london, in words

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I’m sitting in Heathrow airport as I write this, waiting to find out the gate of the flight I might or might not make. I’m not ready to go back to New York. If missing my flight meant I could spend a few more days in London, I would. Going back to London after two years was like a surreal case of deja vu. (Surreal, but nice. I’ve watched Notting Hill twice in one week; couldn’t help myself with that reference.)  In so many ways, it felt like going home. It was a trip of new experiences, and revisiting old haunts. It was a trip I needed. 

Walking through the streets of Bloomsbury, past #6 Bedford Square, resurfaced both concrete memories and intangible feelings. I wasn’t able to define everything I was feeling but it was like I was both back, two years ago, and viewing that time from my present situation. 

Those four months abroad were formative for me. I still consider the decision to study abroad, to travel to a country with no friends, one of the best I’ve made in my life. It pushed me out of my comfort zone, grew my confidence, and opened my eyes to the simple truth that there is so much to life. Sometimes it’s easy to live in a bubble, even in a large city like New York. It was a priviledge for me to leave, and experience other cultures outside of my own. I will forever be grateful. It also showed me that, in a way, I could always start over. Distance gave some well-needed perspective. 

Sometimes it was difficult: I missed my friends dearly, I missed my small, loud, but charming room in New York, and I missed the boy that I still so clearly loved. I got homesick, and heartsick, and so stressed about gaining weight I adopted some unhealthy eating habits for a time. But often those things in life that are worth it aren’t easy. Some of the friends I made are life-long; some were fleeting but fun over just those months. Some days were the best days of my life; some days I cried becuase I wanted to be back in New York. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. Even when something shitty happened, there was always something, oftentimes better, to look forward to. I always say that I grew up in New York; I think I grew into myself in London. 

This trip came at the perfect time, reminding me of just how much is out there, and that at this point in my life, it’s ok if I prioritize myself and what makes me happy right now. Not so long ago, I wrote a post on taking time for myself. Older, wiser friends have told me this is the best time in my life to be a little selfish. This trip reminded me I should keep doing just that.  

I had the most wonderful trip with my friend Eva. (Pics coming soon!) We met in class, my last semester at NYU, and bonded over our love of Glossier. (True story.) It was strange at first, for me, to find myself getting so close to someone not on the swim team, only because that is who I spent all my time with at that point. Now, I could not be more thankful for our friendship. And, we were basically London soulmates on this trip. We wanted to do the same things — high tea, picnics in parks, and a cheeky bit of shopping — and above all else, we loved spending time in one of our favorite cities.  

So, no. I’m not ready to leave. But I know I can’t continually use London as a bandaid for those sources of stress in NYC, and I wouldn’t want that feeling of avoidance to sour a city that has come to feel like home. (Besides, the trip acted as its own kind of salve, healing those stress points so a bandaid is no longer needed).

Two years ago, when I came back from London, a lot had changed in all the ways I could have hoped for: internally, I had grown; externally, that boy and I were finally on the same page, and had a blissful summer. Coming back this time, after only five days, of course nothing external has changed. If I let it, this fact could send me into a spiral of stress and sadness. Except it hasn’t. I’m reinvigorated with the confidence I found in that city so long ago. Once again, distance has given perspective.

It might seem like I’m placing far too much pressure on this one place; but that’s the thing — I’m not, really. London isn’t some magical place, some fairytale castle with my prince charming, without problems. But it has been there for me when I needed it, and visiting will always feel like going home. 

Amber Hunter