Lone in London
On Thursday evening, I booked a last minute trip to London. By (very) early Saturday Morning, I was on the train, ready to embark on yet another solo adventure. Those that know me well, know that I am rather spontaneous. I haven't always been this way. When I was younger, I struggled with always needing the security of a routine. I think growing older, I have realised routine doesn't promise anything, so we may as well throw caution to the wind and have fun. I now thrive off change, new environments, conversations with strangers and what I like to call "formative moments". Formative moments to me are moments where I can literally feel my character building and core memories being created. They are moments I will tell my grandchildren about (if I have any) and will look back on with great fondness.
On the 7:05am train to London St Pancras from Derby, I was sat next to a woman who was a little older than me, I'd say around 32. She was freshfaced, full of character, and we spoke about doing things alone. We spoke about being selfish, and how liberating it is, to truly live authentically. When we arrived in London, and said goodbye to each other, I stepped off of the train and looked up to see my favourite sight.
And anyway, I fucking love spending time with me. No one else to worry about, I can truly do what I want. The day society accepts that people truly do just like spending time alone, by choice, and they are not lonely, or sad about it, will be a great day.
At 10:33am, I was in the National Gallery. Wandering around, taking in all of the art.
I overheard a child ask a curator "where are the sunflowers?", same little man, same. You have good taste in art. Experiencing common ground with strangers is comforting, if you was to feel alone at any point, all you have to do is look around, at fellow humans who have so much complexity in their lives, just like you, and remember that they must have at least something in common with yourself. Apparently the little man had been asking to see the sunflowers for two years.
A little time passes and I'm thinking about how everything in this museum is so old. (The art, of course.) You can't help but feel insignificant, when surrounded by ancient works. My years on this earth in proportion to how long this art has been admired for is minuscule. Its impact is immeasurable. Art is too so subjective isn't it, I'm now finding myself not gravitating towards ones others find mesmerising and crowd around, instead I am drawn to the artwork that I see myself in, or at least my passions in. My favourite piece of art at this point in time, that I have seen so far, is a painting of cows, purely because, I love cows.
I'm now thinking about how so much of the art in this gallery cannot be accurately dated. They give a range and the ambiguity behind it fascinates me. Our lives are so vivid to us, but one day they will lack clarity to those exploring our time. Of course, we have much better records than they used to, we have better technology, but somethings just cannot be emphasised sufficiently.
I'm also pondering how I enjoy seeing art through the eyes of other people. Contemplating their thoughts, I have come to learn that looking at art is an act of mindfulness. Getting lost in a painting is an easy way to get lost, but remain so mindfully present. Here I am, sat in front of Van Gogh's infamous sunflowers, acknowledging them and thereby focusing upon the beauty and gratitude he intended when he painted it. I now understand how people can stare at art for hours.
At 13:25pm I was in the queue at the Natural History Museum. Today has been filled with so many "coincidences". If you know me, you know I always say I don't believe in coincidences, I believe that everything (most of the time) happens for a reason. On the train to London, I was contemplating what my fake trip name would be this time. Often, when I'm travelling alone, I come up with a name that I can give to someone if they ask and I don't want to give them my real name. I opted for Layla on this occasion, not sure why. When I was in Shake Shack at lunchtime, I thought I could use it for fun when they asked for my name for my order. I didn't end up doing this, because Layla was the name of the person in front of me. After my time in the Natural History Museum, I got the tube to where I was staying. Upon leaving the station, I was contemplating the relationships I have in my life right now, after receiving a slightly unexpected text. I was wondering how to engage with the said message when a busker started to sing "I still haven't found what I'm looking for". And that's true, I haven't, and those words falling off his lips were the perfect reminder that I needed, at the exact right time.
There was plenty of other moments that demonstrated the universe's exquisite timing. Like the train ride home on Sunday, where I spent another hour and a half conversing with a stranger. He was at least late 60's, a counsellor (a career I am surrounded by in a sense, my mum and other close people to me are therapists) and taught me so many - so needed - life lessons in that short amount of time. Those that still claim fate is bogus, I cannot fathom how. This male that I came to know, used to volunteer at the hospice where my close friend died, he started volunteering there after he met a stranger on a train. He showed me a quote on his tablet that I so desperately needed to hear about growth and we shared intricacies about PTSD - something we both have.
I want my time with me.
I want my time with me because it allows me to have all of these wonderful experiences that I wouldn't have had if I was accompanied. I probably wouldn't have made all the notes in my little yellow notebook that I did, my notes on being Lone in London which led to this piece, I wouldn't have had important conversations with woman (32) or man (70). I wouldn't have experienced so many formative moments with such clarity. I wouldn't have marvelled at art for so long and learnt so much. I wouldn't have become teary eyed in the Van Gogh immersive experience because I was faced with a visual representation of the beauty that can come from solitude.
I probably wouldn't have ate so many bagels from Beigel Bake on Brick Lane either.
"And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
TL;DR. Reader, spend time on your own, you won't regret it.