If no one’s going to say it, then I’ll say it: this place can get lonely.
When I catch the forlorn stares out of Starbucks’ windows and sneak a glimpse of all the lunches being eaten alone, I know it’s not just me.
Out of the three cities I’ve lived in, Waterloo is by far the most isolating.
Before I get an onslaught of “How are you?” and “Are you ok?” gestures from the Sad Boy Police, yes I am fine.
But despite the plethora of student clubs on campus and community groups in the city, many of us non-students and non-locals are too overworked to meet anyone.
The division between students and long time residents fuels the Waterloo’s social detachment.
If you’re in UpTown and you’re not listening to Top 40, you’re probably over 40.
It’s no wonder surface level interaction prevails considering the existing off-campus social infrastructure largely revolves around alcohol.
Now I’m not a puritan.
The point I’m trying to illustrate, however, is we work and study until we’re ready to pass out, with booze cans or nights home alone as our most convenient solace.
Even as I’m surrounded by opportunities like the polyamory euchre night at Symposium Café or the KW Pagan Pub Moots at Descendants Brewery, somehow I feel obstructed.
A culture of cliques permeates around job-seeking travellers like me.
Reaching out would only take the energy I don’t have to take a chance on people I don’t know, which is an excuse I think a lot of us make.
This city being a way station for tech talent, researchers and undergrads makes it hard to put down roots.
Finding a meaningful connection in Waterloo is like finding friendly Canada geese.
All that said, Waterloo remains a wonderful town that’s becoming a true metropolis in its own right and evolving out of its tech suburbia origins.
Maybe one day it will become a place where people aren’t surprised when strangers make conversation.
There are some true gems in this town and I’ve been blessed to count a number of grumpy old men as my friends.
They inspire me, these post doctoral researchers from abroad, to quell the isolation by embracing my quirkiness.
While it’s understandable to worry about those who speak of sadness, it’s typically not the people who are expressing themselves that need worrying about.
It’s the ones who won’t speak up when something’s wrong that need our attention.
If you want to do something about your loneliness, or better yet, feel compelled by the desperation of others, I want you to join me.
I’m going to start being that weird guy who makes acquaintances in coffee lines and invites coffee line acquaintances on forays into friendship.
If you’re wondering who I am, I’ll be that asshole smiling at every miserable soul that passes me by.
At the very least, seeing my freakily friendly grin, it might give someone something to talk about.