Being an adult is hard sometimes, isn’t it? So many decisions to make, so many paths to navigate, so many things outside of our control, so many bills to pay. It can become all too overwhelming, and difficult to see the wood for the trees. When there is so much to hope for, and so much to dream of, and yet so little immediately achievable, it’s easy to let your spirits sink. Coming back from a year where I lived a temporary life of constant novelty, where every day was a gift, every experience – no matter how mundane – a memory to be treasured, and every sight a revelation, has been a struggle. When the everyday has been capable of becoming so remarkable, it is hard to once again find yourself living a life that feels so utterly unremarkable. That sense of constant possibility – of euphoria, even – that I used to feel in just performing the act of walking down the street is nigh on impossible to recapture now I’m back in my old routines, living my old life, in my old city.
But over the past week or so, I’ve been taken by surprise at just how exciting ordinary life can be, and I have learned to appreciate what a gift it is to have all that I do. I often become so wrapped up in what I’ve not done and what I don’t have that I forget to appreciate how miraculous it is just to be alive, to be healthy, to have a family, to have friends, to have a job, to have a home, to have disposable income, to even have the luxury of the choices I agonise over.
Today I was mulling over the last few days, and realising how much fun I have had while doing nothing particularly groundshaking; on Saturday, I had a wonderful lunch of steak frites at Cote with one of my dearest friends, rambled through the beautiful streets of Highgate and marvelled at the magnificent views across London, before heading home for a luxurious night alone on the sofa with a bottle of white wine, indulgently sobbing my way through Bridget Jones’ Diary – joy! On Sunday, as part of my new relaxed me routine, I stayed at home all day. I made peanut millionaire’s shortbread (delicious), I sang along to the radio at the top of my voice, I cooked a lemon and garlic roast chicken, I finally ironed all of my clothes that I have kept shoving to the back of the wardrobe for weeks, I had a wonderful time mentally throttling Fanny Price as I curled up on the sofa with Mansfield Park, my flatmate and I laughed so hard that we cried, several times, and we clutched each other in delight as we watched a fabulous new drama called Call the Midwife, based on this book that I must buy very soon. On Monday I met up with another dear friend for a delicious dinner at Carluccios (they do the best spinach and ricotta ravioli ever) and we walked along the Southbank in the crisp darkness, marvelling at the beauty of the lights strung through the trees and the stunning buildings lining the riverbank, whilst chatting away and just thoroughly enjoying one another’s company. And yesterday night, I went to my French class; it’s proving to be a challenge to go back to learning a language I last spoke when I was 18, but I am loving every second of it. Grappling with grammar and vocabulary is something I relish, because the sense of achievement when it all clicks and you can triumphantly end the lesson able to say a sentence you couldn’t at the beginning is absolutely marvellous. Plus I have met some fascinating people to boot, and we roll around laughing at our pathetic attempts at communicating in halting French!
It’s not a bad life, is it? So much joy comes from simple things, and those are the things I forget about when I assess how my life is going and how far from achieving my lofty ambitions I still am, causing me to fall into pits of first-world-problems despair. I used to remember the simple things – I used to thrive on them – when I lived in New York, but coming back to London – as the idea of taking steps backwards often does – had made me feel that my life was thoroughly humdrum. However, a string of magical lights along the Thames and a series of largely uneventful yet lovely days spent doing ordinary yet wonderful things has shifted my perspective. I might not be setting the world on fire while I am squished between stranger’s armpits on my morning commute, or stuffing envelopes at work, or doing yet another round of washing up, but that’s ok. My life is still pretty brilliant regardless. And so is peanut millionaire’s shortbread, by the way – you seriously have to make that stuff. I’ve been living off it for the past four days!