London Called, I Answered

London Called, I Answered

At first it was just a casual musing. “Gee, that study abroad semester in London sure was a lot of fun.” London was a happy memory while I went about the tedious business of adulthood. Trying out jobs, and cities, and questions. Sometimes things went well and sometimes they didn’t, but I started to wonder, “How hard would it be, really, to go back?” In this age of modern communication and convenience it turns out it’s not all that hard on paper. The other challenges I usually met with “Why should I go while I’ve got this going on?” until the last year or so when that became “Why shouldn’t I go?” This was enormously helped by my acceptance into what I hope will be a pretty cool graduate program.

The view from my bedroom...
The view from my bedroom…

Mere months later, after lining up every duck that got in my way, I’m here in London. This city of history, and accents, and Cadbury, the city that has spurred the best romance novels the world has ever seen, and supports the only monarchy anyone still cares about. It’s not exactly like I remember it- five years will do that to a place. But it’s still London. Full of delectable British people and an irrational number of fried chicken shops. As long as I don’t spend too much time in my tiny West London bedroom (must do something about these bare walls) I can remember why I came so far to walk on these streets instead of the ones back home.

St. Pancras Station

I’m not sure what scribe of fate had a hand in todays script for me, but they clearly had fun with it. After a very lovely and normal lunch date with a friend of a friend that I hope will lead to more friends I decided to walk to my new school that I had never seen in real life. Honestly, part of me wanted to make sure it was a real place. First, I walked the wrong direction down the right street, engaged in some very pleasant eye flirting with the dishy security man in front of the Renaissance hotel and ended up at the British Library. So I popped in to visit the Magna Carta, Jane Austen’s writing desk and Henry VIII’s letters before turning around. As you do. The walking went on for a while, but I did find the school and persuaded them to let me wander about aimlessly. It’ll do, I think. Then I got lost trying to find a tube station hiding in a bend in the road.

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My university!

Made it to the platform only to hear “Ladies and gentlemen, there was a man on the track at Aldgate, the train will be 11 minutes late.” This is a very British and polite suicide report to which my fellow travelers replied with very quiet and insensitive grumbles. So we all mush onto the very late train and I snag a seat- of course, looking around avidly for a pregnant woman to give it to before she has a chance to glare at me when I take it. A couple stops before I get home, as I read the Evening Standard (my horoscope said that a big change in my life would make things confusing, but things would work out positively soon) a man on the train hands me a page ripped out from the book he was reading with his number written on it before stepping off. I smiled politely and when the doors closed me and a few other passengers/witnesses burst out laughing. I made it home only to tumble down the stairs from the platform when my ankles refused to take another step without an explanation for this crazy walking behavior.

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In the strange haze of jet lag I made it home with a skinned knee, a phone number, and a sudden urge to eat lots of dried cranberries. I managed to put together a slightly healthier dinner, ordered more pillows for my bed so that I can nest in them, and questioned all my life decisions before writing this and crashing while staring at a pile of half unpacked neutrally toned shoes.

Falling with Grace

When I was thinking about writing this, I wanted to make sure I made it clear that I was talking about literal falling. That was until I realized that the advice you need to survive an actual fall is not greatly different from that which will serve you well in an emotional, professional, or metaphoric one.

I had the not-entirely-unforeseeable experience of falling right off of my five inch wedges and onto the grass in the middle of the memorial park of a Presidential library. I knew better than to walk on uneven surfaces in precarious footwear, given my weak ankles, having just completed a forty-five minute tour in said shoes, and my overall natural tendency to fall. However, I was in the middle of talking to a colleague, and most importantly, part of me was ready for it.


 The scene of the crime

The first thing you need to do to fall well is to expect to fall. If you fall on purpose, people will rightly assume something is wrong with you. But if you know falling is a possibility, then think about the best way to fall given what you’re wearing, what surface you’re falling on, and ways to limit the carnage. Before I set foot on the grass I knew I was wearing dark jeans, carrying a beverage, and had a bag weighing approximately forty pounds over my shoulder. When my shoe found the one divot in the otherwise perfect lawn I fell gently to my knees, balanced my drink, and stood back up in one fluid motion without pausing; my companion would never have noticed if the security guard hadn’t started laughing.

Remembering the benefit of a calm demeanor, and the motto of the women in my family, “Panic Later”, got me back on my feet in the pavilion, but more importantly back on an even keel emotionally when an opportunity did not go the way I wanted it to. I knew that the outcome may be unfavorable, despite the elaborate fantasy scenarios I had already constructed in accordance with a positive result. When things didn’t go my way there was already a plan in place. Physical or mental, you can’t fight the fall; it makes it so much worse- be upset and hit the ground- then stand right back up. In the latter case I also threw in cake, for therapeutic purposes.

Falling with grace does not mean that you should never fall at all. Making mistakes, whether the world media is present or just a bored security guard, is part of being human and relatable; perfection is sterile. Handling those hiccups with the right combination of composure, preparation, and humor is what determines the standard of grace.

A Tide Pen is also not a bad idea.