On first glance, there is nothing extraordinary about the scene unfolding in front of me at Prince Alfred Park. The ‘Slow Lane’ was jampacked as usual, the ‘Fast Lane’ was full of swimmers with unbelievably gorgeous broad shoulders and the ‘Play Lane’ is full of young couples placing their toddlers through their paces on water, pensioners going for their leisurely swim and backpackers getting a taste of the Aussie life.
But as the sun warmed my skin and the breeze blew away the tensions of the day, I realised that the very ordinariness of my surrounds is exactly what makes me feel like I’ve won life’s lottery. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be born in Syria, in Algeria, in Sierra Leone, in Myanmar, in Darfur … and the list goes on.
I could have been born a child of a war-torn place, in a village stricken with poverty, in an alley filled with drug dens, in a shack next to a mountain of waste.
But here I am, lying on a deckchair, doing laps after work, soaking in summer, breathing in the freedom of choice – the choice not to live in fear for my life, in fear of not having food the next day, in fear of not having the freedom to choose my faith or who I love.
I am enjoying this. I am enjoying this nothing of a summer evening. An evening where the sun is still up at 7pm at night and kids are squealing in front of me while a teenager is doing cartwheels.
I relax my shoulders. I leaned back against my chair. Tomorrow is another day when the alarm clock rings at exactly the same time each morning, signalling the start of another busy day in the office.
I look around me and, at the back of my mind, I think of the scene that unfolded in Paris only a few days ago, I think of the weekend I spent at Bondi Beach, then I think of the refugees in Syria and Darfur, then I think of my evening run at Centennial Park. Such contrasts in existence.
There are gradients of happiness. In some faraway city, some woman is complaining about a store not stocking her favourite make-up brand while in a favela in Brazil, a drug addict shares a cigarette with one other.
What a dangerous, liberating, unpredictable, sweet, painful and joyful world we live in. And in all of life’s variations, I am here – enjoying an uneventful summer evening.
It’s 7.30pm. I look up and see that the sky is still blue. I stand up to leave but the sun lingers a little longer.
Prince Alfred Park, 2015.