Thursday, 10 February 2011

What do you mean you don’t like it? What’s not to like?

View from the Millenium Bridge
My friends were incredulous when I first told them, well sometimes, I don't really like living in London.

Mind you, part mere naiveté and part arrogance, I assumed that I was merely moving to the other part of the United States with better accents and television programming. Part of me has never wanted to admit that aloud! Me – who could travel anywhere, anytime at the drop of a hat. Me, who has dreamed of living abroad for as far back as I can even remember, has struggled to accept living here. It is one of those things that until you have done it – rearranged your life, left your job, family, friends, your cat, everything – it’s really hard to understand.

Americans and British don’t speak the same language, far from it. We don’t celebrate the same holidays, eat the same food, drive on the same side of the road, have the same sense of humor, use the same words or express the same emotions.
My neighborhood

Try navigating flats with Victorian plumbing and extremely small kitchen appliances (Freezers? Nope. Ice? None of that either.) Or being on the tube during rush hour, or better yet, not being on the tube during a strike when the city comes to a halt. Or trying to make a doctor appointment through the NHS, enjoying two months of summer, and coming to terms with the lack of personal space as you are inundated with no less than ten different languages and cultures confined to narrow, crowded high streets as you desperately search for any store open after 7pm (much less a restaurant open after 10pm).

I miss my friendships. As hard as you try, you’re no longer that person involved in the day to day life of even your closest friends back home. Nor are they involved in yours here. And there are many friendships that, sadly, just disappear slowly over time no matter how hard you try to stay connected. Here, I have had to reinvent myself and seek out new friendships in a city not known for being especially friendly.

Venice, Italy
However, I know I wouldn’t change it for the world. And after a year, I can admit that I do love being here. Living in London has made my world larger and much smaller at the same time. It’s allowed me to meet the most amazing, talented, and wonderfully, eccentric people. It’s given me confidence in my own abilities, and in my ability to be alone. It’s pulled me kicking and screaming away from a life, a career, a future that I simply always thought I’d have, and pushed me towards an uncertain life with few restrictions, filled with the excitement of risk and of the unknown, and an unpredictable future full of possibility. It’s torn me away from what I thought defined me in a career and in a relationship – and nudged me towards unexpected people, amazing experiences and lovely infatuations I never imagined I would have, much less needed to have.
Paris, France
Brighton, UK
And I know now how extremely lucky and blessed I am.

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