I have a strange relationship with London. I was born here. Besides one year and six days spent in Holland as a ten/ eleven year old, I grew up here. It’s in my blood, though none of my blood is from here. I went to secondary school in Essex, a fine couple of train rides away. I went to sixth form in east London, a mere twenty minute walk. I learned the tube map like I learned my revision guides. Like the lines in the palm of my hand.
And then I burned to leave.
I went to Canada first, to Toronto. I loved its cleanliness, its vibe, its politeness. I loved its hugeness and its buzz. I loved its neat blocks. I spent some of my best time there (blighted twice by the pull of depression, the split-second succumbment to self-harm.)
I missed my siblings, my family, the dirtiness of London, but I felt free.
Then I moved to Edinburgh. Edinburgh was cold- and I don’t mean in the expected, stereotypical, Scottish way. There was a general sense of coldness that I hadn’t felt in Toronto. I know part of that related to my mental health, which was fast declining. I hated it and I loved it. It was beautiful… I was sad… It was lonely. I reached out and I was accepted and then- as I declined further- left out. I longed for London. I moved to Amsterdam.
Amsterdam was the best place I had ever lived. I suffered an excruciating low. I experienced a death-defying high. I made friends I loved, who accepted me for no reason other than that I was me, and they loved me. I experienced depth. I was plunged back from fairy land into the everyday reality of Edinburgh, without a break. The transition hurt.
I got my degree. I ached to leave.
In 2011, after five years, I got my wish. Pulled out from my relationship (a hand from an ill-fitting glove) I found myself back in London. There was a beautiful familiarity (I was home) and an ugly sense of failure (I was home.)
I scored a scholarship in Kent. I left again. Each time I left it got easier (experience) and harder (experience).
I miss people, not places. It’s what I’ve come to realise as I bounce around. I feel deeply and I love a lot. I hate to leave behind. There is a loss inherent in change. And a gain in changing. But it’s not where you are, it is who you’re around. And it’s not about where you’re from, it’s about where you’re at and where you’re going.
Last night I walked along the embankment and I breathed my home city and its beauty. I felt lucky in a million ways and I felt safe.
I may not always live In London but it will always live in me.