Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Off to Dublin with Mixed Emotions

I’m leaving for Dublin later today, at 1730 to be exact. I’m not sure why this is, but I feel loneliness where I wish I felt only excitement. I suppose that’s the way with emotions, you never really get what you want, and it can be a struggle to want what you get.

I think I have the loneliness figured out though. I was talking with a friend back home earlier, and it came to me. Even before I left to come to London, I felt lonely, which seems odd, given my enthusiasm for the place. But there’s something about leaving that tugs at my heartstrings in a way I’d rather avoid. Is it leaving what I have come to know and appreciate behind? Is it the unknown of where I’m going? Is it not feeling completely settled in any one place?

Whatever it is, leaving one place for another is both exciting, e.g., I can’t wait to see the Irish countryside and to present my paper at the conference, and also a bit daunting, e.g., leaving places and people behind, so that any expectation I have of feeling just one set of emotions is unrealistic. Does anyone else ever feel like this?

The great thing about my time in London has been the hospitality I’ve felt at my hosts’ place, meeting a bunch of new Londoners (C., L., H., M., H., N., S., and crew), spending time with some people from back home, and wandering the city and digging my own company. Also not to be forgotten are the everyday Londoners who filled my days with meaningful exchanges. John at John’s Hair Fashions trimmed me Monday in Shepherd’s Bush and regaled me with stories of the English Premier League; Emre at Portobello Market asked me some pointed questions about Canada, and sold me a nice hoodie on Thursday; Anabella at Camden Market enlightened me on the Spanish art scene on Saturday; Adrian taught me a lot about the offshore diving industry on Friday; and many others came to shine a light on my London life, each in their own small way.

Overall, I feel like I unlocked a few doors that remained under key last time I was here. After 8 days, I’m under no illusions: London is a great world city, full of life and colour. It’s also a place where many people live and struggle to survive. No contradiction, just want to keep my sometimes-unbridled enthusiasm in check. Representing London otherwise feels like a disservice to the thousands, or more likely millions, who experience this place differently than I do. In this moment I’m reminded of the man who was violently thrown about right next to my friends and I on a sidewalk pub 5 nights ago for selling a newspaper. When my friend spoke with him afterwards, he said, pointedly: “This place, England, is shit. Get out of here as soon as possible.”

While I don’t feel quite as strongly as he did, nor am I suggesting that London/England is prone to violent acts, I do feel like it’s time to go. I’ve decided I could live in London, in fact, I might just want to one day, but I’d need a compelling job both to make an income that could sustain living here, and also to keep me occupied, because wandering a city can get old pretty quick. When I finally write a novel sometime in the future, I’ll come write part of it here in the spring, I’ll just expect a bit more rain than I got on this visit. Fifty drops yesterday equals fifty in a week. Thank you London for sharing.


Susan said...

well... since you asked about the 'leaving feelings'... yes! i am the worst 'leaver' ever i think - and it always takes me by surprise. even a 15 minute connection with someone i know i'm likely never to see again and there it is... a distinct, unexpected sadness. there's nothing like traveling to remind me of this... one long rollercoaster. but definitely worth it.

enjoy dublin and her irish ways. and good luck at the conference. see ya back in o'town!