The London summer has come into my life exactly three times.
The first was the summer of ’98 when I swapped my clandestine Ren & Stimpy habit for Spice World screenings. The second was in ’08 when my best friend and I went for a flagrant Eurotrip including dingy hostels, pub crawls, and some monuments. The third time was this summer – the summer of ’17. This turned out to be my best experience in London, both for obvious and less obvious reasons.
Let’s start with the obvious one.
For the first time, I got to experience real life in London. Londoner’s love to complain about the weather, but for a few delightful months, the rain (and complaining) subsides long enough for park picnics and rooftop cocktails. An endless lineup of indie gigs and music festivals ensure you’ll never have to sit in silence for long. Popup exhibitions, art galleries, and free museums mean there’s always something new to do. Meet pals for rooftop film screenings or take your Tinder date somewhere weird like a ballpit bar. You can join a running club or political rally, go topless at Hampstead Heath, or just ride the tube all day. Whatever you want to do, there is someone doing it somewhere in London, and that’s pretty cool.
The less obvious reasons?
A month in London taught me to appreciate life’s false summits. If you’ve ever hiked a big mountain, you’ll understand the moment that the top of the mountain you’ve been chipping away comes into sight. You congratulate yourself and balk at everyone who told you the hike would be hard. Then, you throw the very last of your energy into reaching the top. You think, cool, I’ll be back in time for an afternoon beer.
When you finally take your last steps of the slog, you’re in for an unfortunate discovery. Rather than hitting the top of the mountain, you’ve just come over the rocky ledge that was blocking your view. The real summit is far higher than you ever could have imagined, and you’re not that close at all.
Hitting a false summit is at first defeating. You can’t do much besides dump your bag and find a place to sit while you fume for a bit. You eat something and take a disgruntled look at the view. But with a bit of time, things start to come into perspective. You realize you’re half way up a mountain now, and you’ve really got no choice but to keep going.
I admit that I’ve always been quick to write the endings to my own stories – I think it’s something a lot of people do. It’s easier to deal with our lives when we have closure on things. It’s satisfying to say that x failed so that y could happen, and y is really a lot better anyway. We make broad statements about who we were, who we are now, and who we will be now that we’ve accomplished something. We were wrong last time, but this time is different, and this time it’s really the end of the line. What we fail to acknowledge is that there will always be a higher place to climb and that summits are notorious for afternoon storms, anyway.
Being happy is accepting that we really have no clue where this is all going to end. we might as well enjoy the view from here.