"You'd be great in a hostel."
I wad told this today by someone I consider one of my closest friends. And six months ago I would have agreed with her wholeheartedly and without hesitation. But right now I'm not as sure.
It's not that I've changed drastically. If you'd asked some of my closest friends who and what I was six months ago I expect (or at least hope) you would have got some of the following answers:
Someone who is ridiculous; who cares little for the opinions of the general public; who is willing to wear her pyjamas in everyday life; who is casual; who will day drink with me; who will say yes.
I would like to think the same phrases still apply. It's just I think they apply in new ways.
A person's public identity is a strange and frail thing, because it relies so heavily on other peoples' perceptions. Last week I turned some phrases that in Australia would have warranted little more than a wry smile or a sarcastic return comment, but here made people look twice at me, so seemingly out of character they were. And the reactions of my friends made me think: who exactly am I here?
When I left home I left behind a series of complex and often interrelated friendships that had taken me the better part of 21 years to build. Of course it's unrealistic to expect such a network to be replicated or even challenged in a mere six months. Still, I would like to think at least some of the people who I've met here have made a significant impact on my life, and vice versa. But how can that be when every day I come home exhausted from trying to be someone I think people would rather I be?
I liked myself in Australia. It took a long time, but I did. And I like myself here. But I have much less conviction here, because I'm not sure what my London friends will think of me if I start saying and acting the way I did at home. Will they like me? Will they understand me? It sounds patronising and I hate, it but I miss having friends who speak English as a first language the same way they miss speaking Spanish or Finish or Swedish on a regular basis.
But really the language issue is just a front. What I'm really worried about is that they wont like me. I admit there are a lot of things about myself that may not be to everyone's taste, but for the most part these are the things that define me, that I'm happy about. And I love living in London with the people I've met. Honestly, I have no intention of moving home anytime soon (or anytime at all, if possible). Everyone I speak to back home marvels at how happy and healthy I seem.
The thing is, whatever I use as an excuse - my self image issues, my less-than-ideal self esteem, the language differences between me and my friends - in the end it all boils down to one thing: what if they don't like me? Because I am who I am now. People may not like me, but I'm a lot less likely to change because of somebody else's opinion. And that's the scariest thing I've ever had to face.
Monday, May 30, 2011
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
The past month has been a veritable revolving door of people and places, so much so I'm not sure where to start. But if I've learnt nothing else from years of watching Julie Andrews, it's that the very beginning is a reasonable place.
So. Granada. What can I say? It was as if all the positive stereotype I'd every heard about Spain got together and built a city. I was only actually in the city for three days and I still managed to eat enough tapas to feed a small army, and drink my own body weight in God knows what. I honestly don't know why the whole world doesn't live like the Spanish. A bit of work, a long, wine soaked lunch, a socially acceptable nap, and then a couple more hours work before tapas o'clock. Where's the bad?
See how happy they are?
I went to Granada with Isabel, Elena, and Iina, who ended up sharing my after-hours adventure on our final night. Isabel and Elena had gone home post-drinks but pre-Vogue, an Indie club in the middle of the city. The plan was originally for us to stay the night with one of Isabel's friends after we'd finished at the club - a plan that was just slightly altered when we decided to do the sensible thing and go home with a group of strange, primarily Spanish-speaking men instead, to a house where the bathroom was off-limits because it was busy housing a not insignificant crop of hydroponic weed. Naturally (I slay myself). She and I left with a book on "How to grow and use hydroponic cannabis", and the new found knowledge that "come to my bedroom" is one of those phrases that sound the same in every language respectively.
Iina was actually one of the first people I met when I started making friends within the local Au Pair community, despite the fact she lived about as far away from my area as you can get while still being within the London city limits. Luckily for me, being in Granada gave Iina and I a chance to get to know each other better and bond over such things as cheap alcohol, Mystery Jets, Lampimampi kwoffee and still being drunk at 2pm on Easter Sunday.
You'd think getting home when your employer is getting up would be all kinds of awkward, especially when they're trusting their kids' physical and emotional health to your care five days a week. Turns out, not so much.
Despite London's reputation for being a miserable bitch of a city as far as weather is concerned, it has actually been sunny and stunning thanks to the timely entrance of Spring (there's sun! there's foliage! there's double digit temperatures!)