Simple things, like eating a meal out somewhere, have become something of anxiety producing process. Each time I consider where to eat I feel my heart beating a bit faster. How much does a sandwich cost here? Do I order at the counter? Am I supposed to leave a tip? Do I really want to sit here alone and eat a sandwich? I have to pee so I should eat here because that would give me a good excuse to use the bathroom, but then I’d have to carry my purse and backpack into the tiny bathroom. Then the staff will think I don’t know that the bathroom is for customers only, but I can’t order and then go to the bathroom… I also can’t leave my things at the table while I go. If I have to ask a question I may not understand the answer because of their accent and the time it takes for me to get it sorted out may piss off everyone in line behind me. Am I really standing here having this conversation in my head with myself? Where is St. Mungo’s?
On the upswing, I have never seen crisps in this many flavors. Lay’s has a contest going to create a new flavor; in the UK Lay’s=Walker’s. Doritos though, go by the same name. But they don’t come in Chili Heatwave back in the states. Sunbites, known as Sun Chips in the states (and owned by Lay’s/Walker’s) are also here in full force–and full flavor. Wow. Who knew I was so easily fascinated by junk food?!
Though it sounds like a petty issue, discovering the variety of new-to-me crisp flavors is an analogy for the life I find myself living in London. There are more choices for everything–choices I had never considered. The answer is obvious, but still so novel to my programmed themes and schemas. There are more people here. And the people here are from all over the world. Cultures and ethnicities are colliding all around me. It’s been happening for longer than I have been alive and longer than anyone I know has been alive and on and on. As silly as it sounds, crisps in all of the flavors just remind me that I have been so sheltered. No matter how intelligent, open-minded, cultured, or whatever else I considered myself to be, I was none of those things. I may be yet.
In talking to native Londoners, I am also learning that they are just like that native Nashvilian in me. The ones who have never traveled or lived close to people vastly different from them are the same person I was before I left the states–a bit ignorant about how alike we all are. None of these revelations make me miss home any less. It just becomes clearer each day that the only things in life that really matter aren’t things at all. New and better junk foods exist outside the ones I know and take guilty pleasure in. People though, are mostly the same. I hope I am never in the position to stop being surprised at what the world has to offer, but I also hope to remember how valuable this new knowledge is. It’s like I previously understood the theory and now I am viewing it from a more interior perspective.
There’s something to be learned by living away from home. There is something special about being in an uncomfortable situation and finding that you have the strength to order that sandwich. Above all, there is great satisfaction in the growing pain once it has passed.
We love you.