I’ve been in London one month and this has been the first time I’ve taken to attempt to reflect and catch up on my biggest life change to date. I am, without a doubt, head-over-heels head-first over-the-moon into-the-deep-end of my own little honeymoon phase, which is the only one I’ve ever experienced with a city. It. Is. Glorious.
But maybe I’ll back up.
It wasn’t exactly a spontaneous decision to pack up my life and head across the ocean. For those who don’t know, I’m here completing my master’s degree. But up until about a week before departing on part one of my 2017 adventure, I’d still not chosen which school (and as a result, which city), I’d be spending the next 1-2 years in. In the final hours, my number one choice school acceptance came through and the decision was made for me. Being an executive-formatted program, it did present the fly-in fly-out opportunity for those who continue to work full time in their home cities, but for me I was already all ready for the full move (not to mention that I had, ahem, already left my job at the end of March). Born and raised and schooled and lived and loved in Calgary has meant it will always be home base. But it’s never been more clear that this next adventure was meant to be…bigger.
I have to pinch myself every single day to be reminded that I really do live here now. Here, in this historic, enormous, diverse, chaotic but calm, beautiful city. This, I imagine, over time may change (I’m hoping it never gets old). But, unlike anywhere else I’ve ever travelled, it truly feels like a vibration syncing to my own. There are pockets for every walk, every story, and every past and I’ve only scratched the tiniest surface of them.
I think if you were to ask me what I like about myself (and as an aside, I’d strongly encourage each and every one of you to try to think about the things you like about yourself, often, every day if you can, so maybe you’ll get a glimpse of the wonderful that everyone else can easily see), it would be the seemingly disparate pieces that make me up. The clearest example of this was probably on my first day of school, standing up and introducing myself to my 47 classmates. Between the geniuses and gems of management consulting, trading, brain surgery (yes, seriously), Facebook, Google, public policy, non-profits and beyond, I shakily explained that my educational and professional background is focussed largely in finance, I’ve worked in stock option compensation and for a commodities exchange, that I have my CFA, but I also love psychology and animals and oh by the way I teach yoga. I could have gone on to say that I am devastated that London is so stiletto un-friendly (one of the only drawbacks of commuting on foot and on cobblestones) but that I also hate real pants and would be just as happy in flipflops and layers of fabric and I hate brushing my hair. I didn’t, of course, because we only had 60 seconds and I was already too nervous about being found-out to be the person in the room who didn’t fit.
It turns out, despite my fears, being the token yoga-teacher didn’t seem to discredit any other merits I had to offer; it’s probably a handy way to remember someone you just met. And there was room for all of me; London is like this. There is room for everyone.
My classmates and I spent 2 full weeks in lectures, seminars, guest speakers, receptions and (unofficial and unsponsored) after-reception-receptions. In those 2 weeks, I opened up a whole vast horizon of potential futures for learning and working and sharing. Until recently, I’ve never once uttered “I just can’t put it down” in reference to an academic journal article. The independent and less structured program has thrown me into a completely different style of study, which is already stretching me in a really good – albeit uncomfortable – way. Perhaps most importantly, I learned very quickly that “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere” isn’t required here, but that strangely, bars actually close quite early. I’m still reeling that I didn’t used to like or appreciate wine, and I’m making up for it. I woke up on the Saturday following the 2 week intensive with no voice, and one hell of a rebound cold. It was worth every sniffle. (Speaking of sniffles, getting a doctor in the UK was about as easy as ordering an americano).
I’ve been exploring yoga studios around London, and making as many connections as possible to get a foot in the door to jump into teaching here (if you’re a London yogi with suggestions or opportunities, get at me!) It’s been really grounding for me to stay in my practice in the hustle and bustle and 180 degree life shift and I finally got my Blissology teachers manual professionally bound to dive into whenever I feel a little lost.
To that end, with the non-stop activity that London has been for me, I’ve had pretty limited, but concentrated homesickness. Bits of me will always always be at home with the humans that played such monumental roles in my getting to where I am, and some who have been going through hell in this last month. There’s a really deep helplessness and frustration that comes with not being able to just teleport and be physically present where I feel like I need to be in those moments. But FaceTime helps, and even though I’m not there, I’m always there (promise).
