Like the Fog on the Thames // Tell Me It’s Okay to be Happy Now

I have lived in London for 64 days. And counting. Tick, tock. Tick, tock. I’ve reached the halfway point.

If you’re wondering what I’ve been up to week-by-week, you can see my weekly posts on CAPA World. Here are a few snippets: (And if you don’t care, and want to read about constant anxious self-examination abroad, just scroll past)

“I just keep thinking about the little kid who thought the sushi would come alive in his stomach. What would he say, seeing his older self eating lamb in a foreign country? Would he believe it?”

“When my train pulled into Gare du Nord Station, I attempted to somehow meld my previous conceptions of Paris – a romantic city of renaissance art and camembert cheese – with my latest understanding of the political upheaval.” 

“Wheatgrass smells, well, like grass. It was clipped by a bearded hipster right before my eyes, and then stuffed into a grinder that produced a ruffagey green juice.”

“That’s one of the things I’ve discovered while abroad, how gentrified things are becoming, especially from American companies, and it makes me think twice about my American identity.”

“You’re the best of the best,” Jack Antanoff of Bleachers said when he came back onstage for his encore. “Don’t put this online, but you’re better than everyone else. You’re the best, alright? This country and this city has the greatest music fans…and if we’re breathing, we’re gonna come back over and over and over and over again. Us and you guys, we’ll always have it.”

“I also have a tendency to blame myself if things don’t go perfectly the first time around. And so, admittedly, this fun combination of quirks and flaws led to pretty catastrophic first day at my internship.”

London Greenwich Cover Photo

(Photo Credit: Ellise Verheyen)

I’m thankful to be able to write these weekly posts, as it forces me to focus on the simple things, getting slightly out of my head to observe the world, which is something I often struggle with. That being said, just as this English adventure is an opportunity to appreciate the present, it’s also a time of growth and self-exploration.

And for posting those really wonderfully cliche-but-still-totally-beautiful study abroad pictures. *Cough* Follow me on Instagram *cough*.

Each week brings a new adventure, and I am so thankful for some of the life-changing things I’ve seen.

Paris offered me vast amounts of cheese, a starlight sparkling Eiffel Tower, and the bookshop Hemingway and Joyce often frequented while they lived and wrote in the city of old, white stone.

A weekend in Amsterdam showed me a museum dedicated to the tragic life and stunning art of Vincent Van Gogh, a simple bench physically manifesting the power of a story that transformed me, and midnight memories with friends new and old that will forever live in infamy.

And I just spent a week adventuring through Italy and Spain, which was an undeniably life-changing experience. I’ll be doing a whole post about my travel adventures soon.

But then there’s London. I want to see every last cobblestone of this glorious city that has become my home, and God it’s so hard. Every second that my breath isn’t being taken away feels like a moment wasted. Which is something I’ve admittedly struggled with a lot since I’ve been here. I am so acutely aware of how my time here is fleeting. I have dreamed of living in this city for years, and now I am here, and I know, logically, that I am sinking into London like the fog slips onto the Thames – in other words, I am doing the damn thing, but I’m afraid it’ll come and go too quickly.

Hair face tower bridge

I’m working with locals, eating in hidden markets, visiting museums and taking historical tours, going to grungey concerts and drinking in dive bars. It feels safe to say that this is the happiest I have ever been in my entire life. I am learning so much here, about both myself and the world around me. But, London isn’t perfect. And neither is Europe, nor my adventures within it. There are moments of awkwardness and sadness and confusion, and, most shockingly, moments of intense normalcy. There are times when I just want to spend the night-in, shovel ice cream into my mouth, and watch Friends. Or times when I sit in my flat and watch YouTube videos by myself while eating a poorly-cooked meal. There are times when plans fall apart, when people aren’t perfectly quirky and outgoing, when you get cursed out on the street or fall asleep in the tube.

Those are the things you don’t put on Instagram, don’t tweet about, don’t use to portray a perfect life abroad – and they still happen. It’s the new, “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one’s around to hear it, does it still make a sound?” If you don’t filter it in Instagram and post it to Facebook, did you still really experience it?

Obviously, the answer to both of those questions is: Abso-friggen-lutely.

Life in London is fantastic, but I am still living in reality. I’m still anxious about my future. I still replay awkward conversations in my head. I still stress out about how others perceive me, and I still have all my insecurities. My life in London isn’t some English version of The Lizzie McGuire movie, as much as I would love to be mistaken for Harry Styles, get thrust on stage, and then become best friends with a posse of celebrities, only to find out that love was by my side the entire time, that’s not how life works – and that’s okay! Because my life in London is full of fantastic adventures, and the fact that they don’t live up to unrealistic expectations, is, for me, such a good thing.

My life here seems to be deconstructing me one day at a time, building me into a better version of myself. Ah, the power of traveling into the unknown! But some things never change, and on some-level I’ll still always be an angsty 15-year-old at heart, and so, let me leave you with some Paramore lyrics that I have come to find wonderfully apt in these past couple of weeks.

Maybe it’s been years since I genuinely smiled
And maybe it’s been years since I wanted to be a part of anything

And lately I’ve been good
You know, I’ve actually been great
Man, I even laughed a little today

Oh, it’s so strange
It’s so strange

Tell me it’s okay to be happy now
because I’m happy now
Tell me it’s okay to be happy now
because I’m happy now

Cheers,

M

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