As a lot of y’all know, yesterday was my 21st birthday! It was not nearly as exciting or over-the-top here in London as I imagined. I guess it’s because it’s not as big a deal here, since the drinking age is 18.
I want to go ahead and say thank you to everyone who wished me a happy birthday yesterday, and made the day fantastic. Thanks especially to my friends who I got a chance to FaceTime with (y’all have no idea how much that made my day)…mom, dad, Jackson, Jordan, Meme, Cate, and Erin. It was so great to talk to the people who I miss so much.
My day started out like any other: I got up, got dressed, grabbed breakfast, went to class, and went through my new London routine. We talked about Twelfth Night in class, and it got really feminist and I just loved it. Then, Sarah and I went to Primrose Bakery to get some cupcakes, thanks mom!
Sarah had dinner with a lifelong friend, so I went back to my dorm to take a quick nap before I went to dinner. I got to FaceTime a bunch of the aforementioned people, and popped a bottle of champagne to enjoy with my cupcakes to celebrate my turning 21. It was nice to get to catch up with my hometown friends while celebrating.
I’m not going to play innocent here, the drinking age in most of Europe is 18, so going out to a bar and ordering myself a drink on my 21st birthday wasn’t my first time doing so. (I’m still excited for my “first legal drink” in the United States when I get home in December.)
I grabbed a drink with a few friends before they left, then waited for Sarah to meet me (she was going to meet all of us for drinks, but everyone else decided to cut the night short early I guess). It was a little weird just sitting there in the bar by myself, but I guess that’s what being 21 and adulthood are all about, right? Getting outside your comfort zone and being confident and going places by yourself?
What struck me the most was how different this birthday was from any other birthday I’ve had as an “adult”. When I turned 18, I took the SAT, went to rehearsal for the school musical until 7PM, went home and went to bed. When I turned 19, I was just a baby college freshman with only a few friends. We weren’t close enough for them to throw me a party or anything, so my mom and my brother came up and took me to get dinner. When I turned 20, I almost pulled an all-nighter the night before to study for my history midterm. I went to my classes, took a nap, spent a few hours in the library, and went to dinner with my friends. We celebrated with cake and a movie night the following weekend.
This year, I didn’t feel the same love surrounding me that I had the past three years – that probably has a lot to do with the fact that I’m in a foreign country pretty much by myself, and my favorite people are over 4,000 miles away. Getting to FaceTime with some of those people was helpful, but it was nothing like having my roommate/best friend wake me up at 5AM by jumping on my bed to my favorite Rhianna song.
I understand the validity of my feelings and that I’m allowed to miss people when they’re an ocean away, but I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea: I LOVE LONDON. I am loving my study abroad experience and everything it has brought into my life, but it’s tough. It is teaching me so much about myself. There are just a lot of emotions that you encounter when you study abroad that I don’t think anyone prepares you for — especially when you do a program where you don’t know anyone at all.
I really did have an amazing birthday – champagne and cupcakes and getting to FaceTime some of my favorite people was really all I could’ve asked for (other than them all being here but for some reason, I don’t think that would’ve worked out so well). Going out when I didn’t really have a group of people to go with or solid plans made it feel a little more awkward than I intended.
I am so thankful for every single person who made me feel loved yesterday — y’all are the reason I’m having the time of my life over here in Londontown. Without your support, I don’t know where I would be.
Cheers to 21 years!
(Stick with me, y’all. It starts a little weird and gets into my emotions, but the explanation comes at the end. Thanks in advance for reading.)
Last week had been a tough one for me. It wasn’t because it was the second week of classes, it wasn’t the fact that I’m 4,154 miles from my hometown (and 4,046 miles from my school), it wasn’t anything you would guess. Honestly, I don’t know if I even know what it was. I don’t know if I’m just having a hard time adjusting to life here in the city (s/o to all you small town kiddos studying abroad…I feel you), or if I’m having issues in my program, or what it is. So far, it’s just seemed like it was one of those weeks where you get in a funk and you can’t really get out of it.
Thankfully, this week has started out on a great foot, and I’m sure I’ll be feeling better within the next few days. At the end of my program, I want to look back on this past week as an adjustment time, and have grown from it. So, the best way I know to explore my feelings is to write about them (as if we haven’t already figured that out).
As much as I have come to love it over the past few weeks, life in a big city is hard. It’s not at all like what I expected (other than being able to walk literally everywhere), and it’s definitely more overwhelming. Coming from a town of about 35,000 people, moving to this city of 8.67 million people pretty much on my own is without a doubt one of the toughest things I’ve ever done.
At home, my bubble is incredibly small. My best friend since kindergarten lives three houses down from me. I can’t go to the grocery store on a “quick errand” because I’ll run into somebody that I know (whether that be someone I grew up with, their parents, teachers, friends of my family, or literally the guy who changes the oil in my car – that happened once), and I’ll be sucked into a twenty minute conversation with them.
Here in London, it’s an entirely different story. I am completely invisible. There is no one I am going to run into when I go to the grocery store, and my best friend isn’t a two minute walk away. I’ve made a few friends in my program, but I can’t seem to shake the feeling that we’re not as close as I want to be. I sometimes feel like I’m on the outside when it comes to them. But that’s a whole ‘nother conversation.
It’s probably really good for me to have stepped out of my comfort zone like this. The last time I did something like this, I went to college 132.5 miles away. It took some time to adjust, but this time last year, I was probably at the happiest I have ever been in my entire life. On Sunday, I wanted desperately to feel that happy again. But now I’ve realized that it’s not going to happen like that. I was so happy this time last year because I was completely in my comfort zone. I was at Wofford, surrounded by my best friends, taking amazing classes, and thriving in a place I felt loved and supported.
Now that I’m outside of that comfort zone, I’ve realized that there are positives and negatives to being uncomfortable. I am in a new city where I am pretty much invisible. That can be a good thing and a bad thing. I have the chance to be completely myself, and see who wants to be my friend (*cue “Take Me or Leave Me” from Rent to blast behind this paragraph). But at the same time, being invisible can be annoying. You don’t have anyone to support you on those bad days. (That’s when I begin to reach out to that comfort zone that’s 4,000 miles away and FaceTime the hooligans I like to call my friends.)
The other day, I was in a bookstore looking for a book that I need for class, when all of a sudden, this song got stuck in my head. When I was walking back to my bus stop, I decided to listen to it, hoping to get it out of my head. While that didn’t happen, I did pay attention to the lyrics and found this:
“I’ve got something to prove, nothing to lose/in this city, in this city.”
“I never wanna wait for this/harder than that I was made for this/I won’t fade into darkness/I’m not gonna say I’m sorry/gonna see the end of this story/I won’t fade into darkness.”
“Airplanes” by 5 Seconds of Summer
Those lyrics really struck me as something I needed to hear. I’ve been waiting my entire life to get the chance to come here and study in London. Why should I let some negative feelings and people I feel are excluding me ruin my chance to have the best experience I could possibly have? That’s ridiculous.
I need to do what my grandmother told me to do before I left: don’t just find opportunities, also make them for yourself.
This is going to be the best semester yet. I can’t wait.
TLDR: London has been wonderful and I love it so much. There have been ups and downs, but that comes with every new experience in life. I want to embrace it and have the time of my life while I’m here.