Your City is a Timeshare

The city you live in is a timeshare, with residents rotating among its infrastructure according to the time of day. If you don’t believe me, take a walk down a busy street at 4 am and see who inhabits it. Entire communities, composed of people who remain invisible in daylight to most of us, settle into the nooks and crannies that are unused during the day. Your grocery store is a raucous playground, senior center, or place to meet romantic partners, depending on who is squeezing the avocados and selecting the softest toilet paper.

What I mean is, there are layers and layers of cities stacked within your city. A good city will allow you to transition from layer to layer as you age, without discomfort. When I hear other middle aged people complaining about how my city has changed and is ruined forever, it seems to me that they’re stuck in the 20-something layer, which is miserable to someone without the knees to propel a bicycle up a hill at 3 am, without the liver to process gallons of whiskey, without the adrenaline and resilience it takes to meet new people every night of the week. By sliding into a different, more comfortable layer of the city as I got older, I’m now enjoying early evening walks with friends, the joys of a lazy early evening cocktail followed by reading in bed, and the cool, dim mornings that are greeted hangover-free.

Every once in a while, I find myself in the wrong layer. Yesterday, as I walked through the gym after a dance class, I noticed a stunning number of elderly men operating cardio equipment while wearing socks and sandals. I was disoriented. I’d never gone on a Friday evening before, and was surprised to find that the cruisy, bustling energy of weeknights had been completed erased. In its place was a new world of slowly moving apparitions climbing never-ending stairs to nowhere. Were those their lockers, showers, and saunas, or were they mine? I felt like an intruder.

It happens the other way around, too, where I’m the faded ghost among living spark plugs. I stopped going to concerts about a decade ago, as I was keenly aware that I was living in an old layer of my city, one where I didn’t fit anymore. The noise, jostling, and worst, the invisibility, was unpleasant and yet hard to say goodbye to.

One friend in particular is still stuck in this layer of my city. I picture her out there, every night, trying to not get swept away by the currents, and I fear she will end up detritus.

I’m beginning to see that the difference between healthy, vibrant older people and those who’ve gone a little crazy may just be the grace with which they allow their lives to change, to blossom. They have adapted to the new realities of a changing body and mind and those changes have been met with fresh, new rewards, delights to be found in the different layers of their cities and lives that they timeshare with millions of other beating, dreaming hearts.