The title sounds worse than my situation is, really.
The hardest part of getting to know London is that I’m completely turned around. In the U.S., I always have a general idea of whether I’m heading north, south, east or west. I think of everything in terms of the Atlantic ocean, which is unfortunate now that I’m on the other side of it. Whenever I used to head east, I knew I was heading towards the ocean. Well now when I head east, I still hold on to that notion, although I’m actually heading west. Last night I thought I was walking south, but I was actually moving east. The lack of sun doesn’t help, nor does the fact that cars drive in the wrong direction. Fortunately, everyone here appears to excel at reading facial expressions, and I don’t go more than five minutes holding a map before someone asks me where I’m trying to go. It’s quite convenient.
Also convenient is London’s decision to remind London novices which direction to look before crossing the street. These instructions have already saved my life at least twice, and I imagine will do so many more times before I get the hang of Britain’s frustrating desire to be different. (I really think that if they’re looking to be unique in regards to traffic, then there’s more work to be done. People still stand right on the escalators and walk left. And trains move in the more traditional traffic pattern, as well. Driving appears to be at odds with all other modes of transportation.) And there is definitely an aspect of my personal life that needs improvement, as well.
Back in my glory days of childhood innocence, my parents always joked about my ability to make friends at the drop of a hat. My parents would hardly have our big blanket and umbrella set up for a day at the beach before I would come back with my best friend for the afternoon. Even in D.C., I miraculously made friends despite a challenging living situation and an affinity for going to bed early.
My orientation was yesterday, and I regret to say that I have yet to make any friends. Nearly everyone studying abroad at my school this semester is American, which offers a comforting sense of familiarity but makes me feel as though I’m still in America. I left the United States to gain new experiences, not to be constantly reminded of old ones. I feel fortunate that I’m living away from student housing. While living there would have provided me some initial camaraderie with fellow Americans, I imagine I would feel trapped in yet another American bubble, floating through London with my American posse and missing the intended immersion experience.
So instead, I will spend today touring museums alone. If anything, I am gaining a newfound independence that I would never have discovered had I stayed in the U.S. I’m finding that I like being a stranger in a strange land. I’m empowered to go out on my own and do only the things that interest me, for once. So perhaps I’m only lacking direction in the physical sense, and lacking friends is then serving as a remind that I am here for me. These five months are mine, to make my own, to find out who I can be when not defined by familiar surroundings or relationships or expectations. I like that.
I also like that I have not heard about Twilight once while I’ve been here. America’s obsession with vampires is really starting to bite/suck.