Six months ago I packed up my entire life and moved to a new city, in a new country on a new continent I had never even visited. From New York City to London, I transplanted myself with no friends and no expectations. Just a job, a visa and a mission to explore.
When my company announced the opportunity last September, at first I was uncertain because New York was my city. Over the last 12 years I had charted the five boroughs by subway, bike, foot and ferry. I learned its restaurants, its clubs and its parks. I learned to give directions with almost militant precision, equally comfortable with the cardinal directions, street names and landmarks. After college I found a job in NYC because all of my friends from the greatest College, in the greatest university, in the greatest city in the world were right there. And I would run into those friends anywhere in the city, just as I had passed familiar faces on College Walk. That was NYC’s way of letting me know I was home.
Being surrounded by friends in a city that I knew like the back of my hand made me feel confident as a young woman. But, as I found myself staring toward 30 years old, I longed for that wondrous feeling of adventure that I experienced in college summers, traipsing around with my best friend. There was too little uncharted territory to sustain my exploration. Every neighborhood was dotted with memories so full of emotions that revisiting some spots felt like getting lost in a time warp, retracing my steps like I was 23 again. Gradually and subconsciously, I had slowed down my adventures to barely a drip; too weary of running the well of untapped surprises dry. I became more of a workaholic because work was better than boredom. I spent weekends locked away in my comfortable Harlem apartment, contented with Netflix, my cat and my latest hobby: sewing. Was I still in my 20s, or had I flashed forward to my twilight years?
I would not have asked that question before my company announced it was looking for someone to help build the fledgling London office. Even one day earlier, I would have told you I was completely happy with everything in NYC, even if perhaps I was a little more single than I might have liked at the moment. But I let the idea of leaving New York ripen enough to ask my mother and my best friend what would happen if I moved away for a year or so. Minus her usual histrionics, my mom calmly told me that she would miss me and support me from afar. My best friend texted, “Definitely. Dooo iiitttttt.” No sooner had I received these two validations than the floodgates of excitement were released. I was going to adventure! Getting the job first was but a minor impediment to my emotion. Every fiber of my body was ready to happy dance!
It was a gutsy move, driven more by emotion than logic. And so I didn’t do very much research or try to set expectations. Instead, I convinced myself that I was being practical by committing immediately to not buying things in New York — before I had even passed the interview. And after I had gotten the job, all of the paperwork and humdrum of moving to a new country occupied my thoughts, and only excitement occupied my feelings. I still didn’t plan for what life in London would be like.
I’ve been here for six months now and I am happy that I came with no expectations. Every day is an adventure and I’ve discovered how much I enjoy getting lost and finding my way home. Without a SIM card in my phone, for the first six weeks I navigated the winding streets of London with screenshots of maps, street names and landmarks. I happened upon Tower Bridge, stumbled past Shakespeare’s Globe and wandered into the Tate Modern, where I saw just one exhibit and left more to be enjoyed on my next visit. In small doses, I’m learning London by tube, bus and foot. When the sun is out, I find a new way to make the three-mile journey south and east to my flat. On one of those evenings in April I ran into the one friend I had made since the move. Halfway across the world and in another city of eight million people, I still manage to run into new friends and College classmates. London is starting to feel like home.
SADÉ CLACKEN JOSEPH, BC’11