So on to the most frequently asked question about my life in London so far: how’s your place/do you have a place/where do you live?
My flat. Which I suppose I could have started with, but it was really only yesterday that I sat down and said “Ok, I feel settled, this is home”*. I live in a first floor, walk-up studio, in a pretty central area of London with incredible access to my tube station and shops, restaurants, amenities, museums and parks literally steps away. It’s a beautiful area, I truly lucked out. Mama Q flew over to London with me to get me moved, and I have no idea what I would have done without her. We spent the first 5 days running, carrying, unpacking, building, carrying, climbing, dragging, assembling, buying, organizing, carrying (did I mention carrying?) all the necessities that do not come in a furnished flat. (“Furnished”, by the way, means: bed, cabinet, drawers, zero cutlery, one plate and a wine decanter). My adventures in Argos and our 12 hour IKEA escapade should probably be saved for another story, but needless to say, my biceps have probably never been stronger and I have never been prouder of my childhood insistence to be a part of all my dad’s handy projects; I’m a furniture assembly master. Mama Q kept me sane and fed and was endlessly supportive and within that first week I was completely accustomed to living with my mom again and as a result, totally devastated and needy when she had to leave mid-month.
*Admittedly, the final piece was a trench coat, in case anyone is wondering what the cherry on top of a London flat is.
Being in a nice neighbourhood which is simultaneously well located also means that I live in approximately 350 square feet. And that sounds ridiculously small. For reference, and for anyone who has visited my condo at home, it is almost 1000 square feet. So this is a completely new dimension of minimalism, and actually, I love it. It forced me to pare down everything I own, and living with just essentials is incredibly freeing. In terms of the decor, I won’t spend much detail describing because the pictures (scroll down!) give a pretty good idea, despite not having any room to turn around myself, much less really take photographs. But I sleep on what is essentially an adult bunk bed (of course referred to as a mezzanine). It’s actually brilliant because it opens up all the space underneath, which has been designated as my living room. There’s a wee red and white kitchen which initially I was not jazzed about, but am now completely embracing in all its quirkiness. The real sell for this place was the patio. It’s beautiful and huge and overlooks my whole street. Between that and the enormous ceilings and big french doors, and despite the sort-of-uneven floor and cabinet that is really only held together by well balanced gravity, I couldn’t be happier.
And now some fun facts*:
- The tube is awe-inspiring from an operations management perspective. And the tube map is pretty colours.
- The streets, however, are an absolute maze of diagonals and circles and even when I know the exact direction of the destination I must go, it doesn’t mean I will ever get there because of all the twists and turns of the streets in between. I ran past the same man at the same bus stop twice one morning, believing I was making my way in a single direction.
- Cockfosters is never not funny.
- The height of the railing of my balcony is perfect for falling over it.
- Christmas season starts immediately following Summer, advertisements, entire floors of department stores, etc. I attribute this to a) a low focus on Halloween traditions b) no UK Thanksgiving and c) that London is actually heaven.*
- British terminology is my favourite lesson thus far. Do not tell people you like their pants. Well, unless you really like them.
- It isn’t called “jay-walking”. It is just “walking”.* And since you never know which way you’re to look for cars, they write it on the road.
- There is one single engineering company which is responsible for turning on wifi for the entire city of London. I don’t even want to know who had to perform what favour in order to secure that contract, but it took 3 weeks for me to get internet.
- London, contrary to popular belief, actually doesn’t get much more rain than other major cities. (about 23 inches/year versus 50 inches in NYC and 30 in Toronto).
- There are more coffee shops and mini coopers per capita than anywhere else on the planet*
- Personal space is not a thing. It’s a lot of humans in not a lot of area.
- I have resigned myself to the fact that my fingers and toes will likely never really be warm again. They won’t be frost-bitten either, just kind of always a bit cold.
- London is home to the longest running play in history, The Mousetrap. And it’s very good.
- People (adults) use scooters to get around. No not just these scooters. Those scooters.
- London is the best city in the world.*
*These facts are unverified.
I feel like letting out a big sigh, like I’m sinking into a new normal. There are already a thousand in-between stories which I can’t wait to share, and I know about a million more I’ll continue to write every single day.
Lucky to not be claustrophobic