the other side of the street there was a church that was lit up.

As night falls in a city, I love feeling the cold and taking to the streets. People head to their neighborhood bars and restaurants.

They’re warm inside and filled with chatter, music, friends catching up, dates being had, people working hard.

Working at a restaurant in San Diego taught me so much. Not only particular skills; it really just opened up my eyes to the work that so many people do around the world at all hours.

To create a space that is intimate, interesting and actually works; it’s a consistent grind — the common thread of human beings.

I stumbled into some incredible live music, somehow finding my way into two legendary Toronto haunts — The Painted Lady and The Cameron House.

It’s just begun to snow outside; a few people have come and gone through the room I’m in; the fire has been relit. There weren’t many people at The Cameron House last night, probably an audience of ten in total.

Perhaps the band doesn’t care if the house is packed— they’re there to experience the joy of being a kid, playing music with their buddies.

That’s what I felt; the drummer and bassist would look at each other and smile, both absolutely shredding, irrespective of how many people filled the room. The guitarist and the lead singer were cracking jokes and riffing.

Isn’t that what life’s about, touching the hearts of others, experiencing even just once that feeling of love that is music, that is sitting around a fire with good company, that is opening up, and letting go, no matter who is watching.

  • Elisa
    Posted at 06:55h, 02 April Reply

    “Every decision I make will either lead me towards comfort, or growth.“ Made it into Tea Time. Thanks for this Common Place Book, gem for me.

    • Vincent Van Patten
      Posted at 01:22h, 07 April Reply

      Awesome, thank you so much Elisa!! That means a lot to me, more than I can manage to convey 🙂

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