Everyday I write in this journal. It’s small and brown and smooth. I’m careful not to scratch it with my fingernails as I unwrap the leather string that secures my inner thoughts.
On the tube, in a coffee shop, on the bedroom floor of my flat, I scribble the ink into cursive loops in the hope that maybe, just maybe, I can convince myself to believe in the strange life that I’m living.
Some days it works better than others.
I’m afraid as each day rushes past, I will forget the vortex of emotions I’m experiencing. Because being in this city is just far too precious to forget.
“London calls me a stranger, a traveller.” Two years ago Ed Sheeran sang those words to a small-but-packed venue back in St. Louis. At the time, I hadn’t thought about how intimately I would one day experience what he was singing.
Of course, I must admit, it is a bit different – I am not a touring musician missing his home. But the point remains the same, London is vibrant, rich, and undoubtedly bewitching, and I feel like a tourist here. My departure in May is a lifetime away, but God, I can feel it approaching already. I keep forcing myself to stop, to breathe, to take everything in: You are not just passing through this city – you are living here, you are making it your home.
Because I absolutely love it here. Something just feels right about this place.
And I’m sure that’s a terrible cliche that every study-abroad-er says to their friends and family after a week or two in their foreign country. But, screw it, because it does.
Of course, that feeling of rightness is a spectrum. The Love I have for London is not a stationary constant.
Because I suck at transitions. Terrible with them. Change and I are frenemies – I crave it, and then when it comes, my mind and body react beyond logic. So yes, I have had a couple of international panic attacks since I’ve been here. I’ve hyperventilated in a Starbucks and typed rapidly to my parents in a tiny bathroom. You can’t control the waves, but you can learn to surf. Which is something a handful of supportive people have said to me on various occasions, and it’s totally true. Because you know what I’ve realized? Surfing can be really, really fun. Even if you’re thrown off your board and water gets up your nose a few times.
And I’m having the time of my life surfing. I never thought I would truly ride some of the waves that I have: I’ve been challenged to karaoke by a beautiful hipster Welsh couple; I’ve drank the ancient, medicinal waters of Bath; I’ve had a couple of pints in one of Amy Winehouse’s old stomping grounds; I’ve looked upon the place where Ann Boleyn lost her head; and, most importantly, I’ve taken a risk and moved to a massive city an entire ocean away from my home.
So, yeah, I’ve surfed some pretty freakin’ cool waves. But I’ve also realized that the waves aren’t always as big and majestic as I expected them to be. As illogical as our emotions can be sometimes, they still affect how we see the world. Although I am falling ever-so-quickly in love with London, it is not Oz, and there is no Wizard here to grant my every wish. Even in London, there is no such thing as perfection.
“Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good,” said Voltaire. He’s right. And I certainly won’t let it be the enemy of great. Because these first two weeks in London have been pretty damn great. I am experiencing something truly tremendous, a real gift, and I want to cherish it in each passing moment. And while the road may be a bit bumpy at times, while the waves may fling me into the brine occasionally, it’s all still a fantastic ride.
Enjoy the journey. (Thanks for your wisdom, Mom.)
Thanks for reading and following my incredible study abroad adventure! Every week I’ll be writing a separate blog post for my program, CAPA, and it’ll appear on their website. The first post, London Calling: Thoughts from the Plane is up now!