It’s my community

30 March 2020

It’s my community

These are tough and unprecedented times and we’re all working hard to get used to the new reality of isolation and social distancing. It’s Saturday morning and I’m feeling a bit lost. Most Saturdays I go to Albany Mega Centre for what I thought was the convenient shopping. It turns out the thing they most offer is a sense of belonging and community.

I’m a social creature, I always have been. I work all week and at the weekend I want to unwind. My partner always tells me to relax, read a book, do nothing but that’s not how I’m wired. Most Saturdays we’re off to brunch somewhere and then to Albany Mega Centre to wander around, buy stuff we need (or just want) and to pass the time. The energy of people is what relaxes me.

I’ve always said that what I loved about the Mega Centre was that everything is in one place – Chemist Warehouse, Farmers Home, Rebel Sport, Cotton On, Animates, Briscoes Homeware, Kathmandu, The Warehouse and so much more. As I sit here, unable to go to my favourite stores, what I’m missing is the hustle and bustle of the carpark, the regular locals I bump into and those friendly shop workers who I’ve got to know personally over time.

With time on my hands I ponder why it is I’m missing a shopping complex so much.

I live at the top of Albany Hill so most weeks I spend time in Albany, Coatesville and Dairy Flat. On the first Sunday of every month Coatesville has a great food, arts and crafts market. Amongst the ‘out-of-towners’ you find many locals who just come every month because that’s what locals do. They catch up with each other, connect, tell their stories, bond over interesting items to buy and share unusual delicacies they wouldn’t normally have. Bruce and I go every month and every time we see people we know and always make new friends.

And that’s what Albany Mega Centre is for: Albany and its people. All communities have a central point, a heart, a place where locals congregate. It’s here where you feel you belong and feel connected with others who share your address. For Albany and surrounding suburbs that’s the Albany Mega Centre. The hub of our community.

The point of our isolation is to keep us away from each other and I get why. But without my regular trip to the Mega Centre I feel (and I suspect many others do to) more than physically disconnected. We've lose that sense of place we can call home and, without that, we can lose our own sense of identity. Bruce and I are active socialisers so we’re spent much of the week hanging out with friends online. I’ve always suspected it, but now know for sure, making virtual human connection is never as good as the real thing.

When lockdown ends the Albany Mega Centre is the first place I’ll go. After all that’s where my people are and that’s where I feel I belong.

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