This is a piece I wrote two summers ago in London. It was my first time there but also my first time going away without anyone I really knew.
As a child, I loved to write. When I graduated high school, I left with the intention of pursuing writing. Then college happened. Writing started to fade out of my life. I didn’t enjoy any of my English classes. (Too many rules, too little passion) I barely had time for myself. Everything was schoolwork.
It wasn’t until I went to London that I found love for the craft again. I may have also found myself:
The moonlight glistens high above the canal. London’s youngest adults gather across. Summer freedom. Laughing. Kissing. Smiling. Stress is unwelcome here. The surrounding lights illuminate the bridge. I snap a picture. I’ve never been anywhere like this before. But deep down, there is a sense of familiarity. It’s almost dreamlike.
It is completely dark and people I have never met before surround me. Yet I feel safe. Camden is reminiscent of home. Lights flash and vibrations carry from the club across the water. The locals are undistracted. Their peace can’t be broken. This is the peace I struggle to find in New York City.
New York is always on to the next thing. You’re in today but you’re planning for tomorrow, and the next day, and the next year. Your phone has to let you know every last detail of the world around you. Why would you figure that out yourself? Nonsense. You can just press a button. The streets are littered with people, but most don’t see half of what’s happening around them. There’s a bearded man shivering in a black, tattered blanket, his German Shepherd sprawled out next to him. No one so much as hesitates at the sight. It’s just another day. People have things to do and places to be.
But there’s a reason New York is loved so distinctly. The city that never sleeps is a judgment-free zone, a social experiment. We try, we explore, and we discover. We are open to all that we don’t know. What could be rarer?
London is an entirely different world from New York. Yet, people often compare the two cities. I could find a million ways in which they’re different. However, I can also pick out the similarities. Individuals are individuals. In Camden Town especially, people are open-minded. It reminds me of St. Mark’s Place. In a city of progression, it’s a place of even more openness and acceptance. It’s one of the few places I’ve been that I can truly see people for who they are. Ultimately, this is why I came to London.
I didn’t know it when I left. However, I came to find out. I’m a writer that was barely writing.
I look back at this now and realize how true it is that going to a foreign place tells you more about yourself than the place. I stand by the things that I said. However, I can see now how stressed I was back then from school. My reflections on New York were more about my need to get away and to get in touch with myself than they were about the city.
I love New York. I always have. There’s so much beauty here and although hectic at times, there’s a level of peace that can be found in the right places.
It’s been several years now but I continue to write. I continue to travel. After I graduated college, I decided I was going to take some time to find what I truly want to do. The funny thing? It was right in front of me all along.