Brisbane’s West End is, as one friend has described it, an interesting mix of gentrified and dilapidated. There are classy restaurants and bars, modern apartments, and office spaces, all interspersed with casual pubs and bars, run-down houses, and thrift stores. On a night out, you might come across any range of people from the very well-dressed who drive fancy cars, to high-end hipsters, to shoeless hippies, to homeless beggars.
It is an interesting suburb.
One evening, a couple of weeks ago, I was walking down one of the main streets in West End, and happened to pass by a peculiar character. They were walking along the footpath on the opposite side of the road, and appeared to be talking to themselves or to no one in particular or maybe to everyone in general. As I was walking quickly to meet a friend, I didn’t pay much attention to what they were saying, but their speech was rather plaintive, to say the least.
The only sentence I heard (because they spoke it a bit more loudly) was the lament, “why does everyone hate me?” To which my first thought was, “I probably don’t hate you”, and I glanced over to see if they were ok. A few people walked past the person, pointedly ignoring their presence.
And then a voice of reason entered my head, telling me not to get involved because I cannot help everyone, and the person across the road was almost certainly drunk, drugged and/or psychotic. Even so, they evidently posed no immediate threat to themselves or anyone else, so the voice told me to keep walking.
I cannot say for sure what happened to that poor person — probably found their way home eventually, potentially escorted by an officer or similar — but I’m grateful that I have this voice of reason, and it came in the form of my friend MM.
She always seemed to think I was too positive and optimistic in my way of thinking, and that I had too much faith in the goodness of others. Perhaps this is true, perhaps it’s not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing, but perhaps it just depends on the circumstance.
Whatever the case may be, it was in that moment, on that night in West End, that I realised this good friend of mine had become a guiding influence, and a balancing force for me.
To be clear, she is not my polar opposite — not always cynical, doubtful and pessimistic — but is, indeed, one of the loveliest people I know. In situations like the one I described here, I generally do know the best (and safest) course of action, but I suppose I don’t always listen to my own advice (usually because it doesn’t correspond with my first instinct, which is to try to help in some way). I guess it’s just easier to hear the same directive from someone else.