This afternoon, as I walked through Notting Hill, coat bundled around my waist, hot coffee warming both my palms and endless leaves crunching under my feet, I realised I’m in love. Head over heels, beyond possible obsessed love.
Over the past twenty years in London, I have listened to endless love songs, as I walked across fog filled bridges, over worn cobblestone streets and past shadow casting skyscrapers. I’ve lost myself in romantic love more times than I can count. The memories now exist in messy journals that hide under my bed. They’re full of silly scribbles about first kisses, romantic river walks and broken hearts.
My whole life I’ve hoped for a romantic love that would sweep me off my feet. I’ve hoped for something that would change my life, move me to my core and more. I dreamt of the one true love that will be there forever and ever in time.
And it was that love I imagined as I walked tirelessly around the city of London, music soothing my soul through various sets of headphones over the years. I was trying my best to believe it was always just around the corner. I never gave up on the idea. Never.
And then today happened…
Today I’m writing a different story about a love I didn’t even know could exist. It’s a love that has truly made all of my wildest dreams come true. It’s seen me fall, it’s seen me fly. It’s never wavered. It’s promised to be there whenever I needed it. It’s been the most stable relationship I’ve known outside my family and I didn’t know just how deep this love could run because I don’t think I’ve ever seen it as clear as I see it now.
That love is not for a man, it’s not for a thing, it’s not even for myself. It’s for a great big old city. Yup, spoiler alert. The love of my life turns out to be London.
Like any couple, we’ve had our highs and lows. We’ve fought. I’ve screamed and yelled and walked out more than a few times, declaring I was done and couldn’t ride the rollercoaster of emotion anymore. I’ve been the bad one in the relationship that’s abandoned ship and left London during uncertain times. But this beautiful city has always smiled as I left, knowing I didn’t mean the harsh words I said, knowing that it had burrowed so deeply into my soul that it was forever a part of who I am and who I will be.
London has seen me cry. It’s seen me in agony, both physically and emotionally. London has seen me run through its streets at 3am declaring, “I’m king of the world,” on a drunken night out on the Kings Road. At my highest, it’s been a place I wish I could hug and squeeze and say “thank you for everything you’ve provided.” At my lowest, I’ve stomped the pavement and wished it were American soil I was standing on instead of an English city street.
Today, however, I sit here feeling simply foolish. How could I have been so silly to have never seen the real love that was always here, with the city above, below and around me. I have taken this place for granted every single day that I have been here. Every single time…
It took me eighteen months away to realise it.
It took me eighteen months to realise one never leaves London. Sure, physically, one can exit the city. But for a Londoner, a true Londoner, once this city is your home, it is your forever home. And I know that now. It’s not just my forever home in my heart, it is my heart. I grew up here. I found myself on these city streets, with London asking nothing at all in return. I feel so so silly. How did I never see it?
It hit me like a ton of bricks, as I walked home with the sun setting in the early afternoon. I hate early nights here in London. I always have. But in this moment, there was such a beautiful light cast across the city. The golden leaves above me were falling as I walked and people were rushing down the streets, snuggled up in hats and scarves fighting the early onset of winter in the city. I bounced down the stairs into Notting Hill Gate tube station and stood on the escalator down to the train and just smiled. One big happy as Larry grin. You would have believed I was a woman that had just received life changing news. And I had. In that moment I knew that in this lifetime there will never be love greater than the one I’ve been given here. Nothing will ever touch it.
I am so incredibly overcome and thankful for the chance to come back here and see that love for what is has always been. I am so grateful that I took that stupid chance two decades ago, getting on a plane with absolutely no reason at all to do so. I was naive and dumb. Well, it turns out being blissfully unaware can sometimes work to your advantage. It gave me this city. It gave me every single person I’ve loved, in this big city, and still love. Almost every single aspect of who I am today is because of a decision I made that changed everything. And London, this is my love letter to you. My heart is yours, today and forever. You are my life’s love. Whether I sit on a coffee shop on Portobello Road or dream of you from afar from the docks of Beaufort, South Carolina, this is my declaration that nothing will ever touch the love my heart has for you and all you’ve seen me through.