Our first day in London began with missing luggage and a walking tour in the pouring rain. Unseasoned travellers that we were, missing luggage meant no umbrellas and no rain jackets. By the time we reached our hotel room it was nearing midnight and our communication had disintegrated to the moody, scathing retorts that teenage girls hone like an art form.
“What is that?”
One of us finally gave in to acknowledge the incessant, melodious sound seeping in from outside. Realization hit us in unison and we scrambled to press our faces to the window.
Big Ben was nowhere to be seen, so as an alternative we directed our awe at a quintessentially British lamppost, its warm hue illuminating a small halo of the rain still coming down in sheets. And we listened.
“I am going to live here one day,” I announced as though they hadn’t heard it a million times before. Our reflections in the window shone back at us, eyes sparkling with the magic of possibility.
I was 16 when I first heard the legendary “bongs” of Big Ben but, to me, moving to England had always been inevitable.
Like most millennials in possession of common sense and a moderate amount of intelligence, I grew up with the adults in my life constantly promising me that I would surely be successful in all endeavours. It was an assurance I believed whole-heartedly.
So naturally, at the age of 23, I found myself in a grunt-worker job with minimal upward movement, promptly disenchanted by an industry I adored, and on a career path I had spent precisely one panicked night in my final year of undergrad deciding to pursue. (One night AND a passionate sing-a-long car ride to the entire Wicked soundtrack with my equally panicked best friend. That’s how people decide their futures, right?)
In hindsight, I’ve spent most of my life falling into things. Up to a certain point all major life decisions come pre-made with an array of options from a box labelled “next logical steps,” and for years I had gratefully accepted the offering. I chugged ever on with the expectation that I was always just a hair away from the inevitable “great things.”
So there I was, 23, my naivety newly shattered, and with no real idea of what I wanted my life to look like.
I left my complacency behind, and actually thought about what I wanted.
The only thing I’d ever been sure about? You guessed it: London.
But no path was going to happily and easily lead me to a new country, a new life, and a dream I had envisioned for literally as long as I can remember. I had to choose to make it happen. I had to forge the path towards it.
So for two years I pinched my pennies on a meagre salary while paying overly inflated rent. I declined meals out, sold clothes and books the second I was bored of them, and trained my brain to believe the two bucks I saved by not buying that coffee was the only way to cross an ocean.
More significantly, I spent two years making intentional choices—about England and otherwise. I left my complacency behind, and actually thought about what I wanted.
When I was 16, England happened to me. I was handed an itinerary, led from landmark to landmark, and brought back from the brink of misery by the magic of a clock.
At 25, I challenged every notion, habit, and fear inside of me. I veered off my comfortable path, and made England happen.
Now, on a daily basis, I put up with grumpy London commuters, smog that makes your snot black, and skies that feel perpetually gray, all for those far fewer moments in between that seem to sparkle with the same magic I experienced at 16.
Moving here by no means gave me the answers to my future, but I chose it. Every moment I work for it. And on I continue to want it in all its wonderfully frustrating glory.
I live in England on purpose.
Day in and day out, I make it inevitable.Add this article to your reading list