I’ve lived in London for three months now. This is when, as a trusty friend told me, the honeymoon phase of a new flat ends. The commute to work gets longer; the neighborhood gets dingier; the city smaller and colder and less exciting.
But I’m still so in love.
The gut feelings I get are largely negative, i.e. “shady alley” warning signs. But I have this feeling, sitting in my cramped little attic apartment in Shepherd’s Bush, that I am exactly where I need to be. When your best friend Skypes in and immediately says, “You look better than you have in a long time,” you know something’s going right.
A comprehensive List of Things Going Right:
- I’m taking care of my body for the first time in my life. I run three times a week and even just in the beginning phases of being a Properly Fit Adult, I can execute a 13 minute mile. This is only possible because I have ample distraction: a 35-minute run takes me all the way to Hammersmith Bridge, where I can run along the River Thames and breathe a little deeper. On my off days, I do yoga in my flat in the little section where the sun streams through the attic window. I eat smaller amounts of better-tasting food (because gorging would ruin my run) and I cook (because I am poor) while my cassette player winds through my tape collection and I scribble away at the Evening Standard puzzles.
- I’m making connections with theatre industry professionals, who all love my American candor and spirit, in my role as a stage manager and electrician at Jermyn Street, and I’m rehearsing audition material every day in the space I have from a lighter course load, so my acting doesn’t get stale. When I feel a monologue or song is sufficiently good, I bring it in to Mike—my only professor here and a celebrated playwright—who celebrates my successes, offers insight on the next steps, and then connects me to other actors, agents, and opportunities, all of whom are helping me establish myself as a performer in the city that has been so good to me. I have never been shown such grace and enthusiasm by a group of theatre people; all of those I’ve been lucky enough to work with have gone above and beyond their call to make sure I have a Next Step.
- I still haven’t run out of places to discover. London is massive—the kind of massive you can only imagine when you’re 40 stories in the air at a 24-hour waffle restaurant, sitting by a window and seeing for the first time the sprawl of the city. Every day I have free I go out and explore. Sometimes, it’s to old favorites—the Prince Charles Cinema is a 5-minute walk from where I work, and I’ve gotten a membership so I can leave a morning shift and catch a matinée in Leicester Square. Other days, it’s a ride to a Tube station I know well and an imperative to keep walking upon arrival until I see something new. There’s always something new.
- I have amazing friends who work through a literal ocean of problems—time zones, Daylight Savings Time, awful Facetime reception, their own hectic schedules and mine—to make sure I see their faces and hear their voices as they remind me I am loved. There’s a realization, at this 3-month mark, that when I come to work in London, there will be a permanent absence of my loved ones, but to know that those who matter are already staking their places in staying relevant to my life… that’s comforting in this sea of newness and beginnings.
- The UK has finally gotten season 5 of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which I watch every Thursday on E4 at 9 p.m. GST with Nando’s take-away. It is my greatest joy, even though we are so behind American air times that last week’s episode was the annual Halloween Heist. I couldn’t have cared less.
I am blessed. I am so, so lucky. I am, for once, Exactly Where I Need To Be.