Monday, 5 January 2015

Hello Neverland: There You Are.


My New Year's Eves have always been dramatic affairs, and I have preferred them to Christmases. They have tended to involve big parties, staying up until 8am, writing long letters or promising myself a dozen resolutions. There have been tears on the stroke of midnight, and the anticipation of leaving everything behind to start over.

Except intentions may be as pure as you please, things don't get wiped away with the gongs of the clock.

This isn't to say travel as a form of escape isn't a great idea, but I've lived most of my life on the basis that if I had to pack a suitcase and leave town tonight, I could. I still don't feel comfortable with the idea of having too many material possessions but that has more to do with not having any real use for them than thinking they weigh me down somehow.

My resolutions were grand, and the sweeping changes in my life were biting. I would move country, change job, lose touch with a plethora of people, delete my Facebook account, change e-mail and phone number like someone working their way through a hostage program with a particularly adept stalker.

I believe those changes were necessary to get me to where I am at the moment, but this year felt different somehow. I didn't feel a need to dance out my year, or cry it out at midnight. I remember, or not as the case may be, getting so incredibly drunk in 2006/2007 that I woke up in my own bed, a trail of clothes leading out to the hallway. Except I hadn't been at home, I had been at a house party. I dislike getting drunk and not being in control, this is the only time I don't remember getting home.

This year didn't feel that way to me, it was a comfortable, gentle evening. I finished work in a job I adore, I came home to a beautiful apartment. We went for dinner to a neighbourhood Thai restaurant and sat in the basement under an arch which hundreds of years ago could have housed any conceivable thing. I live in London, a year and a half of living in this dream city so full of possibility and wonder.

My walk home had been stifled by the ridiculous queue of ticket holders waiting to be let into Whitehall to watch the fireworks, a whole six hours previous to the event, in a freezing line that stretched from Trafalgar Square to the Mall. It meant having to walk up the Mall and past Buckingham Palace instead of through St. James' Park. I don't know how to emphasise that sentence. I can, if I ch
oose, walk past Buckingham Palace every day on my way home. I walk past Trafalgar Square every day, one of the centres of the world. The person I greet every day on my way into work is Admiral Horatio Nelson, a figure of history I am obsessed with, standing on his famous column looking out over this capital.

We watched the fireworks from our balcony, the entirety of the city of Westminster alight with the bursts of colour from The London Eye. The world seemed to cheer harder than ever this year, after planes crashing and militant extremists, Ferguson and UKIP and the erm, The Interview debacle. We are still here, we are still alive, and we can celebrate, we can shout. I no longer felt like this was a hurry to wipe anything away from the previous year, but an anticipation of the year ahead of the joy and success humanity is capable of.

This isn't a gloat, and I can see how it would sound like one. In 2005, at the age of 20, I had been to London a total of three times. The majority of my life had been spent in two square miles of fenced-in land with only the tease of the ocean and Africa on the horizon. There was promise in escape, there was freedom on the other side of that gate. I had spent a year in Cardiff, so overwhelmed by the idea of freedom that my life, as most 20 year olds probably, was just a card's wonky placement away from falling apart. I had quit university, was on the verge of breaking up with my loser junkie boyfriend, profoundly overweight and with absolutely no idea of what came next.

A friend invited me to London to see Live 8, and we stayed in the Docklands. I looked out at Canary Wharf from the middle of a bridge that night, at what felt like an endless river. I could see young professionals in their suits sitting in restaurants drinking wine. There was something here, this city had something to offer me I just couldn't even grasp yet.

Three years ago I was in Copenhagen, practically forced into exile into a job that was supposed to have taken three weeks and ended up taking three months. I was living in a hotel, as I had for most of that year, waking up each morning wondering what country I was in again before opening the curtains. My relationship had gone beyond hanging by a thread, I was already free-falling into a ravine and the person that was supposed to love me the most was standing on the edge telling me it was my own damn fault, instead of offering me a parachute.

I had begged him to come and see me, and it took spending about £500 of my money to get him over for the weekend. He sat across from me in the hotel bar while we had a coffee.
I'd had a lot of time to think. "I've been thinking, maybe I could get a less intense job and carry on with my degree. By the time I'd finished, you could support me in a second career, the way I'm supporting you now".
The stare I had back made it look like I'd just told him I wanted to start my own band despite having no musical talent whatsoever.
"Well, that's a nice little dream isn't it, but not exactly a practical plan".
I had never felt so alone in my entire life.

I started my degree last year. I was two months into my relationship with John and we'd gone away for the weekend. I mentioned, in passing, that I had started a degree and abandoned it after the foundation course. He told me to go ahead and start again.

It's funny that I feel so secure, because it's been a year for jumping. I quit a job I hated, I took an unpaid internship for a month to see if it's something I wanted to do, and chased a job I had dreamt about since it had first been mentioned. Yet it's not funny at all, because through it all I had someone telling me "Jump a little higher, jump a little further, because no matter where you land I'll already be there to catch you".

I don't feel like I have to have a gypsy life anymore. I can be rooted, I can put down my suitcase and my sword and I can still have adventures. This life, this love, this city, there's still so much left to explore.

Happy New Year.


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