You take delight not in a city’s seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours.”- Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities.

They say it’s the people that make a city, and I wholeheartedly agree. I am not for everyone, as some people/cultures are not for me. I’ve traveled to many cities, and what I’ve discovered, to my surprise, is that no matter how nice the surroundings were or pristine, if I did not connect with the people, it made the experience of the city a bit painful. Not to experience true connection and community is to negate the primal part of being human.

In some instances, I’ve thought through interactions with places/people to which I provided my time and attention. But when I was on my own again and feeling through those experiences, the true connection was not there, without the waves of irrational feelings clouding one’s perceptions. When you think about the rarity of true connection, it is not as common as we may think. We are kind to people, polite, respond to continue communicating, validate their existence, maintain social threads, to continue with regular interactions. Among all of this, rarely do we feel the true connection that connects to the self. The tragedy sometimes in life is when we feel the true connection but timing and circumstances in that moment don’t help you fully realize it, or you do realize the connection and are too burnt out to proceed reciprocating and, somewhere deep inside, tainted by previous hurts. One way to move through this is to alchemize the hurts and transmute them into lessons rather than let them hinder you. This takes maturity, self-knowledge, and a sense of self-trust.

Cities challenge us and expose us to so much human complexity. Imagining an empty city with no people would be a very dull place.

The people bring a city to life. Hopefully, those people also give us life, but some minds have a preference for which hive mind we want to connect with. Hive minds emerge as groups of populations reside in a particular area or city where the exchange of ideas, energies, and cultures occurs. The longer the exposure, the more absorption and osmosis of all this intricate data occurs, shaping us and our perceptions of the world. The tall skyscrapers, the access to exotic foods, and the endless material things would get old eventually. What would not get old are the connections; the complexity and excitement of a city are nothing without the wonderful people who are a core part of the equation for a great city to be a great city.

-Neelofer Hilal is a passionate freelance writer, avid traveler, podcaster, futurist, dreamer, and social science enthusiast.

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