This morning I arrived back to London after a month away. I had been traveling for 48 hours straight. I was a little tired to say the least. I turned on my phone; it was like welcoming an old friend (an old friend that had been relegated to an occasional acquaintance for the last 4 weeks due to international roaming charges). A call came through almost immediately.
"A call" I thought, "A call that I can actually answer".
I pulled my phone from my pocket and answered it, excited to see which of my friends was calling to welcome me home.
It was my landlord. Perhaps she was calling to welcome me home...?
It couldn't have been further from the truth. She was calling to say I no longer had a home. I was being served notice on my flat.
Six months ago I would probably have spouted a bathtub full of offensive bile at her. Being made to look for a new home isn't exactly a gift you give with love.
But I had just got back from Brazil. A place so laid back, no one actually stands up.
I wasn't in the slightest bit angry or worried. Time for a fresh start in a new home I thought. As I made my way through the rush hour madness I noticed just how aggressive and unfriendly everyone was, in contrast, even after what some may have considered bad news, I still had a spring in my step.
I began to think this was a little odd. I'd not been so aware of just how stressed out Londoners are in quite some time. In fact, it had been 5 years ago, when I first moved to London, that I had last noticed it.
I had just moved to London after a year traveling. I remember a man fuming as he realized his Oyster Card needed to be topped up, people tutting heavily at a man stood on the left of the escalator and a woman swear because it was three minutes until the next train. At the time I thought, that will never be me. I won't become Londonerfied.
But I did.
London is a tough city to survive in. It's fast paced, crowded and can be stressful. When you spend any significant time here it's easy to get sucked into the mentality held by those around you. It's a domino effect. If everyone around you is acting a certain way, eventually you will pick up some of those traits. You can become hard, insensitive and unfriendly.
But is this attitude a necessity to survive here? I don't think so. What is wrong with cracking a smile at a stranger or sparking up a conversation as you wait for a train? Not everyone is a weirdo who is after something, in fact statistically, most aren't. Waiting an extra 2 minutes for a train? Few people have died from this, so it's probably going to be ok.
My month away from our wonderful city, in one of the most relaxed and friendly countries in the world, helped shake some of that 'Londoner' out of me. I wasn't stressed, I smiled at the odd stranger, and do you know what? On my way home, I had a conversation with someone I didn't know. It was refreshing.
Not everyone can escape the capital for a whole month. But what I learnt was it's great to get out, to take a break from London. Or at least the London mentality. Realise that this level of stress and aggression isn't the norm, that you can survive being a little more relaxed. As hard as it is, try to fend off the influences of those around you. You'll be happier if you do. You won't get infuriated when someone stands on the wrong side of the escalator, or you have to wait an extra minute for a train. You'll see it for what it is. Insignificant.
Although if any of you know of any nice/cheap flats in South London coming up for rent, please do drop me a line. Even in my tranquil state, homelessness might be a step too far.