If you’re anything like me, you tend to appreciate a well thought-out plan. You like rubrics with clear instructions and expectations. The unexpected is not always appreciate. Change of plans are a nuisance. You can feel inconvenienced when others are not operating on the same goal-oriented mindset. But in London, I cannot feel this way. Having this perspective can make you feel as if everyone must comply to your will. If they do not agree, it is them in the wrong.
Can you see how arrogant and selfish that mindset is? While our lives on Earth may have varying time spans, it is better to enjoy the moment than rush through it, seeking the next moment of heightened joy. Daily life can seem mundane, meaningless, a waste. We can neglect the smaller moments of happiness in life and write them off as normal or common. When these smaller moments of happiness are interrupted, we feel as though their existence was an obligation, not a favor or grace. For example, you can think, “The buses are SUPPOSED to be here every 15 minutes and if they are not, it is the bus driver’s fault for inconveniencing me.” Yes, the bus system is supposed to maintain its schedule and timeliness, but life is not always predictable.
I would like to think that I can do a good job navigating but I am still new to this country. This past Sunday I went to the infamous Columbia Road Flower Market. It took almost an hour to get to the market which was not too bad because I had the opportunity to take the bus and sight-see from the top of a double decker bus. While riding the bus, I was alone in my thoughts. I spent my time admiring the beauty of human life. Sometimes we can live in our head, focusing our energy on understanding the world solely through the context of our perspective and choices, neglecting the value of the other people around them, especially strangers. I think it is a gift to be part of someone’s life, no matter how insignificant in passing the moment may be. Our lives are short, making every moment valuable.
It is time that more people start simplifying their thoughts and spending more time appreciating the basics. Every breath is a gift, every step is a blessing, every moment should be savored. In the Western world, we can focus too much on the accumulation of wealth, status, and material objects in order to prove our worth and purpose in the world. But these things have no value unless we give it value. Owning a sport car means nothing if you cannot drive it. Owning a mansion is meaningless if you cannot live in it. We became so focused on being the best that we can lose our humanity, viewing others as roadblocks or stepping blocks to our success. It is absurd that such a mindset is so prevalent today!
I was excited to browse the flower market but I underestimated just how many people would be there. I somehow expected the flower market to be in park-like setting but instead it was on an actual road (more like an alleyway), making it very cramped with over a hundred people trying to shuffle past one another moving between booths and tables surveying for the best deal. Being of a shorter stature and a more petite person, I couldn’t push my way through the crowd and could only try to swerve into smaller gaps between people. If I was not careful, I could get frustrated by the people cutting me off, or getting zippers and buttons stuck in my hair. But before I even allowed myself to feel irritated, I let myself be absorbed by the beauty of the flora around me. There were many flowers hat I recognized from the floral arranging classes that I had taken in the past but there were still so many native British flowers and house plants that I have never seen beautiful. What a beautiful way to be immersed in British culture. These types of markets are still very popular even with the modernization of the UK. Similar markets include the Camden Market, Jubilee Market in Covent Garden, and the renowned Borough Market.
However, the most difficult part of my day was trying to navigate back home to my dorm. I was still in the mood to adventure around the city before heading to church later that evening so I took a bus heading to a well-known shopping district that I had already been too. To ensure I could still find my way back home, I used Google Maps but discovered that it would take me a longer than anticipated time to get back home due to the slow moving traffic. Even still, I decided to just sit and listen to the light chattering of the walking down the streets outside the bus, the humming of the bus’s engine as it stood idle waiting for green lights, and the slight breeze as it hit the bus’s windows. After getting off the bus, I made my way back to tube station (after stopping in to an accessory stuff for some cute earrings).
From there I had a general sense of direction on getting back to my dorm. Boy was I wrong. I knew which lines I needed to get on to get back to my dorm but I did not know what direction to go in to get that line. So I chose one of the two stops that had connections to the Circle and District line. Turns out, the tube station I got off at did have that connection but the gate was close. I assumed that met something was wrong so I decided to exit the tube station so that I could have connection and find an alternative route home. At this point I started feeling hungry and got myself excited to eat pizza for dinner, hoping that I could find a Domino’s near my dorm. Google Maps seems to be as clueless as I am because for the next 10 minutes I struggled to find the bus stop that I needed in order to get back to South Kensington (which I assumed couldn’t be far away since I was close to Hyde Park and the Kensington Gardens). Nope. After getting a bit frustrated with how slow the other pedestrians were walking as I tried to located the very small (and sometimes invisible) streets signs, I managed to find the bus I needed…. until I realized that the bus stop was in the other direction and I was in fact about to miss the bus I needed to get home.
Relieved that the bus had finally arrived, I happily got on and chose a seat near the front of the bus. As the bus traveled through to its destination, the frustration of my situation melted away as I watched a father and his son discussing bath time and how much of a good boy the son had been that day. Gazing out the window comforted me as I appreciated the range of stores that the bus drove past until I realized that I was in an unfamiliar area and was heading in the wrong direction. You can imagine my levels of annoyance rising as I saw the bus was 15 minutes away and I was very hungry since I did not have anything for breakfast.
But it was okay, if I fed myself negative thought, I would put myself into a sour mood making this experience more negative. What I needed to learn from this mistake was to read more of the maps and bus transportation directions as well as build up my patience so that when mistakes happen, I can think and respond logically. I ended up getting onto the right bus and felt relieved that I was finally heading home and would get the opportunity to put my hydrangeas in water. It felt so good to step off the bus and hurry home.
Home. This city has become my home. Even though I get lost and can feel a bit disappointing in my navigational skills, this city has become my home, where I actively seek out the next opportunity to just sit on the bus and listen to the locals chatter, drinking in the laughter on the young children on field trips, enjoying the lulls of daily life in London. Everyday I am here, I find new reasons for being grateful. I knew I would fall in love with this city but I find such happiness in the smallest victories and moments, I hope that you can do the same wherever you are.