London on my terms

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”

– Nelson Mandela

My brother once told me how much his home city Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, keeps changing. The roads are never the same: they re-name them, they demolish them and build new ones or they change their routes entirely. Colonial shop houses get knocked down and are replaced by skyscrapers; schools are bull-dozed and turned into shopping malls.

He remarks with great relief how London never changes. That no matter how long he has been away from her, he can always return and familiarise himself with her landmarks and streets very easily.

London had been my home for many years: I grew up around her outskirts, I studied and worked in her centre, and lived the majority of my twenties in her leafy suburbs. Making the transition from experiencing London as a tourist in my teens to becoming a fully-fledged London commuter in my twenties was difficult. London ate up my energy, my mental agility and my time. I wasn’t in love with her.

Having lived a couple of years now in Brussels, I realise that I was living in some sort of fog in London. Meeting up with friends was a hassle because at times I would spend two hours just to get to their side of town; making arrangements would always have to be done weeks in advance; and getting home from a night out on my own was a constant worry.  During my London years, I felt I was continuously missing out on the party. I was unhappy; lost; trapped; and clueless as to what to do about it.

London as a holiday destination makes me acknowledge that she can only be loved on my terms. I now have the time to enjoy her: riding at the front on top of the double-decker no. 87 bus to Aldwych, mesmerised by Big Ben and Westminster Abbey and the glorious views of London’s exquisite skyline day or night; eating in my favourite Asian restaurants; going for cheeky cocktails with the girls; exploring the museums, the serene parks and commons, the gorgeous winding streets and cute cafes – all on my time. I love this London.

My brother is right: she’s still the same old London. Thankfully, I am the one who has changed.

Getting over heartbreak

Since I’ve been on my break, I’ve been doing a lot of spring cleaning. One of my jobs has been to de-clutter the papers, cards and photos which have been piled up around the flat: on my book-shelf, in my wardrobe, on my dressing table. In the middle of my spring-clean, I came across a love note from a recent ex. In the early aftermath of the break-up, I had hid it away at the back of my wardrobe, too cowardly and sentimental to rip it apart.

Why is it that no matter how many heartbreaks we endure, they still hurt and having to get over them each and every time is still a horrible, gruelling process?

They say that the first cut is the deepest and I believe this is true. My first heartbreak was many years ago, but it took just as many years to deal with it and to move on. I didn’t understand at the time that the crying, the depression and the moodswings were all part of the grieving process, I just felt like a freak for being in such a state, plaguing my friends with my misery and blaming myself for the ways things turned out.

I could not fathom how to deal with it and I really think that for the sake of our mental health, learning how to heal from heartbreak should be on the syllabus in schools, just so that young people can understand that these feelings are really normal.

Fast forward to the present and this recent heartbreak is so much easier to deal with because I understand the motions of recovery. I underwent my days of isolation, curled up on my sofa eating chocolate and watching rom-coms. I declined social invitations. I implemented a no-contact rule with my ex and I just let all my emotions surge through until they had no place to go except to leave me. Sometimes I still feel tinges of pain, but never to the same extent as I did just after the break-up.

My Mum often advises me to move forward and to never go backwards, advice which was given to her by her mother, my Nana. Just today she reminded me of it again when we were talking about career opportunities. But, this afternoon, as I was reminded of the heartbreaks and then the sudden urge to get in touch or facebook stalk my exes, my Nana’s advice rang through my ears. That these heartbreaks are in the past; that I must look forward, and not go back to them.

P.S My break didn’t last very long did it?