Thursday, September 27, 2012

See more, explore more, experience more

There's this girl I know. Let's call her Mary. No, let's be frank. This girl is me. For the most part, this blog is about me. You knew where this was going.

Anyway there's this girl I know. This girl is me. And she has an issue with spending a bit too much time indoors. On a laptop. Watching television. Listening to sounds coming from outside the door to her room and getting frustrated because "I'm working on a blog right now!!"

She doesn't go outside much when she's at home. It's just too hot. She doesn't go outside much when she's at school. It's much too cold. There really is no in between. There really is no satisfactory middle ground to coerce her out of the comfort of her air conditioned, wi-fi enabled bed chamber.

Yeah well, she's in London now.

Some enjoy cities where warmth is constant. Where you can count on the sun every day of the year and where the rain turns roads into slick disaster zones, people into wet zombies. That's where I hail from.

Those people aren't me. I'm the kind of girl who wears skirts in freezing cold weather, when there's snow on the ground in Chicago. I avoid sun like the plague because no matter how much exposure I get, I have a perma-tan that always makes me look like I've just come back from a weekend in Barbados.

The first time I came to London was probably the first time in my life that I was ever very keen on getting out. Take me to any city in the world, and I'll always appreciate the beauty that is the hotel room. With the luxury of television, the fresh linens and clean towels with no laundry effort required, and the options of room service and maid service and every other service known to man, I've been raised to be a homebody.

London is the kind of city where sitting indoors is almost a sin. Even with the unpredictable weather and the constant need to wear waterproof shoes, there is nothing more beautiful and temperate than a London afternoon, no matter the season.

So I've taken to exploring.

And by exploring, I mean walking around in circles and pretending I know where I'm going until I find what I'm looking for.

This morning was spent at a Freshers Fair event which involved going through twisting corridors at my university and signing up for various email lists from which I will be informed about clubs all around campus. But since I was alone and not interested in all the free stuff being given out by the business partners and clubs asking me "Do you like to rave?" (to which the answer is a staunch "no"), I made my way out before lunch time.

As per my typical home-loving, bed-cuddling personality, I went back to my room to grab some food. But not before walking around the whole perimeter of my university and finding the closest Waterstones bookstore which I then proceeded to look around as if I was looking for course material rather than trying to find some pleasure reading books.

Once I made it back though, in typical London fashion I was anxious to get back out.

And let me just say, this is in no way indicative of my personality. Once I've resolved to go home when I'm in California, it usually means I'm home for the rest of the day or night. Going outside is a nuisance.

But the sky was light and blue. The wind was chilly and inviting. The pavement was dry enough for flats rather than boots. I needed to go somewhere. But where?

My view from Primrose Hill.
Around 4 pm, I decided to head back to Regent's Park. Not only with the purpose of making it to a place where I could relax and take some more photos, but to scale Primrose Hill - a spot I'd heard about but never experienced, forgetting to take the side trip a few days ago when I spent much of an afternoon at the park.

It took ages to get to the hill. I took a wrong turn and ended up walking all along the side of the London Zoo (I've really enjoyed walking along perimeters in this city, it seems), meaning I spent about 15 minutes more time and an unquantifiable amount of excess energy just to get to the spot I was aiming for.

Until I arrived there, then all of that went away. Walking up to Primrose Hill is like this lesson in patience and exercise in anticipation. The incline isn't very steep, but as you move along the paved path and occasionally glance behind yourself, you notice more and more of the London city skyline becoming visible.

Then you get to the top, and even though there are at least two or three dozen other people there, for once hearing the chitter chatter and watching all the lovers stare into each others eyes becomes less nauseating and simply part of the experience.

I threw my coat down before I'd even made it to the top. It was a slight slope, but I'd placed myself just far enough away from anyone that despite being surrounded by people, I was completely on my own. I lay down with my head on my coat and looked sideways at the skyline.

And I could tell I was making a memory.

I don't know that under any other circumstance, I could appreciate nature - its glory and even its subtle annoyances - as much as I do on Primrose Hill. Little flies flew a few feet above my head as I stared at the skyline, but whereas I might swat at them in any other park, I let them be just as they let me be.

It was as if a sense of calm had washed over me that I'd never felt before. Not even on my long strolls around my Chicago university after heartbreak had worn me down and forced me to reevaluate my life. Those days were about thinking hard and fixing things, but these days I'm all about enjoying being myself and even moreso, being by myself.

Mary is in London now. She still doesn't like the outdoors. She still likes controlled surroundings with air conditioning and a blanket to keep her warm when she inevitably turns the A/C up way too high.

But she's learning. And she's wanting to see more. Explore more. Experience more. Luckily there really is no better place to do so.

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