When I landed in London I was excited to begin a new part of my journey.
I had butterflies in my stomach as I thought about how I would explore the local area, build contacts, meet people, and experience my project. There was so much that I wanted to see and so many places that I wanted to go. With that in mind, I planned to spend my first two weeks exploring as much as I could, from different types of food to touristy locations and small, local villages.
Unfortunately, my first two weeks in London did not go at all how I had hoped.
Shortly after landing, I was overwhelmed by exhaustion and weakness as I developed a very strong head-cold. With my nose leaking like a faucet, my thinking clouded and slow, and my body feeling achey and tired I spent the majority of my first week in bed.
As if the physical challenges of being sick were not enough to test my strength, in the past week I was simultaneously struggling to overcome an experience that left me feeling vulnerable, insecure, and alone.
It was in those moments that I felt lost.
I retreated into myself as I was unsure of how to spend my time. I felt guilty that I wasn’t making much progress on my project, finding a London home stay, or exploring London as I had intended.
I craved my routine, my stability, and the life that I had worked so hard to create back in the United States.
I started to think about how much I missed everyone and everything from back home.
I thought about how I missed all of my friends from Bryn Mawr College. I missed how Kristian, Serena, and Claire would stop by my room often and talk about anything and everything. I missed going on dinner dates with my friend Alex to eat Buffalo Chicken Cheesesteaks. I missed gossiping with Betsy about our love lives and going on food adventures around the Bryn Mawr area. I missed spending time with my now ex-partner and the way he would look at me, hold me, and make me laugh.
I missed Protection From Abuse Order court. I missed the incredible feeling of successfully helping a domestic violence survivor obtain the protection order that she fought so hard to obtain. I missed working with and gossiping with Carol, Renee, and Betsy in court.
I missed my family. I missed hanging out and watching Judge Judy and COPS with my parents. I missed how my dad would (somewhat) jokingly ask for a Dairy Queen ice cream sundae and a foot massage almost every time that I visited home. I missed how I would sit outside on the deck with Anita and have deep conversations about life, love, friendship, and the future. I missed joking around with my sister. I missed seeing my brother try to play with and interact with my cat. I missed how my cat, Kaboodis, would turn over for belly rubs and would run to the fridge every time she heard me get ham out of the package.
In those moments I had an insatiable desire to be back in the states with everyone who I know and love.
It bothered me to not be present in their lives to the extent that I always had been before. It had only been three months but I already felt so distant. My friends were settling into their classes and my family celebrated anniversaries, birthdays, and family events all without me.
I couldn’t help but think about what my life would be like if I was there with them.
“What if” questions whirled around my mind.
I wondered where I would be living and which law school I would have chosen. I wondered if I would still be volunteering with the Women’s Center as a domestic violence counselor and court advocate. I wondered if I would still be with my now ex-partner and I wondered if we would be forming a more serious relationship.
It was difficult to face the reality of how my decision to accept this fellowship has affected not only my life but the lives of people close to me. For some people in my life, my decision to embark on this life-changing journey resulted in them making different decisions than they otherwise would have made and those decisions have consequently been life-changing for them.
With so much to think about and so much happening, I knew that I needed this opportunity to slow down.
I recognized that I needed to allow myself the time to process everything; refocus; and give myself the opportunity to physically, emotionally, psychologically, and mentally heal.
By taking the chance to slow down, I have had the opportunity to recognize all of the positive aspects of my journey in London.
Since the first day I landed in London, my host family has been unbelievably welcoming, kind, supportive, and generous. Over the past two weeks I have really enjoyed getting to know this truly wonderful family. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to stay with them, share delicious home-cooked meals, talk to very intelligent and compassionate people, and play with their vivacious and fun-loving puppy.
I very much appreciate how they have helped guide me around the local area and have welcomed me into their home. They have drawn me maps to help me find my way around, have taken me on walks around town, and have even treated me to a play in a local theatre.
After taking the time to recover and regain my strength, I started to adventure around London.
Within my first week here, I was reunited with my college friend Fiza. She was the first familiar face that I have seen in the past three months and I really enjoyed catching up with her. We shared a lovely day that started with brunch at “The Table”and then we went sight-seeing around central and southern London where we explored St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Millennium Bridge and Oxford Street.
I have also completed “self-guided walking tours” around London where I have explored Parliament Square, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Victoria Park, Green Park, Hyde Park, St. James Park, Kensington Park, Kensington Palace, St. James Palace, the Princess Diana Memorial Walk, the Flower Walk, and the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain.
I have also walked around Greenwich, had lunch in a wonderful pub named after the Cuttie Sark boat; saw the memorial poppy display at the Tower of London; walked across the London Bridge; and adventured around Hamstead Heath, Kentwood, Kentwood House, and Highgate village.
With everything that I have experienced in the past two weeks, I have been reminded of my strength and my resilience. My recent challenges have shown me that there is always room to learn and to grow. With the help of loved ones and support from people who have both constantly been a part of my life or have just recently entered it, I am feeling a new sense of self awareness, confidence, and strength.
I am trying to embrace every part of this journey-the good and the bad.
I have been given a unique and rare gift- a truly once in a lifetime opportunity where I am free to explore the world; different cultures, legal systems, and governments; different ways of life; and different families.
I am also free to explore myself.
I am able to observe how I interact with different people, different environments, and different situations. I am able to see how different people, places, and cultures react and respond to me. I am able to experience life in a new way, as I learn to embrace the unexpected and the unknown. Most importantly, I am free to explore my passions and my dreams.
I know that I will continue to face challenges and obstacles throughout this journey and throughout my life.
But I also know that only I have the power to decide how something affects me and I am choosing to remain positive, optimistic, and most importantly I am choosing to be happy.