That One Thing
Having been in London for a little less than a month, I have come to one very clear conclusion: I very much love this city. I have lived and been to a number of urban spaces before, and this one really takes the cake. I don’t know whether it is the independence or the age, but somehow, I am constantly delighted by the sheer fact that I am here in London, England, the United Kingdom. Sometimes, I literally want to whoop and holler as I am walking across the bridge to the Strand campus because I am just so happy. This is it. I’ve made it. Go me.
However, despite my joy, I do have struggles and I do have woes. Of course, there is the monetary factor; London is very expensive. I am constantly dreading when I have to write up my weekly spending and calculate in my head how much I have spent. Moreover, there is the stress of figuring out an entirely new academic system, meeting an entirely new group of peers, and adjusting to whatever cultural differences I haven’t anticipated (the pants v.s. trousers issue has been a real problem lately). But, all of this I can deal with it. I can adjust and I can adapt.
But, there is one nagging thing that I just cannot solve and which actually drives me mad every single day: I really crave, long to get off the grid. No, it isn’t a matter of being overstimulation. Au contraire. it’s a matter of not being able to settle, not being able to disappear. For a city that is so huge, so full of people and life, I don’t understand why I feel like I am always front and center. I am always in a constant spotlight, in front of some metaphysical camera.
And it bothers me. It really nags at me and sometimes, I want to throw everything down and just have a good old tantrum and shout at this beastly feeling.
“Leave me alone! Can’t you see I’m trying my best? I’ve walked the walk; I’ve talked the talk. Just go away!”
Is it that I don’t feel like I belong? I don’t really think so. Sure, it is aggravating being always branded as the “American” or the “Study Abroad”, but I knew that would happen when I signed up for this shin-dig in the first place.
No, it really is just a matter that I want the familiarity or the peace I had at home. Somehow, at my home university, I had this feeling of calm. I could go to Olin Library, walk up the metal steps and find that familiar cubicle where I would do my reading. I knew how to find my books and I could find peace just browsing titles. I could just be and know that eventually I’ll be seeing a friend for coffee or be returning to my dorm for dinner and an episode of Netflix.
Here, I am constantly frazzled by the number of people I see at Maughan Library. I am actually annoyed when I come across another quietly studying individual at a desk because again, all I want is anonymity. I want to stare at book spines, but all I feel like is that I am intruding and I am being rude. And even if I know that I am going to see a friend for coffee or that I am going to my dorm for Netflix and food, it doesn’t really do it for me.
And I am so annoyed that I cannot own my books. Just knowing that I can’t a) afford to buy them all and b) afford to bring them back just puts me in such a funk that I cannot begin to describe. I feel so disconnected from my reading, and wary of the dust every copy I borrow brings. I actually got upset the other day because I realized I couldn’t write in my book because again, it was borrowed.
Is this homesickness? I can’t tell. It doesn’t feel like the “no one makes it quite like mom” syndrome. Or, is this the thing that they told me about at orientation, that I would fixate on one difference? I don’t know.
But I can still confirm, I love London. I promise