There's an advertisement on the subway that I've been half-noticing for years. It's a woman in a backyard holding a piñata. In front of her is a blindfolded little girl taking a swing with a baseball bat as the woman cringes away. The caption? "You really need a tree in your backyard."
For years I've been staring at it and thinking, "That's a dumb ad." Okay, I thought it was clever at first, but it's been around for quite some time now, and I'm tired of looking at it.
Fast-forward to now. I'm buying a house – a house with no trees on the property. Suddenly the advertisement comes into focus again. I remember the web address for long enough to look it up. It doesn't seem so dumb anymore.
This sudden flip in perception fascinates me, the change in the world I experience, like the optical illusion of the faces and the vase. It happens again and again as I move through life and my circumstances change.
I moved to Toronto from a much less diverse city and the multicultural faces and languages jumped out at me. Now I've adapted and they're just a part of life; when I go home I wonder where the rest of the people are.
I acquired an e-reader; now I notice other people who have one (although, sadly for Amazon et al., I don't notice which one they're holding).
I learned that names that end in –ian denote Armenian ancestry; suddenly Armenians seem to be everywhere, when they weren't before.
I don't own an iPod, but I knit, so when I see someone fiddling with a long thin substance, I always glance over hoping to see another knitter, but 95 percent of the time it's just another iPod.
Small shifts, big shifts, all sudden as flicking a light switch. Like staring into the Stone Age forest, waiting for leaf patterns to resolve themselves into the hide of prey or the eyes of a predator. We're hard-wired for them, but they're still surprising when they happen. The world has shifted, even in a small way, and will never be the same.
What sudden shifts in perception have you experienced?