London School of Economics & Political Science
I started writing this essay on the plane ride back from London. Here I sit, 2 months later, editing it and not knowing exactly where to take it. I remember sitting on the plane and watching the city disappear below me, thinking how I had just begun to hit my stride.
The front entrance of my dorm was across a walking-only street from a converted industrial revolution era factory, with towering windowless brick walls. The Tate Modern, situated on the bank of the Thames river, provided a commanding view of central London.
The Tate had an amazing quality of drawing you in while not needing to lure you inside. There was a massive screen suspended from the roof and facing the bank. It would play a vibrantly colorful but silent recording visible from across the river. It played until 10 at night, every night. The recording was of someplace ‘simpler’, where they were burning something on a beach.
There were waves, and beautiful blue waters, the type you never saw in London. Palm trees, and boats. Boys fishing out of some kind of dinghy with nets, and a dog running on the beach. I never watched the whole thing, or at least comprehended it. Always in snippets.
It played until 10 pm every night, at which point it would switch off. It was so sudden that it would without fail appear to suck some of the light in from the surroundings as it shut off.
I always tried to get a video, but without fail my phone would die when I wanted to. I never got a video of it.
I often found myself threatening this (purportedly) inanimate object. It frustrated me to no end when it would die precisely when I would hold it up to take a picture, or google something, or worst of all, when someone texted or called and it would die as soon as it buzzed in a place I would NEVER be able to find a charger.
Perhaps this lump of metal and glass knew better than me when I truly didn’t need it. I would want to take a picture of something, like the moon behind a building; fireworks; a beautiful light show; a cathedral at night or a sunset across the river.
Invariably, at these pristine moments, the phone was fully dead despite whatever level of charge it held while performing menial tasks mere moments before.
Only in my last few days did I realize how much of a blessing this was. How many sunsets had I tried to take a picture of, and then taken a seat. Watched. Seen the sun dance across the glass of the buildings. Watched the water reflect the hues of the sky as the sun kissed the horizon behind the skyline
It was frustratingly late that I realized this. But on the last night, I finally went out for the express purpose of getting pictures, and I got some that I enjoyed taking.
In the end, my program being forced to end early left me with a lot of feelings of discontent, but the manner in which it ended gives me hope that we’ll all be more grateful of what we have. The prospect of the world grinding to a halt frightened a lot of people, and I hope it will encourage a global consciousness of what matters and how we can all be better. Our actions have global impact whether we recognize or care about them or not.
In the end, I’m still confused and quarantined. I can never exactly communicate what I learned while I was abroad, but I can tell you what made my experience meaningful.
Appreciating the fleeting moments.
Not being absorbed in the past or the future.
Being willing to talk no matter how stupid you sound.
Exploring the world with the eagerness of a fresh child.
Being willing to be wrong, and learn, and make mistakes.
Being a globally conscious citizen.