Everybody still alive? Caught in a perpetual struggle between your belt and the last notch? Sweeping up the confetti and storing it in little baggies for next year? Good.
I spent my Christmas running around with (and occasionally being dragged by) my family all around London, taking in the sites I had avoided just so I could see them with fresh eyes with them. We even ventured to Bath in a rented car, which, have you ever tried driving on the wrong side of the road, you will know is quite the adventure.
So now here we all are, safe on the right side of 2016. Did you make any resolutions? I didn’t make any formally, but I took the opportunity of a near-empty fridge and more than my fill of holiday treats to treat myself to some healthy food. I’m not counting calories or exercising (yet – baby steps) but I’ve managed to shoehorn extra fruits and vegetables into every meal. I’m also cutting back on carbs – not cutting them out, just eating fewer* and higher-quality ones.
Okay, I can see your eyes starting to glaze over. Enough diet stuff. Let’s talk about… Star Wars.
*ahem* Sorry, I mean…
I wanted to love this movie. I was afraid I’d hate it. Instead, I have mixed feelings. While I liked the characters, this first instalment had a lot of elements that were very ‘A New Hope’-y to me. I’m hoping that’s just due to Kylo Ren’s Darth Vader fanboy crush. A Death Planet? That’s fan fiction stuff right there, Kylo. Hopefully the next film will force him (no pun intended!) to come up with something more creative than ‘freeze Finn in carbonite and cut off Rey’s hand while revealing they are somehow related’.
Did I mention I met Jane Austen? That was pretty bitchin’.
When I was getting ready to move, I knew one of the things I would deal with would be feelings of sadness. Isolation. Loneliness. Homesickness. Being-a-crappy-writer-dom. I’m also a really emotional person, so I know when I do feel like this I’m going to feel it in my whole body and if I just let those feelings fester it’s going to consume me. I have always lived with other people so I’ve almost always had someone to turn to when I had those feelings. But even though knowing those feelings were natural helps, I still found myself unprepared for pulling myself out of the rut when I get in it. It’s not enough to acknowledge my pain… I must transcend it. And here’s how I do that:
Self-care: easily the most important thing I can do. If I feel like a disgusting human being incapable of stringing two sentences together, not taking a shower or eating vegetables isn’t going to help. It feels like giving myself the day off but what I’m really telling myself is that I’m not worth it. Um, excuse me? Yes, I am. I shave my legs, feed myself real food, and clean my apartment. Because I owe it to myself to be the best roommate in the world.
Go outside: along the same lines of self-care but slightly more social. It’s not even about talking to other people, just reminding myself I’m one soul in a sea of billions and the air is crisp and Pret exists. It’s what separates us from the Matrix-dwellers.
Buy a candle: or flowers, or a picture or any small thing that perks your living space up. Being a writer with ADHD who can’t write anywhere near other people means I’m in my flat ALL. THE. TIME. So if I have to shut myself away to write those last three pages of a script, I need to do it in a room that smells like I’m frolicking in an apple orchard someone set on fire with cinnamon sticks.
Arrange to Skype or physically hang out with someone: a lot of the time, my loneliness isn’t a product of being alone in that moment, but not knowing when that moment’s going to end. Even if I have to wait a week, knowing I get to see and talk to someone I love is all the encouragement I need to perk up.
Go somewhere I haven’t been: I don’t know if you know this, but London is HUGE. I don’t know if I could learn this city if I stayed here a lifetime, let alone the measly two years I’m here. My Pinterest board has helped immensely, but I’m always taking recommendations! (*hint hint*)
Talk to a counsellor or religious leader: my school has a great mental health centre and I’m not ashamed to say I’ve taken advantage of it. Even if there’s nothing “wrong” with you, talking to someone objective and trained in the art of listening can be a great way to sort out the reasons your feelings have taken a downward turn and how to identify triggers.
Of course there are lots of little things I do, too, but these are my big, sure-fire ways of picking myself up. And sometimes I just have to remind myself:
If none of these are an option for you and you need help right away, you can call Samaritans at 116 123 in the UK and (212) 673-3000 in the US for someone to talk to 24 hours a day, confidentially.
WELL. Now that things have calmed down a bit, I finally feel like I can update everyone on what’s been happening here at Chez My Flat (title pending).
