Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The greatest thing you'll ever learn

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return."

I was talking with a friend from home today and without even thinking much on the subject of our conversation, this thought came to mind almost immediately. Like a flash of lightning, illuminating me with the knowledge of what matters in my life, the sort of cheesy words from Moulin Rouge struck my heart. They reminded me of the place of love in a world that is uncertain, daunting, terrifying and sometimes downright disappointing.

The beginning of my time in London was all of these things. Though I knew I wouldn't be in this city forever, I'd hoped to have some sort of magical welcome from the entire English community, aware I'd made it to their shores and ready to embrace me with open arms. I've always had such a love for the city and the country, that I just assumed they would love me back.

It's not that they don't love me back, nor that they've shown any level of disdain or disapproval for me or any aspect of me, quite truthfully. But as I warmed up to my university life in the most beautiful city in the world, I realized that within a few months, it might not have fully warmed up to me.

Let me make the concession for the city itself. London parks, London neighborhoods, the London Underground. All of these things have warmed up to me pretty quickly. Or maybe vice versa. Either way, they've become like old friends that I'm ready to spend all my free time with.

The city itself, inanimate as it may be, loves me. I can feel it in my bones when I walk outside my front door. Or when I make my way through Regent's Park. Or sit atop Primrose Hill. There's no question in me that I fit here. In every crevice, on every hillside, at every street corner. London and I just seem to work.

But I lack love when it comes to the people. There are the supermarket employees who grow frustrated with my plethora of unquantified coins. The people who come up to me on the streets asking for directions and are annoyed when I have the air of a local, but none of the knowledge. Even just people walking down the street or sitting on the underground seem to have it out for me. That, or they just have trouble showing expressions of compassion and overall pleasantness.

Over the past few days, nay weeks, I've learned that love doesn't have to come from the people directly surrounding you. While it is wonderful to be placed in a situation where you can call on those you care about at your very whim, it is not necessitated when you live in such a beautiful and welcoming city as London.

In the mornings, I sometimes feel disturbed by the weight of the day. I have so much to accomplish in such a short amount of time. Whether it's going to classes, going to my internship, running errands, or some combination of the three, just the idea of moving from place to place all day stresses me out.

The afternoons aren't much better as I enter the thick of things. There really are too many things to think about in this city and in the life that I live here.

But when I get home in the evening, after I've been to society meetings and finished with all my lectures and work experience duties, I feel this sense of calm. Not just because my day is ending - in fact, this can be the most stressful situation, since I know I will be beginning the same process all over again the next day - but because I get to share the end of it with everyone I care about.

As often as I lament at living in an era that lacks the quiet reflection or the closeness of spirit that existed many years ago, I do rejoice at the presence in my life of a certain instrument. The computer. Every night, before I go to bed, I have the chance to interact with my friends no matter where they are around the world. I can talk with them for any quantity of time. Seconds, minutes, hours. We can catch up or we can just remind each other that the other exists.

Then there's my dad, whom I talk to every day. Despite the difficulty of interaction between countries, we've discovered a method that works for us. At the end of every day, I'm filled with the love he gives me just by being available to talk. He is my rock in a way that no one else ever could be, or even dream to be.

And that's where the clarity comes into play when I think again about why that little quote from Moulin Rouge struck me so suddenly and so randomly tonight. It's because this evening, I was aware that I'd learned to love. And I came to know that I am loved in return.

Even when the city's inhabitants may seem harsh and impersonal, trampling on the beauty that is this comforting, quiet and residential yet metropolitan hub, there is something to come home to at the end of the day. The cool air from my flat window, the warm water from my showerhead, the cozy and cuddly comfort of my bed linens. And the giant figurative hug I receive every time I endeavor to FaceTime, chat, interact in some way with the people from home.

The moral of the story is simple. It can be stated in one quick sentence: I love you all.

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