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you’re probably sitting on the floor in the dimly lit attic, worrying. trying to find the words to write the things you want to say, not knowing what you want to say. the tic-tac of the clock that has been ever-present, far beyond a childhood memory, now you hear it like a drum in the pit of your stomach. time passes and it passes you by, and now you know it’s forever. there’s no going back.

 

you worry about the future. you worry about first impressions. about failure and disappointment and loneliness. about money and jobs and adulting. you worry about finding your place in a city you barely know and that has little, if any, resemblance to your current surroundings. and you worry about goodbyes. about literally everything that makes your life yours and yourself and how you see it coming to an end. a sort of reversed light at the end of the tunnel. you worry and so you pay attention. i’m here to thank you for that. maybe paying attention makes things hurt a little more, maybe they sting a little deeper, break your heart a little harder. but you let yourself linger on the moment with “the mitigating bliss of those who are too superstitious to claim they may get all they’ve ever dreamed of but are far too grateful not to know it could easily be taken away.” it’s bittersweet bliss but bliss nonetheless. so you let yourself dance around while you make dinner, the sunset spilling all over the kitchen, everything shines. you remember what it sounds like when you hear dad’s car outside and his steps up the stairs. you make the most of saturday sushi dinners, you put your phone down, stay a little longer. and lunch on sunday with the family, you don’t postpone, you don’t cancel, you don’t complain. you go for walks in the woods with mom, you talk about everything and nothing light-heartedly and you think about how long you’ve come. you go to the barn as often as you can, stay a little longer and you tell yourself again and again: this is where you belong. where the sunset splits between tree branches, your nails are dirty, your hair messy and the universe kissing your skin. i haven’t forgotten about that.

 

you learn that people are very much like the sea, they come and go and waves, and you can never turn the tide. you make the most of your 'now' people. you go the extra mile, stay a little bit longer, be a little bit gentler. you worry about every moment you’re not spending with them and the long stretches of time that are to come. you worry about forgetting and being forgotten and the inevitability of it all. you try your hardest and come out surprised, in both good and bad ways. it doesn’t matter as much as you think it will. distance doesn’t change that much if you don’t let it; if anything, it puts things into perspective.

 

you worry, but you wonder too. you wonder about living alone in a big city and how it’s a dream come true. you wonder about who you’ll be there, what does she sound and look like. who will she hang out with, who are those people, their names and stories. you wonder about this life you’re in the cusp of having but doesn’t feel like your own. you wonder when that’ll change—you wonder about waking up one morning and going ‘this is home now’. i’m here to tell you that moment will never come, and the more you chase it the more you realise london has been home all along. london is home right where you are, in the top floor of your childhood home, in the town you were born in. yes, london was never not home because from the moment you decided to come, or the moment you got accepted at uni, to the moment you land foot here on september 17th, london is where you’re meant to be and maybe always have been. there are no forevers in a situation like this, be aware. it’s fragile and precarious and most likely temporary, but it doesn’t make it any less precious and utterly right. who cares about how long—you will find the true meaning of ‘all we have is now.’

 

i can’t pinpoint what things specifically make london home. there is no sunset in the kitchen as you make dinner, no attic to spend your nights writing in, no sushi dinners, no walks in the woods, no horses on friday afternoons. but there are trips to supermarket with your favourite podcast on, bedrooms shared with friends having deep conversations until late, pizza nights turned into drunk nights, afternoons lunged in the park with a book or a playlist and eventually, horses too, no matter how sporadically. and of course there are lush products and taylor swift parties at midnight and twilight playing in the background and ‘old’ friends facetiming too. these things add up and soon enough you’ll realise this life you’ve been building is very much your own. even more so than your previous life, because you crafted this little queendom from scratch. you came here with nothing but an open mind and an open heart and a pinch of blind hope, and you turned those things into the life of your dreams, with the help and support of others, of course. even when they aren’t there to see you toss and turn in those dreadful august nights to come, or when the days grow too short mid-november and you struggle to keep your shit together. but fear not—you do.

