I knew this post was coming even a year ago. I knew I would write a reflective piece on my time here in London. And, I even had ideas of what to include, but at the time of writing all these ideas escape me. How do you summarise two years of your life? How do you summarise the two years of your life that changed everything? What has London meant to me? Though I kind of dread writing this, I think it is important for me and for those who are thinking about making some sort of big move in their life.
In August 2016, I packed two suitcases. One for a month long vacation at my family’s summer home in the Açores, and one full of practical stuff for London. On the 7th of September, Victor and I moved into our temporary home in London. Since then, London has become our real home. So, what has London given me?
Stillness reveals the secrets of eternity’.
― Lao Tzu
Though two years doesn’t seem that long in the grand scheme of things, they have been very stable. Before London, I was still living with my parents. Living at home with my parents was boring at times, but it was hectic and overwhelming. I was balancing college, work, an incredibly long commute, and the everyday occurrences of my mom, dad, and two siblings. I also had to balance all that with my long-distance relationship.
So yes, back in the US things were chaotic. But, even as things around me settled down, things were still chaotic in my heart. Before deciding on London, I knew I needed a change. Perhaps it’s because I’ve grown up moving from place to place, but something within me told me it’s time to move on. And even though I was seeking a totally different experience which you might think is disruptive, chaotic, and unstable, it has been the complete opposite. I feel still.
Stability is not something I’ve had a lot of during my lifetime and so that’s been a challenge in itself to get used to. I’m used to jumping from place to place, event to event, school to school. I’m used to the ball rolling and me trying to escape from underneath it. London has brought me a kind of stillness that I never knew was possible. Yes the city is insane, but it all feels so comfortable now. It’s almost as if my heart beats with the rhythm of the city.
‘It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view’.
― George Eliot, Middlemarch
London and New York City are the two giants when it comes to global influence. They yield so much power but also offer a global perspective few places in the world can give. People here come from all over the globe and contribute to the worldly perspective London has. After the EU Referendum, London began a campaign with the slogan ‘London is open’. London wanted to make it very clear that the city did not reflect the rest of the UK. London is a product of the world and therefore thrives on the international aspects of everything. Everyone is welcome here.
In London, things look a little different. I see wealthy people, I see poor people, I see students, I see large families, I see fashionistas, I see hipsters. I see everything and it all gives me a sense of perspective. London gives me the power to remove myself from my own tunnel vision and see the bigger picture. The city shows you the inner-workings of the world, with every gear and gizmo rotating in place.
An Appreciation of Diversity
‘It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength’.
― Maya Angelou
I’ve lived in so many capital cities all over the globe, but London is hands down the most international city I have ever lived in. People come from all walks of life, truly. London is so much more accessible and has been the so-called capital of the world for centuries. Everyone wants to live here. 36% of London-dwellers are foreign-born, with many people being from India, Poland, Ireland, Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Jamaica, Sri Lanka and so much more. I hear a bunch of different languages everyday.
I remember when my parents moved to Virginia, I first went to a school that was not that far from Washington, DC. My friends were of different ethnicities and races and I never really thought twice about it. Then, my family moved further out to the countryside. My high school was 97% white. I had never seen so many white people in a single building in my life. I have always been used to being the minority, but now people looked like me. It was weird and unsettling. I eventually got used to it and started to notice race more as I got older. I found it more curious, more thought-provoking. And now, living in London, I’m amongst a small cross-section of the world. And, what does that mean? It means I love it. I have a weird sense of calm when I see a lot of diversity. I feel like I am in the world.
Of course population diversity is not the only type of diversity I appreciate. I also appreciate the plethora of cultural activities that London has to offer. From art exhibitions to food festivals to concerts to political talks, there is so much to do and see.
‘One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well’.
― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
With all the diversity in London, that means there’s a crazy amount of good food. I know this seems trivial, but honestly good food brings me so much joy. Yes, I’m a foodie. Food is kind of the centre of our world so cooking is really important to learning about another culture. Food, not language, is what connects us all. London has so many experiences and I’ve tried so many different cuisines, like Taiwanese, Sicilian, Peruvian, Indian, Basque, Thai, Georgian, Mexican, Chinese, and Japanese! And, there’s so much more to try. I currently have a running list of over 100 restaurants that I still want to try.
‘You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams’.
― Dr. Seuss
Perhaps this is not the cheesy ending you were expecting, but yes, London has given me love. Transitioning from a long-distance relationship, Victor and I have only grown to love each other even more. I have made amazing friends here and they too come from different backgrounds with different stories.
And in London, there are moments when you feel like humanity is on your side. Whether it’s street parade for Pride, or a protest against racism, or a coming together to commemorate a terrorist attack, you feel love. Comradeship in London is strange because there are so many people, but they are all in one place. Londoners have nothing in common with each other, except London. They all came here to find something, to feel something. They all wanted to find a place where they can belong and make a home. This is what London has given me: a home.