Lost + Found

Lost: An iPod bursting with constantly updated music.
Found: An iPod dominated by podcasts like RadioLab and Spilled Milk that cuddle my ears on the tube or on long walks around the city.

Lost: Trust in Google Maps’ directions via public transport, which has proven to be woefully inaccurate (mostly for buses.)
Found: Myself, deposited in many unintended locations. But it turned out alright! Which brings me to…

Lost: A nervous heart that beat rapidly upon boarding a bus that would supposedly take me to my destination.
Found: Greater confidence in my ability to ascertain my physical location without a smartphone, usually via one of London’s ubiquitous, helpful street maps. Sometimes, a real live Brit would set aside their reserved nature and help! (Also found: new hand muscles thanks to probably at least 50 lists of handwritten directions!)

Lost: Lots of money. (Maybe not lost… more like spent.)
Found: Lots and lots and lots of experiences. (DUH it was worth it!) I’ve seen quite a few concerts, eaten lots of varied cuisine, and visited a long list of new places. I think food, transport, and travels outside London have been my biggest expenses here.

Lost: It was waning by the end of last semester anyway, but nonetheless, much of the infatuation I once felt with Wes.
Found: Knowledge of what life can be like after college and a growing excitement to pursue that life. Even though mine will probably involve grad school, which is sort of like a continuation of college, it’s another step in the path to move somewhere I choose where I’m supported by a heftier income and therefore possess greater personal freedom. Now that I’ve been exposed to so much, my desires for my future have intensified and grown in number.

And lastly-

Lost: A habit of constantly comparing myself with my peers, usually via Facebook, that too often incurred unhealthy levels of self-doubt (don’t worry, it’s normal, I’m a Millennial.) Also, for that matter, my Facebook account (until June.)
Found: A self that was much more content with my identity and methods of living. The chance to be more self-centered than usual, stemming from my choice of technologically isolating myself from American influences pretty significantly and, well, having a huge new city ready to be discovered at my doorstep… A new type of introspection that came from a much kinder and accepting place than before. I guess it seems obvious now, but this extraction of my virtual persona from a massive judging block surrounded by some very intimidatingly witty and pretty peers (read: unintended competitors) yielded great inner peace. My temporary resignation from Snapchat also facilitated this transition from a state of mind plagued by constant questions of how I could best show off my life to a new mindset where I could live my life according to my wishes, take some pictures for myself and my blog readers, and everyone else would have to make do with stories later on. Honestly, it was an exercise in self-love. Much will change when I return to the states, including social media presence, but I hope I can continue to fend off the tempting gratification that ongoing peer approval infamously provides.


 

As I near the end of “Travels with Charley”, who do I stumble upon but my own Rocinante! (That was Steinbeck’s car that carried them around the US in the book.) Is it a sign??

As I near the end of "Travels with Charley", who do I stumble upon but my own Rocinante! (That was Steinbeck's car that carried them around the US in the book.)

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.

pullingtheplug

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.

I’m starting to think with an accent

It’s happening! Also, am beginning to weigh different groups of words in the milliseconds before I speak, e.g. contemplating between saying “thanks a lot” and “thanks very much”, or “very” versus “quite”. They are similar but the latter words give off a more British vibe in my head. I feel more proper- like I’m actually going to use the vocabulary words I’ve learned in my years of English classes and books, and not rely on a broken-down vernacular (widespread in my hometown and college), through which we communicate in fragments rather than sentences. Maybe it won’t happen, but the hope and motivation to speak more clearly and well is there! (Obviously not coming across through my run-ons, but since I’m blogging to mostly Americans, can I get away with that?)

I’ve met some cool Americans on the boat tour of the  Thames and while shopping at some markets in northern London today. Am eager to meet the real British folk, who should be arriving tomorrow in time for Monday’s classes.

My mom was very vocal about offering to fund a smartphone abroad, but after much decision, I declined. I have yet to purchase a phone (sorry mom! Plan on it tomorrow!) so in the meantime, I’ve had my new pals scrawl their numbers and names on the back of a receipt. Here’s hoping that some of the magic that accompanies songs written on bar napkins will turn up in the friends department! Not planning on it, though, since I remember how at Wes’ orientation, the race to make friends is a mad dash of courage, speed-friending, and lots of disposed phone numbers after a few weeks. But that’s okay! At least I gathered some nice pictures of us! (posted below)

Vassar/flatmate, Florida, and I

Vassar/flatmate, Florida, and I

boat tour scene. May add that on the tips of the scones lay dots of that beatific CLOTTED CREAM! But only in tiny drops and unfortunately not enough to give me a feeling of coming home. Soon!

boat tour scene. May add that on the tips of the scones lay dots of that beatific CLOTTED CREAM! But only in tiny drops and unfortunately not enough to give me a feeling of coming home. Soon!

Myself, Westchester and Philly

Myself, Westchester and Philly

Niagara (NY!) and I

Niagara (NY!) and I

But as I was saying- no smartphone, yada yada. That means I don’t have access to apps or GPS or anything more mobile and high-tech than a map right now. So, I have to plan out my trips in advance- including writing down directions and important information on notepaper! (Don’t have a printer either.) Wow, do I appreciate the ease of technology now! BUT MOM, NO that doesn’t mean I want a smartphone. It’s a refreshing change, and has an end date. I’m happy to embark on this challenging experiment!

Also, some shoutouts to pals:

Marissa: I met someone from your college! In the theater department though, so you may not know them.

Elior: I was going through my picasa and this came up:

this would happen to either one of us. it did.

this would happen to either one of us. it did.

Also while shopping today there were these hilarious cards about *awkward topics* and an ad about taking old people out on Sundays and I miss you so much!

Also, Netflix is different over here! Some cool movies available!

Tomorrow I plan on scoping out some of the town on my own. It’s fun to be with friends but I know myself enough to recognize my market habits and love for moseying. I know there is much social fun to be had in the future, and I may go to a pub with friends tomorrow for dinner. Can’t wait!