Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mind open, moving in

I didn't want this day to come quite yet. For the past few days, my experience in England has felt almost like every previous experience in this country. In other words, it felt like a vacation. Through even the most trying circumstances (i.e. registering for courses), I had the one crutch that could keep me sane and remind me when to eat my meals - my father.

Tomorrow, he leaves on a plane back to sunny California. The vacation portion is over, but where will I be? Still in England. As if I've been left behind, the plane having departed without me. I must have spent too long in the security check because there really is no other explanation for why I'm sticking around here..

Except that I chose this. And I'm not ready to start blaming my decision on anyone but myself, because if anything I have ridiculously hopeful expectations for the rest of my time in England.

Every day since that first day I flew into London Heathrow and got on a bus full of American students planning to study abroad in what I consider to be the most beautiful city in the world, I kept telling myself that this wasn't the make or break moment of my experience. I wasn't interested in becoming best friends with the American students here. In fact, that was the furthest from my concerns. I'd be happy to get to know other people from my home institution while they were abroad with me, but creating a clique that was composed of entirely fellow Americans felt limiting to me.

So I've gone on with this lone wolf temperament, waiting for my dad to come into town and spending all my other time introducing myself to new people but also using quite a bit of the freedom to sit around in parks and explore the city on my own terms and by myself.

I'm not a "by myself" kind of person in general, but for me London is the kind of city where loneliness is quelled by calm and quiet comfort. I like walking around without having to go see a spectacular tourist site. I enjoy the only thoughts being my own sometimes, at least when London is the place where I'm alone with them.

Tomorrow, though, comes the first day of being on my own for real, yet in the situation where I should no longer plan to maintain that title. It's time to not be "alone," but to be surrounded by people.

What if I can't find people, though?

That's a crazy thought. I'll be surrounded by people. I live in a flat with four other humans. I share two washrooms with them (only one of them has a shower). Surely I will run into people. And there are also halls, and other blocks with many other flats with their own residents. I will never be truly alone.

Is it really a problem to be alone though? This is what I haven't settled within my own mind yet. Despite enjoying my time relaxing and taking things in on my own, I can't help but feel like the next step in my study abroad journey is to make a long-lasting and valued group of friends. I need people whom I can count on to be available should I want to go see a West End show or go out to dinner. Doing those things on one's own can be a sad experience, but with friends they can be some of the best.

Where do I stand now, then? I guess on the cusp of my transition into university life in London, I feel moderately at peace. Though I'm watching friends settle into their universities in their own ways, I recognize that every experience runs at its own pace. It's not my fault that I haven't "clicked" with any group yet, and it doesn't mean that won't happen in the future. Plus, with four courses on my schedule, a few clubs and societies on my list of potentials and tons of European voyages cluttering up my calendar for the next few months, I will likely be so preoccupied that I won't even have time after this week to worry about lacking friends.

And by then I probably will have made some great ones. And who's to say I already haven't?

There's so much left to experience, so I guess I'm just responsible for keeping my mind open at this point. It's all I can do.

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