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After Hours: Along the Sleeping Streets

After Hours: Along the Sleeping Streets

There are days that I cannot sleep, and those are the days that make me want to go out exploring even when I know I’ll have to combat the inevitable sleepiness that will follow the day after. 

As a university student, insomnia is a common thing for me, especially when I feel weighed down by assignments, deadlines and late studying hours that are all a part of my life. In the beginning, I really disliked having to battle with insomnia constantly because I was aware of the negative effects it was having on my health but no matter how hard I tried to fight it, there came a point in my life where I gave in and adapted it into my life. 

Along with insomnia, loneliness has become an ever-evading shadow in my life, following me around everywhere I go. I realized the presence of this loneliness when I moved to a new country as part of my exchange. This meant starting a whole new life again and learning to study and live in a new environment. This change also came with the consequence of having to stray away from the old friendships and relationships I had established back in the Netherlands. So, I found myself on my own in a new place and everywhere I went, I found that the only person that came along with me on my little adventures was me, myself and I.

So, whenever I could not sleep and felt the loneliness wrap around me like an impermissible aura, I found comfort in solitude which brought me an opportunity of being able to explore myself as a person and reflect on my actions. It was Saturday night, and as the clock struck ten, the city slept unaware of my adventures. I decided to pick up my camera and capture the magic people often miss out on, especially on cold, lonely nights like those. The magic that comes with clicking pictures almost around midnight, a time when you don’t get to see the dynamic daytime interactions, a time when only the absolute silence of secret movements and hushed sounds surround you. 

I took a lot of photos that day. However that’s not where the magic happens, the magic happens once you capture the moment, which then attaches eternally to your film. That moment becomes almost like a forgotten memory over time, one you can revive by viewing it again and keeping it for as long time as it lasts. It is also important to remember to put down your camera once in a while because the experience of fully embracing the moment visually without using the camera is another story. Sometimes I don’t like the distraction of the camera that takes over your emotions and converts your memories into a technical tangle of practicalities that come with taking pictures. The feeling of letting go once in a while and just taking in my surroundings through my naked eyes helps me contextualize myself at the moment. That’s when I feel like I am actually living in that moment. 

This is a thing about loneliness. You either love it or hate it. You love it because you only have yourself as a companion, you hate it because you do not have someone else to interact with. For me, loneliness has been a part of my life for quite some time. It could creep on me as I am sitting on the streets, enjoying a cigarette or strolling along the edge of a road with my camera, but loneliness is no longer something that scares me. In fact, it has allowed me to focus and reflect on myself, for there is no greater companion than yourself because no one can ever save you, except yourself.

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Written by: Lam Ngoc Do

Editor: Nimrat Kaur

Visuals: Lam Ngoc Do  

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