London Scared Me
Updated: Jan 10, 2019
She did right from the get-go.
Travelling almost 10,841 km to London as a solivagant especially on a volatile and uncertain political climate - Brexit - you’d be as ambivalent as I was. Also if your plans were to stay with someone you befriended online, you'd take extra and necessary precaution. I didn't take any of those with me. Instead, I gambled fervently.
Yes sure we were all coached to not talk to strangers but to anyone who knows me well ,you know that I am not good with rules. So, I did. After a very long 13 hour flight, it got me to where I was; long away from home at Heathrow airport with a sore bottom and a much needed reassurance. I hope you won't confuse my anxiety for ambivalence. I’ve always wanted to see London so much so I vowed that she would be the first city I visit in Europe. I grew up studying its history, listening observing its music and pop culture.
But coming from a working class family, that promise turned from a commitment to merely a journal entry, inked with a mixed of passion and frustration. With only my dad as the breadwinner in the family, we couldn't afford liberal trips overseas. While my friends and relatives were visiting exotic cities, the only plane rides we ventured in were the ones we read in books and on columns in the newspaper.
Hence you can imagine getting on a plane to Heathrow was all too new for me. Needless to say I am that nervous flyer. If you were an avid fan of the Final Destination franchise, you'd know all to well bout vivid visions of planes blowing up. To nurse my fear of flying, I religiously read Huff Posts' 15 Effective Tips for the Nervous Flyer prior.
I remember practising and rehearsing my smiles at the customs; prepared a whole dialogue of things to say. Partly because of this show I watched called “UK BORDERS” that may or may not have terrified me. My nerves paralysed me not because I had anything to hide but because I was on the flight-or-fight mode. I had already painted the worst case scenario.
If you had gone for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy like I did for my panic disorder, you’d be doing your breathing techniques and filtering reality from fantasy by now. Hoping to quickly grasp reality instead of your imagined worst fears.
I am sure I got too ambitious, a characteristic that is never in a state of equilibrium. I can be working to climb up the corporate ladder one day and I was alone in a foreign country the next.
I’ve never gone on a trip this long and this far away from home, ever. Consequently, I had no experiences or protocol to abide to if anything went south. I was so green that I had my dad's number and my home address plastered on the back on my phone case just because.
Understandably, I’ve never been out of the equator so I found myself in a chilly predicament to say the least. The night of my arrival was quiet, eerie almost. I stood against the glass doors at Maida Vale while competing with London's unforgiving breeze. While waiting for Richard, I scanned across the street and was bewildered at the fact that this was exactly what I saw on google maps. Hail technology!
Given my anxious disposition, I stammered and stuttered whilst walking with Richard back to his apartment. I remember not being able to hold a conversation because I was too nervous. I'm sure he has his fair share of hesitation hosting an acquaintance.
But as days passed, Richard made me feel right at home and we stealthed through the picturesque city and crowd for hours on end. Looking for Harry Potter hotspots and browsing through the quirks of London.
We spoke of our friends and colleagues telling us respectively that staying and hosting a stranger was definitely risky if not dangerous. However, Richard oozed kindness. Similarly with Mariem & Marcus who both knew I was homesick. They had no obligation to make me coffee, pasta, serve me breakfast or be nice to me but they were.
We shared stories of love, heartache and dreams - where we were, are and where we’d want to be. Marcus and I spoked about of shared interest of politics. Also, his experiences whilst in Singapore. Mariem the sweetest, shared with me her experiences at Corsica and was always ready to teach me in French. Richard and I shared stories about our childhood, about home and our episodes with mental health. Although Richard and I connected through work, we spent our days talking about everything else instead. Between the both of us, he’s the smartest and coolest.
On my last night, we went to Wagamama and watched a horror movie at my recommendation. We were in the tube to city, the four of us, and i remember feeling extremely grateful.
I would’ve never imagined going through such an experience. I was lucky to have had the chance to live in a city I grew up wanting to see while making life-long friends.
Maybe talking to strangers wasn't too bad at all.
The consecutive morning, I felt immense sadness but greatly humbled. Richard and I hugged and said our goodbyes. I didn't manage to properly part ways with Mariem and Marcus which was something I regretted not doing. However, I may have left letter. But if I didn't, know that I'm writing this to you.
On my flight home, I greeted fear like an old friend.
I pulled it close next to my travel pillow because without healthy bouts
of fear, one would never acknowledge bravery.
If I didn't take that leap of faith, I wouldn't have the blessings I have. I wouldn't have felt the kindness and kinship I experienced.
If I discounted hope, I wouldn’t have known what the possibilities were.
It is reassuring to know that with a little bit of faith and courage, great things happen.
I am not afraid anymore.