A few days ago, I relaxed. Not relaxed as in spending a day reading or lounging, but relaxing as in “I got this.” My whole psyche relaxed. The you-are-in-a-strange-city feeling that never went away … went away.
I had run through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, getting lost a little, but never feeling like I couldn’t find myself. Afterwards, I’d walked to Harrod’s (more an event than a shopping trip; I cannot imagine anyone finding anything they would actually buy in Harrod’s) and when I got outside, I noticed a #414 bus sign that said it was going to Putney Bridge, and I got on. I was going to visit my friend Lynel in Putney Common, and my little paper with Journey Planner notes didn’t have me going that way, but I still got on this new bus. And it worked.
Lynel mentioned a wonderful market, the North End Road Market, with very cheap grapes, and I discovered on Journey Planner that it’s a short #28 bus ride from my apartment. I’d never been on the #28 before. When I set out, I realized I’d left my Journey Planner cheat sheet at home, and I didn’t go back to get it. Not only that, I found “my” market for the rest of my stay.
I don’t need cheat sheets anymore. I know to look for the bus stop on the left side of the street, not the right. I know that if the ATM can’t dispense cash, it doesn’t mean I’ll be left destitute; it just means I have to try the machine next to it. I know good rest rooms in several corners of the city so I’m never desperate. They reopened the footpath that takes me right into Kensington Gardens so I don’t have to walk the long way around. I know how to send and receive texts on the iPhone.
Now I’m really enjoying myself!
After my fabulous month in New York City, I expected that I’d arrive in London and revel in excitement and pleasure right off the bat. But it wasn’t that easy here. In New York City, I felt like I’d entered my DNA environment, that I was surrounded by “my people.” I felt at home, a part of the culture and the way of being. I fit in right off the bat.
Before spending a summer in Costa Rica, I knew I’d be speaking Spanish, using a different currency, entering a different culture. I was prepared and ready to give it the time to become comfortable. I wasn’t prepared that way for London.
They may speak English here, but they’re British and I’m not. I haven’t figured out all the manifestations of that – and it’s interesting to reflect on – but I know it’s true. I’m a fish from a different ocean. I understand that, and it’s okay.
Important thing I’ve re-learned about myself in my Third Third:
I need a certain baseline comfort level before I can appreciate my own adventurousness. Before I could feel relaxed in the apartment, for instance, I had to know where the light switches were, that this window opens more easily than that one, that the converter is more convenient in this outlet than that one. I needed to know that I kept underwear on this shelf, paints on that one. And knowing it automatically without having to re-think it each time. Once I could put 10% of my day into the routine column, I could handle the 90% of newness the rest of the day threw at me.
When I worked at the Anchorage Museum, I remember reading research on the best preparation for school field trips. Kids learned more on field trips when they were given instruction ahead of time not in content, but in where their coats will go, where the restrooms are, etc. It reduced their anxiety.
Now I know that every adventure either begins walking down Kensington Church Street to the High Street or up for Notting Hill Gate; turning left for the bus, right for the Tube. I don’t have to look at a map or plan my route. I just have to walk out the door.
So I do!