I don't want to sound like I'm boasting but I live quite a nice life. I can get to a big park full of trees and deer only five minutes from my front door. My work is a reasonable distance to run to (nine miles). If I don't run the whole way, I'll often cycle. When I run or cycle, I cross bridges over a beautiful river which affords me gorgeous views like the one below.
My view is constantly obscured by huge trees. I pass wide open green spaces - commons, playing fields, public parks. A fair amount of the friends I like seeing the most are within spitting distance of my work or home and I see them regularly. I work out with a group of people who have also become my friends, every Wednesday and some Fridays or Mondays too (when I can face getting up that early more than once in a week!). I have a job that I enjoy very much. On my doorstep I can also visit any shops I might want, including an award winning chocolatier. I have theatres, cinemas, restaurants.
There are talks or events most nights of the week that all sound fascinating, if I only had enough time to go to them all. I also have fields with cows and horses and ducks, a river full of people rowing different types of boats, kayaks, canoes.
I can soar high above my home in towering buildings that overlook my beloved river. I can skulk about below in dungeons or secret tunnels.
It sounds dreamy, right? And it is. I love it with all my heart.
It is London.
London offers me a life I couldn't find anywhere else. It is a land of opportunity, of excitement and fascination. It is also a place of great tranquillity, of flowing rivers and fields of animals.
When I first came to London, however, I felt like I had taken a great big breath in that I only ever released when I left to visit other places. I would board the train back with some apprehension, feeling as though I were inhaling once again, steeling myself for the rigors of daily London life. I cycled and felt nervous next to all of the traffic. I worked a job that didn't offer me any satisfaction but helped me pay for expensive London things. I was studying so was constantly working towards a deadline that worried me. I spent long hours hiding in the library, trying to release that breath once again, which I could only do if I turned off my phone for a few days, hid from all humanity and buried myself in the escapist world of books.
I am a different person now. I have different pressures. I have different priorities. I do not need to leave London to breathe clearly. London is my breath, it is my life force. Becoming happier with my life has allowed me to see better the amazing privilege of living in London, with everything it has to offer. When I was unhappy with myself, I manifested my feelings by expressing dissatisfaction about London-related things. The price of a latte, the crowded tube, everything being an hour's travel away, the cars coming too close as I cycled. Because London has so much to offer, it is easy to see enough bad things or enough good things to think that the external factors are dictating our mood but often our annoyance at London is a reflection of ourselves.
I see a lot of London-related talk on social media of the kind that says, "People in London work at jobs they hate and are unhappy," or "London commuters are the unfriendliest people in the world."
I, for one, have had enough of this nonsense. If we are unhappy with our jobs, let's change them. It is not because we are in London that we are unhappy. People all over the world have jobs they hate that they continue to do. The problem is not London, it is our unwillingness to embrace an alternative. London commuters who hate being stuck in someone's armpit on the tube, stop using the tube. Get a bike and cycle places instead. Get an account with the bike hire scheme and have access to bikes that you won't actually need to bother maintaining cause they're not yours. Get out your lycra and run shorter journeys or even just walk them. Get off the tube a few stops earlier to walk a bit. See interesting statues, read what it says on a blue plaque, watch the river. If we can't afford the latte at the fancy café, don't moan about it, just don't get it. Lattes are not an essential part of life. They are superfluous. Stop spending unnecessary money then perhaps you will be able to afford the other bigger things you actually need.
London is a reflection on our own willingness to embrace opportunity. If we can see other alternatives but dismiss them then continue to moan about the choices we have made, then London is not the problem. We are.
And those unfriendly commuters? I don't know who they are. All around me I see Londoners offering their seats to pregnant women, older people, small children. I see people standing aside to let other people on or off. I see people offering to help someone up the stairs with their pram.
Let's stop beating up on London. It is a thoroughly fabulous place.