The Power of Loneliness + PAUL SIMON

I’ve been in at least 2 situations where bouncers don’t bother to check my age while my companions get stopped- each of them older than me! Sorta cool.

Also, although I love being so distanced from America through boycotting a conventional smartphone texting service and its apps (snapchat, etc.) and facebook, I admit that that distance has left me feeling lonely more often than I like. Even 3 months in, it’s still sort of strange to rely on email, skype, this blog, and pretty much the post in order to contact friends and fam. However, I still think it’s worth it to stick it out until I return to the states. I’m not sure when I’ll get the chance to majorly de-tech myself (OMG that was an AWESOME PUN. ((detach ~ de-tech)) ) in the future without many formidable consequences. But then I think, but this is just like how it used to be… weird.


pulling the plug

Loneliness isn’t the same as being alone. As an introvert, I thrive on alone time and rarely feel lonely during those periods. However, although I do have an abundance of independent Sophie time at college, much more than during high school, that amount pales in comparison to the amount at Queen Mary. It’s probably because of a multitude of factors: less in-class instruction time, fewer extracurriculars, fewer friends (it’s worked out well- there’s more to it than just a number, though), etc. And don’t get me wrong- it’s not like I didn’t have enough activities or ideas to fill it. But the fact is that, at least for me, studying abroad exposed me to possibly the most unstructured free time I’ve ever faced (maybe barring childhood summers.)

Predictably, it’s been both favorable and disappointing at times. I’ve relearned how to motivate myself to start essays 3 weeks before they’re due (an eon in college time) but have also confronted new (and accordingly, scary) levels of self-reliance. Going into this experience, I think I understood this partially, but by being in a wildly new place and situation, it’s going to be pretty important to like yourself. You’ll be your only companion, navigator, (mental) conversation partner, and much more during many, many minutes. The specificity of that “many, many” is of course dependent on the type of person you are, but nonetheless, it will probably still be atypically high.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have a stable group of pals since I was little. At school, camps, and other programs I’d prioritize forming bonds with the other kids. But here, although I’ve met some great people, I’ve sought the social interaction I crave in a pretty different way. Or maybe it just feels that way. Here, I supplement my social quota by chatting with strangers also waiting for a haircut or for the concert to start, per se. Relatedly, I feel human connection when

Thousands of strangers squeezed into one arena are suspended in the same energy-charged ether emanating from not just the world-class performers on stage but each other… Hands reach to encircle their lover’s waists, eyes close to minimize distraction from the music, and an undeniable feeling of togetherness unites the pulsing crowd. Even though I’ve come to this concert by myself, there’s no chance of feeling alone.

So yeah, Paul Simon and Sting… you might think of them as peanut butter and pickles, musically. But after being physically tired out by the hit-after-hit, nearly three hour long extravaganza, I have no choice to report that this fusion was incredibly successful. Of course, Sting had a chance to do his rock’n’roll thing and Paul Simon unleashed some particularly mellow tunes on his own time, but when they did collaborate, it was harmonious (PSIMON PUN). I lost track, but I think they played something like three separate encores, each bowling over the audience more than the last- “Cecilia”, “Every Breath You Take”, “Bridge Over Troubled Water”… A total of 36 whopping songs.

Favorite parts:

-When Paul Simon first came on stage, which unexpectedly left me with a face slick with tears. I think it was because I was so happy to see such an influential musician who provided me with stories and harmonies that kept me feeling grounded and comforted during intense times of growing up.

-“You Can Call Me Al” sent the entire audience into a dancing, clapping frenzy. Paul definitely proved his power as a performer.

-“Every Breath You Take”. It was magical. Sting has the voice of a young rockstar, still- the timelessness of his performance was spellbinding.


My mom “popped over” to London

Some of my wonderful readers have inquired about where I find energy and time to generate so many blog posts. The answer is that I just love exploring my experiences abroad through writing. I’m inspired to create a lasting narrative of this time in my life and open it up to my favorite friends and family and let them inside my world. I’ve had a separate blog reserved for personal and philosophical musings for something like five years now, so it’s not a new concept, although making it pretty public is.

So about my mom “popping over”: it was so, so wonderful! We enjoyed a lovely weekend together and I’d like to give a small recap of some things we did but not everything, or in great detail.

We visited the Saatchi Gallery (thumbs up), found this hilarious little dog at a gorgeous garden shop, enjoyed Middle Eastern food and snagged a pic on the stairs (lights and tiles in background), then visited the Oxo Tower Wharf (bursting with fascinating creative stores and enchanting watches) and Gabriel’s Wharf for some more fun shops and a great little trumpet/snare drum duo that played some upbeat jazz on the waterfront. A candlelight concert at St Martin in the Fields (a b e a u-tiful church in Trafalgar Square) tied up our day, filling our heads with heavenly choral music. Yes, my mom is amazing!

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A highlight of her visit was a comprehensive rock ‘n roll tour of the West End. We drove past countless residences, places of death, studios, and landmarks of huge influencers of the rock scene including Bob Marley, Paul McCartney, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Cat Stevens, the Beatles in general, Mama Cass… it was so great! Our tour guide used to be a road manager for a rock star (forget who) so he was like an encyclopedia. He even threw in a Coldplay location (I went berserk.) Anyone know of the song “Violet Hill“? It’s deep, dark, powerful tune named after a park in a fancy part of London.

I really wasn’t feeling getting a picture at the Abbey Road crosswalk because I felt like such a tourist, but somehow my mom and the tour guide ended up staging the included photo. Can you tell who wanted the pic and who wanted to not get run over? It is pretty funny though.

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We learned so much, covered an incredibly large area of London, and rocked out to some great music all the while. The guide even told me that Paul Simon was involved in East London/the UK, recording The Paul Simon Songbook and writing Homeward Bound there!

I’d definitely recommend this tour if you’re into London’s rock ‘n roll history.

Fittingly, just a few days later, my London and its Museums professor told us that the day earlier, when he was teaching at the Tate Britain with a different group of students, he turned around and there was Mick Jagger. A scruffy one, he said, but all the same, Mick Jagger!

The last great thing I’ll mention is our trip to the over-the-top artsy restaurant Sketch. The atmosphere, decor, food, bathrooms… I was incapacitated with wonder.

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It was my first real dining experience, and I can’t wait until I have enough dinero to afford another one. The basis of food is art and appreciation for flavor, which deeply resonates with my views.

It was fantastic to have a family member visit me. However, as my friend Caroline talked about in her study abroad blog, it’s also difficult to let go and realize you won’t see that special slice of home again for months. Now that I’ve readjusted to college life, I’m fine, but I sorely missed my friends and family on my birthday (Feb 18). I’m very happy socially over here, but nothing can compare to the physical closeness of friends and family on a special day like a birthday. Can’t wait to see my beloveds upon my return in May or June!

Up next: One-day trip to Venice!