“Does it feel good to be home again?” he asked me yesterday morning, as we hauled our suitcases out of the Tube station and waited at the lights to begin our walk home.
I wouldn’t say it felt “good” – or bad, for that matter - but it did feel quite definitely like home. Like we had barely been away at all (certainly not for ten weeks). Like everything was in its place. Like I knew the ropes.
This is worth remarking on mostly because when I returned to Australia last year (admittedly, after much more time away), it didn’t feel like home. At least, not at first. Everything was jarring: the space, the sunlight, the price of groceries, even the reunions with the people I loved. For the first 48 hours I briefly became one of those insufferable exp(r)ats, compelled to compare everything to the city in which she now lived. “In London, they…”
New York started to feel like home while I was away, too - or at least like somewhere that could be home. I became intimate with the layout of Manhattan (and more familiar with the layout of inner Brooklyn), the way its neighbourhoods weaved together and bumped over the top of one another. I discovered favourite restaurants, favourite grocery stores, favourite dry-cleaners. I got my nails done all shiny-like, just like the locals do. I even started dropping my ‘u’s and replacing ‘s’s with ‘z’s. (More because I’m writing a book for a US publisher than because of where I was living, admittedly.)
When I was in New York, it felt like I had to move there. It felt like a city where, if I stayed long enough, I could find my way in and become part of “the scene” in a way I still fear I never will in London. And I still agree with that second sentence: that it is a city that could be home. A city that, in many ways, felt right.
But at the present moment, I don’t feel like I have to move there; or that moving to New York is the one and only secret to my happiness. If I have found London difficult (and let’s face it, I have), that is not solely London’s fault. It is a reflection of my having moved here at a point in my life when I was undergoing a whole lot of massive changes all at once. And which greatly shook my confidence.
And it is the fault of a selective, self-fulfilling frame of mind that has chosen to view things through a lens of “London is cold and unfriendly.” Just as New York is not an elixir that dissolves all insecurities, London is not necessarily cold or difficult to penetrate.
I’ve just been too shaken by all the change to fully explore the possibilities.