Look Right, walk left. Two basic things that are told to anyone visiting London. In case you prefer not to have your head ripped off by a Briton, you will quickly learn these two rules when walking down the street, crossing the street, walking up the escalators, running for the tube, etc. It is simple really, except for the fact that it goes against the natural instincts of 121 of 196 countries in the world.
No big deal, I've been here for a long period of time before. I'm a pro. I rock looking like a local. I can even do it while texting and drinking coffee. One thing I did forget, however, are the uneven sidewalks. It is like right as I get my strut down, my ipod on the right song and a smile on my face a big rock reaches out and grabs my toe as if to say " wake up! you aren't there yet!" I guess these roads have seen a few posers in their time. It's ok. They'll learn to love me.
Two weeks in and things are looking up! I have my luggage and my friend Jenn and I have found our new home in the shape of a small block of flats on Lorne Road in Finsbury Park. Finsbury Park is a great area for several reasons: it has two of the best tube lines that can get me into central london within 20-30 minutes, Arsenal is nearby which never leaves a dull moment on the weekends, the park is huge and great for our future picnics in the spring, and it is different than any place which I have previously lived. Sure it does not have the glitz and glam of the finest parts of London, but it is new for me.
Move-in day is a time I do not wish to think about. ever again. Moving day misery is never something to write about. I do not know who has a great time moving in unless they are not the ones performing said move. Let's just say Jenn and I probably should not have gone out in Wandsworth the night before.
Finally we were there. It might not be permanent, but for the next 6 months at least I had somewhere to call home. Sure I didn't have sheets for my bed, a blowdryer, a towel, plates, or silverware...but I had a roof, a room, and a rockstar flatmate to call my own. Sunday came around and I had the place to myself for a bit because Jenn was in Newcastle for work. Groceries were in order! After a successful trip to our nearby supermarket I entered our stairwell looking forward to that "settled" feeling. It had been a long two weeks of trials, adjustments, and bad luck. No more! This was my time! Now if I could just get this stupid door unlocked..
After about 30 minutes of trying to wedge the wrong key into my door, meeting my neighbors by asking them if they knew a magical way to fit the wrong key in the right door I realized I did not actually have the ability to enter the home that I'd established a mere 24 hours previously. I actually did not have the key that would unlock my feelings of settlement.
The two questions I had so often lately been asking myself entered my head: where do I go? what do I do? Blame it on the exhaustion of moving. Blame it on the beer, chicken and chips I downed at Nando's. Blame it on the rain that poured down on me as I wondered the streets of North London, or on the fact that I hadn't (nor have) concrete answers to those two questions, but I was done. Done being angry, done being upset, done attacking my issues head on and staying positive. I was just done.
Thankfully for true friends in low places (and for the first two months of blogging this will either mean Meghan or Jenn) I was able to stay at Meghan's boyfriend, Neil's flat. I showed up with a bottle of wine as a gift, but proceeded to drink it all by myself while I called my manager to tell him why I was not going to be at work in the morning. Trust me, drinking that wine was more of a gift to Neil and Meghan than having to witness me going through this without a bit of a relaxant. After spending a full day in a cafe outside of my estate agents' office, the landlord finally showed up around 4:00 to let me in to my home and give me the right key. As per the usual, customer service here was stellar.
I walked in to find relief and a hot shower, but that I was not yet "home." Sure I had a bed, but it was not really a bed unless it had some sheets on it. I couldn't sleep on top of my softest sweatshirts forever. Where were my pictures and my decor that would scream "late 20 something goddess" to everyone that walked in? Why is the light in my room so dull, where are the curtains, how do we cover this ugly carpet, and where are the things that will hide the white on the walls? Things needed to change, but I hadn't the energy to conquer these hurdles anytime soon.
While I was positive at work (despite my blush of embarrassment when having to repeat my lockout story), people proceeded to tell me that Finsbury Park was actually not all I thought it was. "Don't worry - I made the same mistakes too when I first got here" was the comment that stung the most. Or maybe it was the fact that everyone came to the consensus that I should not be living there, but in their neighborhood...which was west London. Well thanks. Glad you guys were there when I was trying to make this decision. Thanks for the vote of confidence from all of my "buds" in Assurance. Hope you sleep well in your west side comfort as you leave me with one less hour of sleep tonight with your comments spinning doubt in my head about the contract I just signed. At a time when I really could use the great feeling of being accepted and feel like I had a place here, I go home feeling like I didn't wear the cool color to school today. Like everyone noticed my jeans weren't from the Gap, like I didn't watch the new show on MTV last night, like I was in school again. Good thing I'm so over my teens and mature now and your opinions clearly have no affect on my everyday mood!
What are setbacks really supposed to tell us? That things are harder than they appear? That the fantasy we have in our mind exists to tease us of what can never actually happen? Reality has hit hard this past month. Even now, 10 weeks in, I am still faced with setbacks that are slowing me from everything I wanted to get out of London. It isn't just a locked door or some lost luggage. Setbacks and sidetracks have seemed to just settle their way in to my life in every form. even here. How did they get in the country so easily?! Some have been because I had bad luck, some happened because I've been taken advantage of during a pretty vulnerable time in my life, and some happened simply because I just did not know any better.
But setbacks and sidetracks will not deter me from finding what I want here. A quest does not become an odyssey unless there are a few chapters in there to keep everyone entertained. I will go forth and conquer, not back in retreat. I will carry on, keep going..marching even...on the LEFT side if that's what you want. And when I get there I will know I have found it. All exhaustion, doubt, and negativity will fly out the window and I will know this is where I was meant to be. What I was meant to have. With who I was meant to share it. Now I just have to figure out what it is exactly that I am questing...