(This is a pensive post, so here is a pensive picture of me near the London Eye/Big Ben.)
Everyone kept telling me, "Oh London! How wonderful! You're never going to forget this experience!" But I never really thought about how much I was going to reflect on this experience or how it will indeed be something I never forget. I mostly just thought about how much fun I was going to have. Lately I have had more time for reflection on the matter.
Since coming to London, I've been feeling a little disconnected from everyone else. Not just native Londoners but even from my close friends in the program. I wasn't quite sure why. I blamed jet lag and culture shock. But those things are behind me now, for the most part. Maybe I was just being too judgmental or over thinking things. I didn't really want to meet new people on my own because it had been so long since I had had to make that effort. These days, my mutual friends introduce people to one another! But in London, I have no mutual friends outside the program and I wanted to meet some real Londoners. But I found people didn't want to come and talk to me unless I already knew them. Was I being standoffish? Do I look mean? I went on my artist's date yesterday and decided to think about things. An artist's date is an assignment for my Creativity and Innovation class. It is where you take 2 hours ut of your day to just be by yourself and explore your inner-self while exploring the city... I realized that I really like to be by myself. Mostly this consists of me sitting around the house in my pajamas while everyone else is out doing things. But for my artist's date I decided to get out of pajamas and walk down the street to check out the local library. I ended up spending about 4 hours there reading, browsing, signing up for a library card (it has dinosaurs on it!) etc. And while I was there I kept thinking about the past 2 weeks. I realized that as a New Yorker and Philadelphian, I naturally give off "don't come near me" vibes as a survival mechanism. As a 4'11 girl in a big city, you need survival mechanisms! And by having this natural inclination to appear unapproachable, I was appearing unapproachable. So I made the conscious decision right then and there to be more approachable. And it worked! When I came back from the Library I sat with some of the girls from my flat who I don't usually talk to and we had some pretty fun conversations. And later that night I went out with some friends and a couple of real Londoners struck up conversations with us! It was a small step for me! By the time this trip is over I will have created a built in switch in my brain that will allow me to be approachable or unapproachable at will.
There are still many things to think about and questions to ask. For instance, I'm here with some of my closest friends from home. Would this experience be better if I was going solo and had to meet all new people? I'm in an English speaking country, would the experience be more fulfilling if I were to attempt to learn a foreign language? I am currently in a serious relationship back at home. Would I be enjoying myself more or less if I were single?
Whenever I ask myself those questions, I always have to remind myself that everything happens for a reason. I am in London right now because I am supposed to be here. It is a good city to be in and to learn how to live in it. It is good to be away from the people you love because it makes you love them even more. At this point I don't know if I want to learn to fit in or stand out (though I have been asked for directions 3 times now, so I guess I look like a native). 3 months isn't a whole lot of time to become a full on Londoner, so why try too hard to fit in when I can just be myself and do my thing? I just want to have fun and enjoy myself this semester. When the homesickness comes and all I want is to be cozy and warm in my bed from home while my cats crawl all over me, I will just travel! I already have plans to go to Amsterdam with my roommates and even 1 new friend from our flat. And when Adam visits in 35 days/11 hours/45 minutes, we're going to Paris! And there are possible trips to Germany and Italy somewhere over the next few months. I'm fighting homesickness and despair with my natural born wanderlust. It's going to be awesome.
So I guess what I've learned so far is that every experience is determined by your own attitude when going into it. I am deciding to have a good time while I'm here. That doesn't mean I have to have a good time all the time. But I am going to have the best time I can have overall because it's my decision to have the best time.