Aside from the pleasures of gorging myself on food I’ve missed (Monjunis, I’m coming for you) and shamelessly singing at the top of my lungs while driving (oh how I’ve missed it!), returning to the States will, in essence, be a return to reality.
My semester abroad has been one of unrealities. While, yes, I’ve had the responsibility of schoolwork while here, it’s still been a surreal four months, drastically unlike any semester before. I’ve met some of the most wonderful people in the world and seen some beautiful places, and I’m forever grateful that my parents gave me this opportunity.
But the question that has continually been lingering is “So… what now?” How do I transition back to reality?
Because, let’s face it, reality isn’t traveling to a different country every weekend. Reality isn’t seeing your favorite British artists actually in Britain. Reality isn’t picking your way through Europe with your friends, eating endless amounts of crêpes simply because you can.
Reality is work and disappointments and trying to figure out what in the world you’re supposed to do with your life after graduation, which horrifyingly enough is fast approaching. Reality is recognizing that life is unreasonably expensive and that dreams are hard to come by. Reality is realizing it’s hard as all get-out to get a UK working visa as an American and that the average price of a home in London is £400K (that’s nearly $800k for you American folks, and this is a mere 1 to 2 bedroom flat we’re talking about).
On Wednesday afternoon, London bestowed on us a sunny and warm afternoon, so I decided to ignore homework for a bit and enjoy the day instead (priorities, duh). I made my way up to Primrose Hill one last time and sat in the grass beneath a shady tree, pondering that big ‘ole “what now?” question.
The immediate answer is a simple one: I’ll return home, reunite with friends and family, see some people I haven’t seen since 2013, that sort of thing (which, don't get me wrong, I am excited for!). This summer, I’ll be working once again for the wonderful Ryman Hospitality Properties in Nashville, this time in the marketing department at the Opry. I'll also be stuffing my face with The Pharmacy at every available opportunity. Then I’ll begin my final semester of college and spend every day panicking because HOLY COW IT’S MY FINAL SEMESTER OF COLLEGE.
But the bigger thought of “yo punk, you graduate in 8 months, what will you do then?” was my primary focus as I sat watching people and their dogs in the park below me. “Moving to London would be hard,” I thought. “Getting a working visa is hard. Maybe I’ll move to Denver instead. Or New York. How about Los Angeles? I haven’t given that one a try yet.”
I didn’t quite come up with a satisfactory answer on the hill, but nonetheless it was a solid hour of thought.
As I was walking back through Regent’s Park, I stumbled upon a rather interesting military display: around thirty or more horses were riding in formation in a green space, some even pulling cannons (yes, cannons) behind them. Their riders sat atop, clad in elaborate military garb and those tall black hats that the designers felt unnecessary to make the strap actually reach below your chin, so instead it hangs rather awkwardly at the base of your lip. A military band played in a corner of the field as this presentation took place for an entire hour. I watched this scene with amusement, wondering why in the world Britain’s finest were riding around a park as if they were preparing to go into an 18th century battle. Toward the end, the band broke out into Hairspray’s “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” which only further puzzled and charmed me.
As the odd display came to a close and the horses and band dispersed, a member of the band came to my bench and began putting away his instrument.
“Excuse me,” I prodded, “but what was the occasion?”
He looked a bit taken aback by the question, almost as if he had forgotten that he had just stood in a field for an hour playing his trombone while his colleagues gallivanted around on horses.
Finally, he fumbled out an answer. “Oh, this, well it was so they could inspect the horses, a drill, y’know, to make sure they can go out and do things.”
Do things? What kind of things? You plan on going to war with these horses, cannons and all?
And that’s why I love the British. They haven’t scrapped tradition for mere efficiency just yet. Sure, it may be utterly pointless, but it’s delightfully pointless, and sometimes life needs a bit of delightful pointlessness to make it interesting and worthwhile.
That instance was enough to convince me: I have to come back here, even if it is a challenge to do so.
As I’ve said before, I love this place. I love the people, the traditions, the history, the culture – everything. And while watching this drill, I had to fight both tears and laughter: tears because even though this was the silliest thing ever, it only further solidified my love for London and Britain and my desire to stay here forever, and laughter because well … c’mon, it was the silliest thing ever.
I’m reading this book called Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson (definitely recommend reading it; he’s lol-hilarious). In it, he’s preparing to move back to America after living in Britain for two decades. Before he leaves, he travels across the UK, humorously depicting the oddities that make this country so wonderful. At the end, as he’s finished his seven-week journey, he stands atop a hill which overlooks his home in Yorkshire and notes, “I like it here. I like it more than I can say.”
And so as I look at my empty flat and my packed bags (this is only a metaphorical image as let’s be real, I haven’t even started packing yet and also pray for me because I have no idea how I’ll get this all in two suitcases), I declare the same:
I like it here. I like it more than I can say.
I may not have a complete answer to the “so… what now?” question, but I’ll be returning to this magical city in some manner. I’m confident of it.
Cheers, London. We shall meet again soon!
"Summertime Sadness" // Lana Del Rey
I struggled a bit with deciding what video to put with this post. I thought about sharing Coldplay’s newest single “A Sky Full of Stars,” which is my favorite of the three songs they’ve released from the new album so far. Listen to it here. (Fun fact: I’ve been listening to it on repeat while writing this.)
I also thought about sharing one of Ed Sheeran’s latest, an acoustic version of his song “One,” which he performs in an empty Wembley Arena (hey that’s in London). Give that a watch here.
But I settled on this song, not because it’s new and groundbreaking, but because it went along well with the essence of this post. I honestly never gave Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” much thought until one night earlier this semester when Jess played it and after that I couldn’t get it out of my head. Plus, it’s summer, and there’s some sadness about leaving, so yeah, it’s perfect.