 

maybe home starts at uni, predictably. you’ll find a system that finally makes sense to you, your learning style and your interests. you’ll love your lectures and lecturers—some more than others, of course, but all of them infinitely better than last year’s. uni is home because for the first time you’re in a place that welcomes your creativity and, furthermore, celebrates it. this is the first of many findings—that your creative self is a bigger part of you than you ever knew, even though it’s been there all along. you’ll get to bring it from the side-lines to the main spotlight and it unleashes a new sea of opportunities and ideas. for the first few weeks you’ll walk around campus with a spring in your step, unable to grasp this new reality in which in class you’re asked to make characters and sets out of magazine cut-outs or handed a camera to go shoot whatever you want for the whole day. you’ll find yourself in a classroom one day, someone will call you a storyteller and then, in that split second, your entire life will fall into place. it’s all you’ve ever been and truly all you (and i) have ever wanted to be. london is home because it brings out this part of yourself that has caged in your entire life, finally setting it free. be that watercolours after dinner, bedroom photoshoots, days spent in the editing suite. the creative you is more you than you can imagine, and it's here to stay.

 

what about she, you ask. about me writing this and the way i look or sound and the people i’ve found. i look like myself—and that’s about all i can tell you after a year of living without a proper mirror. i know my body from looking at it from above in the shower or in hot sunday mornings lying in bed wearing just a tank top. i like it better this way. i sound like a foreigner who spent their life listening to american english, but who’s moved here and adopted british english as their vocabulary. in other words: a mess, especially when you throw a sprinkle of portuguese on top. be as it may, no british accent for you my darling, i’m afraid. blame it on tv, music and the internet. as for my friends i assure you they are beautiful and i’m so grateful for them. that pretty blonde girl you talk to on facebook will turn out to be a weird reflexion on yourself, as well as the complete opposite. you balance each other out in mutual understanding. you never not have deep conversations on the tfl, but you know how to sit together in silence. everyone wants to talk to you on the streets and at clubs. you make a pretty awesome team. you make only one british friend and even she isn’t 100% british. she likes to try out restaurants with you, go shopping, talk about your favourite things. eventually a day will come where you’ll even ride bikes together through central, on a summery sunday afternoon, as though the whole world is yours to conquer. there’s the girl who’ll come over and talk about her experiences and let you ask questions and she’ll dance to random songs with you in the kitchen and you walk five minutes out of your way just to keep the conversation going. then there’s the girl who made for the only two sleepovers you’ve had—in your bedroom and in her house. she’s you but cooler and you’re ok with that. you don’t see much of each other but talk nearly every day, about dreams and plans as though you don’t fear them. she gets you and you know she knows you get her too.

 

and this is the life you’ve dared to dream of and almost came to expect. now let me tell you about the life you wouldn’t in a million years believe in. you wouldn’t believe if i told you i can navigate most of the city by heart, the streets look familiar, and google maps is less and less necessary. you wouldn’t believe me if i told you about the nights spent confiding with these people, and how foreign it felt to be listened to, for a change. you wouldn’t believe me if i told you you found a way to speak from your heart and be open about yourself and your feelings. you wouldn’t believe you if i told you you about dinner and drinks in soho on a friday night after an 8-hour shift. you wouldn’t believe me if i told you you became your best company, the one you go on walks with, have sushi with, go to concerts with, and how that's become second nature. you wouldn’t believe me if i told you about the nights spent writing, again, at last. you wouldn’t believe me if i told you about meeting some of the people you look up the most, almost accidentally. you wouldn’t believe me if i told you about that one film, book, fandom that will change your life forever, again. you wouldn’t believe me if i told you about the friends you’ve made online and how they became your friends in real life. about sitting on the floor of a student bedroom on zone 6, taking dumb quizzes and listening to taylor swift with a girl you started speaking to less than a month before. about crossing the city to go to the last screening of that film with a purple-haired girl that throws ilys like they’re casual. you wouldn’t believe you if i told you about taking an hour and a half trains to a barn in the outskirts, just so you could be around horses for a few hours, for free. you wouldn’t believe me if i told you that maybe this is where we belong too: where the sunsets at 3pm, the polluted air burns in your nose, the sirens and traffic go on 24/7.

 

for a long time i thought these things were mutually exclusive: the person i was and the person i ought to be, coming here. i’ve found out they are very much the opposite, because they are one and the same. if anything, london has brought me closer to me. when i close my eyes and think of the person i want to become, i see myself. this, now, here, is the only place in this whole world, the only stretch of time in the whole timeline i want to be in. you know gratitude and you’re learning to cherish it, but nothing could’ve prepared me to what it feels like to wake up every single day to this life that falls short of perfect by a landslide. a life in which the pros outweigh the cons, and believe me, there are some pretty shitty cons. i don’t want to jinx, god forbid i have this taken away, but at least it’s been already been worth it. if everything goes to shit for some derranged reason, i’ve got to spend nine months living and studying in london, and they were the best nine months of my life. and of course things were left behind and lost too. but you found yourself, and somehow that was everything.

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