London’s not a marmite city. There are plenty of people who love it, and many who hate it, but there is also a whole spectrum in between.
Me? I have a love-hate relationship with the city.
No one could blame you for falling for London. It lures you in. Live music in little bars. Barbecues in the park. Endless opportunities. Those summer nights… It’s a place where you can find any kind of person imaginable. And where any kind of person imaginable can find their place, if they have the energy to keep hunting. It’s so many things, but never will it ever be easy.
London can serve you the most beautiful day, and the next morning it’ll greet you with a punch in the face.
I’m having one of those mornings.
Sometimes it comes in the form of bad news. Sometimes an angry commuter. Or an expense. A deadline. A failure. A loss.
Today, for me, it’s paralysis. Paralysis through the paradox of choice.
After a few weeks of fresh air, I’ve tumbled straight back into the vortex of opportunity, diversity and transience. I’m being pulled into the turbulence of London and thrown around so fast I’m losing grasp of my own intentions.
WHAT DOES THAT LOOK LIKE?
It’s 8am and I’m shoving premium chocolate pastille after pastille into my mouth. My movement so mindless that I barely shift my gaze from my newsfeed to the packaging as I rip it open and reach for the next. My action so hurried that I don’t give a moment’s consideration to the buttery texture melting across my tongue before I swallow.
And what’s worse is that I can’t even taste it. Sickness has rendered my tastebuds temporarily useless so the flavours that should be taking me back to my teenage years leave me cold.
Not quite what you pictured when I said I was getting lost in London…
See, the crazy thing about the energy of a city like this is that it can wear you down before you’ve even stepped into it. And that’s the paradox of choice. There are so many things I ‘should be doing’ that I’m unable to prioritise.
A first-world problem, I admit; and a fairly typical aspect of growing up. I have no desire to lament my responsibilities. In fact, it’s not the necessities of adulthood that pose a problem. While the practicalities of paying rent, doing laundry and making food do weigh in, it’s the freedom that’s paralysing.
In an environment fueled by energy and ambition, opportunity melds into obligation.
The realm of things you should be doing extends beyond your responsibilities to encompass the opportunities you should be taking advantage of. Every neglected opportunity is wasteful. And in a city of endless opportunity, the potential for guilt is infinite.
There are two options: let the city throw you from place to place, or know your own path and guide yourself through the chaos.
And this is why I feel trapped; scared to leave my little shoebox of a room. Because I know that once I jump back into the vortex, it’ll be a constant battle to separate the opportunities I care about from those I feel obliged to pursue.
You’re a challenge, London. A beautiful, consuming, scary challenge.