I arrived in Stockholm on a late afternoon flight from London. I was on my own for the night so I decided to take myself out for dinner. The city was full of energy and life; I found a restaurant where I wouldn’t feel too conspicuous eating alone and I sat at a pretty tiled bar, perched on a high stool that eventually made my bottom ache.
I used to frequently travel solo, but I couldn’t help but note how when we’re no longer forced to do certain things, they can feel like a novelty.
I listened to the conversations as they swirled around me. Of course, there were many I couldn’t understand, but plenty were in English; tales of experiences had and sights seen and future plans, a reason for celebration and a woman sharing her recent heart breaking news with a friend. Life and so much of its beauty and terror going on right there, in that small space, right in front of me.
I walked away, stumbling slightly on the uneven, cobbled streets as I made my way through narrow lanes. The city lights came on and I thought about all those conversations and suddenly I felt lonely, just one small person in a very big world.
I took a shortcut through a square where a lone violinist was playing. The music caught me off guard; it was so beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes. It also gave me comfort, a timely reminder that one small person in a very big world can still make a difference.
A crowd formed and within an hour the square was almost full. But I wondered, “Did that matter?” Not really. I’m sure it was lovely for the violinist but it wouldn’t have made his music any less beautiful, even if I’d been the only person who’d walked by, even if he’d played to himself all night.
We forget this, I forget this; just because whatever we create or make or write or paint or whatever it is you do that you feel has value – even if it doesn’t reach a huge amount of people – doesn’t make it any less valuable. Despite what the world tells us, numbers are not the only measure of success. If it has value to you, it matters. If you put your work out into the world and it only impacts one person, it matters. That’s still one more person you’ve impacted than if you didn’t put your work out at all.
That violinist will stay with me forever. Whenever I’m having doubts about whatever I’m writing or creating, I’m going to think about him turning up to that empty square, how he might have felt as he began playing into an empty space and how one-by-one, a crowd began to gather.
But most of all, I’m going to remember that even if he’d played to himself all night, his music was still beautiful.
Originally posted on my Facebook page.
© 2017 Esther Zimmer