I’ve been in school for about three weeks now. Even though I was super excited about going back to school and getting back into the swing of things, I’ve gotten to the point where I can see and feel my lack of knowledge. In all of my previous academic experience that was the point where I became frustrated and felt like giving up. Now I’m trying to use it as a teachable moment: if you don’t feel like you totally get it, you’re probably heading in the right direction. I will always feel like a fraud around other writers, like I don’t take it seriously enough, but I really think if I push myself through the difficult bits something amazing will happen.
I’m starting to get to know my classmates and they’re a fun bunch. Lots of different personalities and backgrounds, proving writers aren’t all anti-social hermits with drinking problems. But I think most of us would agree that burgers are fantastic.
My flat is still a work-in-progress. I would show pictures but nothing has changed aside from the food in my refrigerator (i.e. there is some now). A lot of “setting up” the flat was buying boring things like can openers and toilet paper. I’ve finally gotten around to ordering ACTUAL FURNITURE so when that arrives in a week or two I’ll be sure to update.
And then there’s just London in general. I think I’m finally getting the hang of it. Which is not to say I have the hang of it. I’m sad to admit this but when I first got here I was nervous about doing certain things because I didn’t know how they worked (or thought I didn’t know). Getting registered with a GP, ordering drinks at a pub, taking a taxi… all things I was hesitant to do but eventually forced myself to. And it wasn’t as scary as I thought. I’ve found that if you’re really nice and apologize constantly, most people will forgive you for anything (except for murder. I don’t recommend it. The court case was hell). I met someone last week and she was shocked when I told her I had only been in London a month and a half. That was a huge compliment. I’m assimilating.
And now, because no post is complete without an ode to food, here are some of the best places I’ve eaten so far:
Boom Burger: I’ve eaten so many burgers since getting here and this is still my absolute favorite. I’m basically free PR for them at this point, like a Boom Burger Jesus.
And when I saw a few, I mean a few. This list is not exhaustive in any way, shape, or form.
I’m living with an Indian couple so I eat delicious authentic Punjabi food every other night. I’m sure you’re jealous, and, if you’re not, you’ve probably never eaten Indian food. Stop reading, go do that, then come back and be jealous.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION. Yes, I had to squeeze through a crowd so tight last night it felt like being given birth to all over again, but otherwise public transportation is thebomb.com. I mean, I hate driving and like day drinking so it’s a win-win.
I don’t have to wear shorts and I get to wear sweaters all the time.
Walking, walking, everywhere. It turns out the physical activity I was made for was leisurely strolls in beautiful parks.
There are so many dogs here. On the street. In cafes. Big dogs, little dogs.
The museums are free so you don’t have to feel bad about leaving if it’s too busy/hot/boring for your tastes.
Tea time: basically a built-in period during the day for snacking. Such a good idea. Also, a great excuse to eat biscuits.
If I had done this move 10 years ago, I would have only been able to keep in touch with all of my friends and family via expensive international calls and e-mail. Skype, Twitter, and Facebook Messenger have been godsends these last few weeks. So, as much as I generally and pointlessly rail against social media, it has finally proved it’s utility to me. Two for you, Social Media. You go, Social Media. (I mean, someday we’ll have teleportation devices and distance will cease to matter at all, but that’s probably going to be the weird generational thing I turn Luddite over so I won’t be able to enjoy it.)
I’m going to see Nicole Kidman in a play. So… yeah.
The sheer multiculturalism of London has astounded me. You think you know what that word means when you’ve visited New York (and, to a lesser extent, Washington, D.C. or Boston) but it completely surrounds everything that happens here. You would be hard-pressed not to interact with someone from outside the UK on a daily basis.
Want to go to Paris for the day? Done.
Donald Trump is an ocean away. Now that’s peace of mind.
People know how to pronounce my name. I have not been called Ellen/Elaine/Irene once since I’ve gotten here.
Like I said, that’s not even a full list. hashtag blessed.
And also, since it feels a bit weird not to mention, there is a great way to donate to the refugees pouring into Europe, specifically the ones currently in Calais: purchase a sleeping bag, sweatshirt, or food item for them from this wonderful wishlist. (UPDATE: the wishlist has now been closed)
The good news? I’ve been accepted into a graduate-level screenwriting program in London!
The bad news? I’m still in Orlando, Florida.
I just found out I was accepted, actually. Yesterday. And the application process was the easy part, apparently, because now I have months ahead of me of waiting, getting student loan approvals, waiting, applying for my visa, and waiting. Oh, did I mention waiting?
So I might as well do something productive with that time. Or something that, on the surface, looks productive and a bit informative, when really it’s just a way to kill time.
So… just 10 more months to go! (where’s the sarcasm emoticon?)