There is no good way to prepare to be gone for seven months.
There’s not even a great place to start. No one makes a road map for this kind of trip—particularly if where you’re going feels more like home than where you’re coming from. No amount of preparing visas and packing lists has prepared me to say goodbye to my friends for the greater part of a year; no amount of scheduling phone calls and gathering addresses has made me ready to not be standing beside them every day.
I was asked to write about how my identity impacts how I view the world. My identity is greatly constructed by those I hold close to me. I’ve come to learn this isn’t a common way to look at the world, but the best way I’ve come to make sense of my existence is that it is only so consequential as I express it outwards—in many cases, to these dear loves of my life that I’m leaving behind.
The more positive flip-side of this rather depressing coin is that my worldview is highly impacted by people I meet along the way. I’m fortunate to be headed to Heathrow International in five days with several London love affairs behind me, and the time I’ve spent in the city, living with and around Londoners, has taught me that people are much more similar than they are different. We’re all living our lives in pursuit of excellence, or recognition, or family—all different ways of looking for love.
This understanding about people helps me break down interactions that most others account to stereotypes. Considering London in particular, most foreigners hear that the Tube—the underground subway system—is always silent; that shopkeepers never start conversations; that the general public attitude is cold and uncaring. Let me assure you, this could not be further from the case. What I’ve learned from listening (and not talking, for once) to those who call the city home is that the “American” way of showing care in warm politeness seems facetious to Brits. Why ask how someone is if you don’t care? The English I’ve been lucky enough to become friends with are more than prepared to make a wealth of noise for someone they genuinely care about. This discrepancy in something as simple as behavior on public transport comes back to the same discrepancies in the ways that different people from different backgrounds show the same love.
I’m excited to head overseas to begin coursework on theatre in my favorite city, to start interning with a local company, and to finish the summer training in theatre with experts. But right now, I’m just trying to get all my extra love out. These next five days are nothing but me being as loud as possible for the people I love.
I trust that being alone in London will bring me to a deeper connection with myself, but I think my identity as a lover of places and people will remain the same. That’s all any of us are, in the end—no matter where we call home.