November 21, 2012

My Life, the UK, and "Home"

Living in England for half a year was such an amazing experience, returning home to Toronto was one of the hardest things I had to do this summer. I felt like I was being ripped from my second life and was thrown back into my past. Everyone and everything seemed so stagnant, like nothing had changed aside from the towering buildings of glass plastered everywhere downtown. Yet, I was different and my whole life was filled with new thoughts and experiences. I had become a new person, to me, an even better version of who I used to be. I heard about the term "reverse culture shock" but I didn't understand it till this summer.

Being immersed in a completely new culture and society gave me the opportunity to explore, stand alone on my own two feet (I mean completely alone in an alien environment), and it taught me how to be open to new experiences and people. I did things most people would never feel comfortable doing. For example, I had no idea what real trance was but I still went to a full-fledged rave and had the time of my life. I just picked up and flew to Greece and stayed at a hostel with a girl I just met and made friends with people from all over the world. I chose not to live on university accommodations with other international students but instead went house hunting in my first few days in the country and lived with British students so that I could fully understand what British culture was like. I went sight seeing on my own, travelled around the country by myself having no clue what I was doing and figuring it out as I went along. Every day was filled with something new but the hardest part for me was leaving those bonds I had created. I was so heartbroken having to walk away from the UK knowing I may never see some of those people again. 

Don't get me wrong, it was really, really, really, hard initially for me. I missed Toronto tremendously. It was difficult adapting to a culture I barely knew and meeting people who actually wanted to open up to me. People take for granted what it means to be completely "new". If no one actually reaches out to you and takes you under their wings, you may be unable to make real bonds with people aside from something surface. It made me miss my family and friends back home so much. I've noticed when people live overseas they tend to bond with other international students or people like themselves. Most international people I met didn't have many British friends. It's only natural that when you're lost and in a new environment, you cling to people you identify with. Dealing with a few months of loneliness and confusion really paid off for me in the end because I built such strong friendships with some wonderful British people and I felt like I had become a part of them. That's something not many international travellers can boast. 

Being back in Toronto and watching the Olympics and everything leading up to it was like torture because to me, England had become home. I missed the UK greatly for the first two months and searched for ways to return back "home". I felt so lost in my life, because not only did I feel stifled being back in Toronto, I was also at a completely new stage in my life where I no longer was in school. My future stared at me and I could barely focus on it. For the first time in my life I didn't know what my end goal was anymore. It was frightening and numbing all at once to not only have to deal with returning to another culture but also have it compounded with being in a stage of my life I had never been in since I was 4 years old.

Now that time has passed, things have changed and I've learned to love Toronto again, both for its flaws and for its beauty. Coming back definitely changed my perspective on this city and our people. It made me open up to experiences I had shut down before. A simple example of that would be going to parties I use to avoid just because I thought I didn't identify with it, and actually having fun. (To be honest, I can now go anywhere and enjoy myself no matter what I'm doing.) I see certain characteristics and behaviours we young Torontonians have that I really don't like and I've focused to change them in myself and possibly open up other people to the way I see life now. 

I've finally found direction in my life regarding my career and where I think I'm headed, and it feels amazing. I still miss the UK, a lot, but I believe, for now, Toronto is where my future lies. That doesn't mean I won't stop travelling. I thrive on learning and change. The nomad in me is always itching for a place to go and new things to do. Yet, with all that said, the UK will always be another home to me, always.

This is one of my favourite photos from England. 
It's in central London on a rooftop of a building that my friend took me to so that I could see the city. 
Behind me is St. Paul's Cathedral, a famous sight to see in London.


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