The word "excited" doesn't do justice to the feelings that I actually had when I had first moved to London from San Francisco. Maybe, finally-getting-the-hell-out-of-here-ness or I-have-been-waiting-an-eternity-ness. I had been secretly scheming to flee the country in whatever way possible after being stuck in a cubicle for a year. I had been dreaming at my desk and rehearsing the logic day after day: My time to be an adventurer had come.
"Oh the places you will go"
My company gave me the opportunity to relocate to London and I jumped on the chance immediately. I was ready... no, I was destined I thought. A newly self-proclaimed photojournalist, I made the transition in the summer of 2012 to a nice (and outrageously expensive) flat in the heart of London. Accents! Pubs! Bad food! Am I ready for this?
Because London has a way shocking the newly imported humans to the core: Cold weather and no sun. I literally turned so pale that when I had returned to San Francisco for a family visit three months later, my friends laughed out loud, "Dude, what happened?" London happened.
This of course was just the setting for the loneliness that would soon creep into my life. The frustration of my surroundings being almost like home, but not quite the same, was maddening. Did I always have OCD? I missed my friends and I started to become fed up with the accusations of my integrity and intelligence being that i'm American. "Well, you're one of the rare ones" they would say. "I thought all Americans were idiots." This place isn't for me. I need to leave I thought.
At the time I was by no means sheltered. I had visited literally dozens of cities in over ten countries, and had just been fresh off a month long road trip exploring every nook and cranny of America. But this trip was different. Being slowly sucked into and spat out of a culture was something no one could prepare me for.
So I left. (Not before exploring the crap out of Europe) And I instantly felt better being around my friends and family again. But slowly but surely, my desire leave came back, and less than half a year later I moved to Tokyo. It dawned on me that, while yes, parts of London didn't agree with me, I had just needed to weather the storm. Pun intended. (And possibly make better friends) All expats endure the same looming depression of being alone in another country, but I just didn't know how to handle it then. My mechanism was to criticize what was different around me instead of embracing the change. I know that now and have used it in Tokyo. And you know what? Now I really can only remember the goods times I had. The friendships I made, the not-so-terrible food. I can smell and feel London more vividly than I can San Francisco. I think it's fair to say that I would consider it a first love. I really do miss London. But she probably would just spit me back out again. Damn you, cold weather. Damn you.