Our relationship hasn’t always been easy. When we first met, I was an eighteen-year-old from a small town that I’d waited a very long time to escape from – and though I was inevitably nervous, I had high expectations for you.
I’ll take this opportunity to be honest, London.
When I first met you, I was a little disappointed. With the approach of winter, you were cold, grey and wet most of the time. The increased air pollution bothered my lungs at first, and despite being constantly surrounded by too many people, I felt lonely. I spent months wishing I could leave and go back to my smaller, greener town where chatting to strangers on the bus is recognised as an everyday occurrence and not a sure sign of madness.
It was tough for a while, London. I spent a long time hurrying relentlessly between school and home and back again, my eyes fixed on the ground (a habit I had quickly picked up from my fellow city-dwellers). Before I knew it, I’d spent an entire semester feeling bored, sad and isolated.
Eventually, I decided that enough was enough.
Spring finally came and with it a newfound determination to get to know you. I wanted to find the London that I’d spent years imagining myself in, the one that I knew must be there, somewhere beyond the limits of my small-town comfort zone.
I began to push myself, traveling further than the requirements of my daily routine. I would step off the tube at a random station, just to see what was there. I would eat out, just for the sake of it. I would read blogs and scour event pages, and suddenly I saw so much in you that I didn’t know which direction to run in first. When I really started to look, I realised just how much you have to offer. I quickly fell in love with spots all over the city.
I found the green spaces I craved in the beautiful St James’ Park.
The character I felt you lacked was abundant in Soho, in Shoreditch, and along the bustling South Bank. I no longer saw you as one grey mass before me – I started to see evidence of uniqueness all over your streets, from the London Eye to Shakespeare’s Globe to Battersea Power Station. After months of feeling lost, I felt as though I had truly arrived.
When I shook my feelings of negativity and fear, when I started to explore my surroundings with open eyes and an open mind, I found everything that I originally thought London incapable of. I found colour. I found community. Finally, I found the London that everybody talks about, the London that draws people in from all over the world, and that had been patiently sitting and waiting for me to just go out and find it.
I will always be fond of you, London.
Not just because of the access to incredible art you provide at every turn, or your quirky bars and cafes, or even your charming architecture. You are the city that taught me how important it is to be proactive in the living of my life, to go out and seek adventure wherever I may be. You taught me to be brave, independent and responsible for my own happiness, and for that I thank you.
A Sort-Of Londoner