The following post was written by Gap Year Fellow Viktoria Alston.
Shibuya Crossing is considered the busiest crosswalk in the world. Thousands of people cross the intersection every day. Uniformed children giggle together as they walk to school; stern businessmen rush by as they bark into their phones; starry-eyed tourists stumble, lost in the bustle and wonder of Tokyo. It’s easy to view everyone as one amorphous blob. After all, in life there’s you, everyone you know, and everyone else.
As I stood at Shibuya Crossing amongst hundreds of other people waiting for the pedestrian crossing signal, I felt invisible. All around me were strangers whom I would never know or interact with. They each had their own thoughts, fears, and ambitions; their life stories locked within them. Despite thinking of myself as an individual, to every single person in the crowd, I was just another one of the thousands of people passing through, indiscernible from everyone else.
I think it’s easy to develop a sense of self-righteousness when traveling. It’s easy to develop the belief that because you’ve traveled a bit more than the average person, you’re suddenly some worldly all-knowing human being, or that you’re better than everyone else because you are privileged enough to have the funds and opportunity to get a glimpse of the “real” world. I’ll admit that I fell victim to this mindset at one point on my gap year, often melodramatically expressing my discontent at having to go to college after I had experienced being a part of “something bigger” (whatever that means). I let my privilege distort my mindset and I became arrogant.
Standing at Shibuya Crossing, I was surrounded by hundreds of other individuals who were all experiencing the same moment differently. To some, it was just another crosswalk on their daily commutes. To others it was a thrilling moment to get carried away by the crowd. To me, it was an epiphanic moment in which I realized that despite being the main character of my own story, I’m only a secondary character in everybody else’s. I’m not special. I’m just one of the billions of other people on Earth living and trying to find the meaning of it all. I’m okay with that.