Apologies in advance if you were hoping for a sciencey post. Regular readers will know that, on occasion, my posts veer toward the more personal. This is one of them. Feel free to ignore it – it’s more a cathartic exercise than anything :)
Today, Thursday 3rd July, marks a mini-landmark in my life. This time nine years ago, I arrived into Heathrow to start my life in London. It didn’t feel like that at the time of course – like many adopted Londoners, I thought “yep, I’ll be here for two or three years and then move on to somewhere else”.… And yet, here I am. You can probably imagine that I’m experiencing some mixed feelings today – in some ways, it feels like just yesterday that I hopped off my one-way flight, laden down with bags, with a vague plan for my future. But then I think about how I was before I lived in this great city, and it’s all a bit blurry and indistinct – like I hadn’t quite figured myself out yet. Which is certainly true.
It’s been up and downy, but I can’t deny that so far, it’s been an adventure. I arrived just a few days before the most iconic 24hours in London’s history – I was here when it was announced that we’d host the Olympics, and on the very next day, when the tube was bombed. I’ve lived at six addresses, all in South / West London, I’ve met some wonderful friends and flatmates, adopted two families and have had my heart broken, then healed, then smashed to smithereens. I’ve done a masters, researched everything from water-repellent surfaces to energy harvesting, and discovered the wonderful world of science outreach / communication. I’ll soon start my third ‘real’ job, and I am writing my very first book. I’ve explored many of London’s wonderful secret places, and been a tour guide to visiting friends and family. I’ve travelled the world and found new hobbies, and have been to more live events (including Wimbledon and the Olympics) than most people do in their lifetimes.
But my greatest achievement over this past nine years has been to finally see myself clearly. I might not like everything I see when I look in the mirror, but I can honestly say that I know who I am and what I am capable of. And how many people can truly say that?! I’ve found that fear is my greatest friend – I am often told that I “…have no fear”, but frankly, that is total bullsh*t. I am afraid all the time. Thankfully I am just afraid enough to stay driven and motivated, but not enough to become paralysed. This is not to say that I’m always ‘on’ – sometimes I need to collapse into a heap – but it’s the fear that this will be my future that helps to drag my ass off the floor. Fear can also be an enemy – I’ve seen wonderful people debilitated by fear, who are now living a half-lived life, far beneath what they deserve – and it breaks my heart. I can only hope that one day soon, they will see how happy they could be if only they embraced the fear and took a huge, terrifying leap, even just once.
Anyway, what I wanted to say before I went off on that tangent, is that London has helped me to become who I am. I am definitely a product of my environment and I’m exceptionally lucky that in this vast, sprawling (and occasionally lonely) city, I’ve found “Laurie’s army” – a group of people who love and support me no matter what. I could never have imagined, when I arrived on that scorching hot July day in 2005, that this could happen. On my darkest days, a walk across Waterloo Bridge, or down Grosvenor Road, followed by a coffee with one of my army’s generals helps me to find a tiny chink of light :)
So, happy anniversary to myself and London. To my wonderful city, I say thank you for welcoming me and for helping me to find a home amongst your busy streets. Thank you for looking after me and allowing me to (at the risk of sounding like a d*ckhead) “find myself”. Lately, the road has been very bumpy, so I don’t know if our love affair will last forever, but right now, there is no place I’d rather be.