I'm finally home after five months (I have literally so much to catch up on this blog, it's not even funny) and it's 5:50 am.  I've been up since around 4:38am.  I may have had some hope of going back to sleep, but I started thinking about London.

Guys, this is like deciding to think about a recent breakup when you're at your most vulnerable.  That's exactly how I felt when my program ended--like I was breaking up with London.  I didn't blame London though, I blamed myself.  I thought of all the things I should've have done, the things I should've said, the things I should've blogged about so I never forgot them.  And then I have to remind myself three things:

1) I did more in London than I have ever done in my life.  I not only saw more theatre, art, and music than I had everything before combined, I pushed myself to be more than I ever had before.  I forced myself to not be the homebody I usually resort to and became a city girl for a semester.  This is something I never thought possible.  I became a version of myself that I didn't know I had in me or would even like.  Although I definitely had my moments of "This place is absolutely bonkers, I'm exhausted, Are we really going out for the third night in a row to a show that starts at 8pm somewhere over a thirty-minute tube ride away?, Can I just be boring for a second?".... These moments were surprisingly few, and they were washed away the moment we did whatever amazing thing we were about to do, and let me say, there were countless.  When I think to myself in these dark hours of regret (although the light is seeping into my room as I write this), I have to remind myself that OF COURSE I did not do everything there was to do in London.  That would take a lifetime.

What I did do was embrace each day.  I never holed up and choose not to be in London.  I abandoned a lot of my Kaylieisms, like blogging and online TV, and when I did have the spare time I opted to work on my travel journal or talk to my roommate Eva across the room, who became a very close friend in a matter of weeks.  The only time I didn't make an effort to get out were the few days I was sick in bed, and even then, one night I pulled myself out of bed to attend a show at the Barbican all by myself (I had tickets the night before the rest of the group because of my internship) and another night I journeyed with my roommates to the best pho we could find in London.  There were multiple times when Ted asked me if I wanted to go to Flat 15 to hang out with everyone and I went against my homebody spirit and told myself, "Why not?"  I pushed myself so hard.  I spent my own stipend money on shows we didn't see as a group, I explored far-off neighborhoods and found favorite spots, and I tried new foods, new ideas, and, okay, new clothes on.  I even ventured off on my own a number of times, which is saying a lot, because I always get lost without fail.  I always managed to get home though, however many hours later it sometimes became.

There was a particular night the last week of the program that I ended up in Trafalgar Square, feeling very lost, confused, and alone. I sat on the steps under the National Gallery and looked at the now familiar Big Ben in the distance.  I cried out of happiness and sadness about my time in London, remembering the first time I was on the same steps my very first night in London with most of the group.  Now back in that same familiar spot alone, I felt a sense of closure.  Sure, I still had no sense of direction, but I had gained so much during my time in London.  As cliched as it sounds, it changed me for the better, and this is why I know I shouldn't feel a shred of regret.  London is big; I am small.  I did a fine job getting to know the magic it offers, and getting to know myself in new ways.

2)  I said more in London than I ever thought I could.  And by this, I mean that self-concious, introverted Kaylie actually managed to become friends with almost everyone on the trip, despite her record of staying home from parties and other situations where I might actually make friends (the thought of it!).  Living with people is definitely my preferred method of getting close to people because I am forced to be around them over an extended amount of time, which is very good, because I tend to prefer solitude.  Most of the residents of Flat 12 were people I never would have thought I could be friends with had we been at school, if I ever even crossed paths with them.  I was pleasantly surprised to get along with all of them, and realize the things we had in common.  However, I not only got to know my fellow flatmates, but I also made the effort to knock on the door of Flat 15 every day (where Ted lived) and patiently (or not so patiently) wait for someone to answer.   As much as I was annoyed at first that Ted and I weren't in the same flat, it became a blessing, because it forced me to be present in both flats, which was actually something very few people on my program managed to do.

While Flat 12 was mellow and opted to watch artsy horror films most nights (which I never really felt inclined to join in on, especially when I had already missed the beginning) and get to bed at a reasonable hour, Flat 15 liked to hang out, talk, watch movies, drink, and go to bed at an unreasonable hour.  Although this also wasn't really my thing, I religiously went over to Flat 15 to see Ted, and usually ended up staying in their spacious lounge to watch whatever movie they invited me to or be amused by their drunk antics.  Although Ted and I weren't really interested in drinking more than a cider or two occasionally, it was fun to be a part of something I usually avoid like the plague at school (and probably still will, unless I'm in a similarly small group of about 12 people I know and love). I definitely went home from Flat 15 when I needed to though, because pushing myself too much would be lethal.  I need some sort of balance in my life, even if I'm going out of my comfort zone.  I would come home to a dark room, take a beloved shower to unwind from my day, crawl into bed exhausted, and routinely knock over my glass of water each time I reached over my nightstand to set my alarm for the morning.  Thankfully I had an adorable tea towel to absorb my frequent spills, because without fail, I spilled something each day and tripped over my feet walking the streets of London.  Sure, I became more adventurous over the semester, but definitely no less clumsy.)

I'm proud of myself for pushing myself pretty far out of my comfort zone to actually enjoy people's company instead of always choosing to stay in my bedroom.  Although obviously, sometimes Kaylie time was definitely and 100% needed, so retreating to my sacred bed to read blogs or watch the latest Emma Approved on Youtube was definitely crucial to my sanity.  I don't think I'll ever know how Flat 15 stayed up so late every night without going absolutely crazy.  I certainly couldn't have done it!  What I did do, was go further out of my comfort zone than I have done in the past, while still knowing my limits. I am very proud of that.

3)  Okay, so blogging went to the backburner.  So did all of my favorite TV shows.  I simply did not have the time or energy to do the things that usually help me blow off steam each day.  When I did have the energy, I used it to work on my travel journal, which was also neglected for large quantities of time.  Or I used the energy to do something else, like go to a spontaneous show with Ted.  I have to remind myself that the reason I didn't blog this past semester was that I was too busy doing what I described in 1 and 2--I was making the most of my time in London.  Thank goodness for Instagram, numerous photos uploaded to Facebook, and my jam-packed travel journal full of ticket stubs and assorted hoarded paper (all lovingly adhered with cute paper tape, stickers, and a trusty gluestick).  I look forward to the day I'm able to finish it off with the last bits of London and my entire European adventures.

Leaving London was one of the tougher things I have ever done. I'm so thankful that I had five more weeks of traveling before I had to come home, because by that point, I was completely ready to be done being so darn adventurous every day.  It's tiring, and thankfully I'm actually getting tired again, so hopefully I can clock in a couple more hours of sleep before getting up again.  Or not.


Dillon said...

It sounds like the trip was not only an AMAZING experience in terms of exploring new places, but also in exploring the new you. It's crazy that a place can change a person entirely!

lina said...

i'm so proud of you kaylie : )

Natalie said...

To be honest I think you still blogged way more than me during the past semester, and you were about a million times more busy. But seriously, what everyone else. I love when experiences like that push you out of your comfort zone and challenge you to do things that seem almost entirely opposed to something that you would previously do, but you end up enjoying them regardless, and without necessarily losing your sense of *you* but rather building onto it and expanding it further than you thought that you could. I AM SO HAPPY FOR YOU.

Maggie Shirley said...

I'm so happy that you had such an amazing time in London. Finding out new things about yourself is always really exciting, especially when you already feel like you know yourself pretty well. It's a nice surprise to find out what you're actually capable of. I'm proud of you for venturing out so much! An inspiration for introverts everywhere. <3