In the beginning, you have a dream.
When I was a child, I wanted to be a bathtub washer. Yes, you read that right. Bathtub washer. Not a housekeeper; not a maid. I saw an opportunity to hone my bathtub washing skills and develop the need for a whole new niche.
Now, before you go thinking this dream eventuated from some kind of child slavery or something…it didn’t. I just had a love of cleaning and, apparently, a particular love for bathtubs.
Suffice to say, I outgrew this particular dream. I decided not to take a chance on the wonderful world of bathtub washing and I moved on to bigger and better things.
Then, that dream changes.
Tax. Yes; again you have not misread that. I fell into the world of accounting and corporate tax at the tender age of eighteen, with nothing but pure ambition to light my path. Today, anyone who asks me about my past life is regaled with heavy sarcasm and tales of a woeful time replete with late nights and clandestine trips to the local McDonald’s. In truth, however, what I really remember is how much I enjoyed the whole experience.
Those first few months, I was more lost than Jack Shephard. Inevitably, though, I found my feet and friends to show me the way. I thought I had found the thing I was supposed to do for the rest of my life and yet, something was still missing…
Passion. I always dreamt of doing something that I loved. Something that made Mondays feel as good as Saturdays. Is that so unreasonable? So, with a wave goodbye to assets and liabilities, I sashayed into a brand new life. A life of events and galas and awards. Sounds pretty glamorous, right? Well, as is often the case, all that glitters is not gold. Still, it did not matter. I loved every second of that life. The good, the bad and the downright ugly. Once again I thought, “This is it. I’ve found it.” Once again, it seemed, I was wrong.
And then it changes again.
My moment of clarity appeared like a lighthouse through the fog. A fog that had rolled on ceaselessly for months. A fog that had washed away my confidence, my sense of purpose and my spirit.
Scrolling past the sumptuous smoothie bowls and scintillating sunsets, I happened upon a post about a World Nomads Travel Writing Scholarship. The rush of excitement, however, was quickly dampened by a feeling that I was trespassing in someone else’s home.
What right did I have to enter this world? How could I infringe upon the cultivated dreams of ‘real’ writers when my dream was still in its infancy? I felt like an imposter.
“The greatest fear in the world is of the opinion of others. And the moment you are unafraid of the crowd, you are no longer a sheep; you become a lion. A great roar arises in your heart; the roar of freedom.”
So, I channelled my inner Simba and assumed my rightful place atop Pride Rock. I stopped worrying about everybody else; everybody else’s dreams. I made the choice to take a chance so that things would change in my life.
I re-opened that bookmarked page, wrote my first official travel piece and submitted my application for a brand new dream.
Now you may wonder, what happens when you decide to take a chance and drop your fears? Well…
Grey skies. The avoidance of eye contact at all costs. A place where people shuffle along the pavement at a frenetic pace resembling the efficiency of a German train. Where everything you thought you knew about the English language evaporates along with the e and w in Greenwich. This was the London I knew. Or at least, it was the London I thought I knew…
I barely even remember the first time I visited London. Or the second time for that matter, and that’s kind of the point. It was a place that bore little resemblance to the tropical paradises, stunning landscapes and exotic beaches that had long fuelled my adventurous aspirations. It seemed to me a city that existed simply on the surface.
A city with so many unwritten rules, that when broken immediately revealed one’s tourist status. Tube doors urge you to push to open, but don’t; it will leave you red-faced and sweating more than the Central Line ordinarily warrants. Unless you wish to elicit a sigh likely to cause the entire London Underground to collapse in on itself, then just stand on the right. If you choose to saunter along Oxford Street in the morning rush hour, or the evening rush hour, or any hour, then you should really re-evaluate your life choices.
As I headed through the arrival gates once more, bound for the procession of shiny black hackney carriages, a cab driver smiled at me, like a loved one welcoming home a weary traveller. Maybe Hugh Grant was right and love actually is all around…The sing-song “You okay?” now didn’t feel like it warranted a response of “YES, WHY? DO I NOT LOOK OKAY?!”
Throughout the streets black railings formed a protective embrace around timeless houses, keeping their secrets safe. The frequency of Prêt à Manger suddenly seemed oddly comforting, no longer monotonous. An Australian coffee shop, a Polish grocer, a Portuguese bakery; this city had created a world to welcome us all.
A world of popup bars and Dippy, the near-complete Diplodocus skeleton charged with guarding his comrades in the Natural History Museum. Sunday roasts and scorching days of 15 degrees spent in short-shorts on the common. It was a world that had thrown open its arms and ushered me through the secret entrance to its undiscovered heart.
As I fell into my allegro tempo on the streets of this bustling city, I caught a glimpse of myself in a shop window. No longer jaded, no longer an outsider looking in, a faint smile crossed my face. I wasn’t just in London anymore. London was in me.
I may not have won, but I certainly didn’t lose; because I learned to trust in the magic of new beginnings again.
“Not everyone will understand your journey. That’s fine. It’s not their journey to make sense of. It’s yours.”
The way I see it, it’s worth taking a chance. After all, you never know how absolutely perfect something could turn out to be.
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