I noticed that my hand was shaking as I slipped the key into the lock. I turned it slowly as I prayed silently to myself, “Please let it be there today…”
As soon as I pulled the small square door of the private post office box towards me, I spied the official-looking envelope.
There was never really any doubt about being granted the right to live and work in the UK. My mother is British and whilst the law at the time did not grant me a passport, it meant I could apply for Right of Abode – which was pretty much the same thing anyway.
Still, until I had the official paperwork, I felt like my life was in limbo. But there it was. One small piece of paper that would allow me to enter the UK and go on an adventure that would be entirely of my own making.
Less than three months later, my flight touched down at Heathrow. I still remember how stretched out and scratchy I felt that morning. I’d never flown so far or cried so much. The day before I’d pressed my face against the plane’s window and looked down at the glittering sea as it crashed gently against the sand of my favorite beach. As I passed through immigration, into a country I’d never stepped foot in, I was met with a low, grey sky and heavy rain.
One of the first things I did in London was purchase an umbrella. I walked for miles that first day. It may have been wet, but it was also magical. I was captivated by how anonymous I could feel in such a big city, surrounded by so many people. I soaked up sights, sounds and smells that were entirely new, but also strangely familiar. I was surprised by how deeply happy I felt as I wandered, content in my own company and whilst I felt a kaleidoscope of emotions, loneliness wasn’t one of them.
More than a decade later, London is my home. Whilst there are days when I barely notice her icons and find her quirks frustrating, my heart is forever knitted to this city. It’s where I finally grew up, and yet, I never seem to move past feeling like I’m always twenty-seven.
Over the years my face and body – and even my heart – have changed. I’ve had far more adventures than I could have imagined. My mind has expanded through the people I’ve met, the places I’ve travelled, and I’ve been exposed to experiences which have helped me grow. There are also things I wish I’d never experienced or seen, but I’ve learned from those too.
Regardless, I recall how my twenty-seven year old self felt, making the decision to leave everything that was happy, familiar and safe and come to the UK. I treasure her bravery. Youth doesn’t automatically shield us from our fears. So on those days when I catch myself resisting a dream because of everything that could go wrong, I remember that at twenty-seven, I focused on what could go right.
I don’t suppose I’ll ever know why I continue to feel rooted to this particular age though, and I don’t really need to. What I do know is that whenever anyone asks, “So, how old do you feel?” My response is always, “Twenty-seven.”
Do you have an age you always seem to feel, no matter how many years go by?