By Kylie Sheaffer
I have a personal dilemma that I continuously struggle with. I am one of those individuals who is fiercely independent, but also woefully inept at any activity that involves me taking care of myself. I’m normally lost, often wearing dirty clothes, and cannot cook without setting off an alarm. My parents love to joke that I could’ve moved out at age 12 if I hadn’t been so unprepared to face adulthood. There was a moment though, recently, where I came to the realization that my in-between state is OK.
London, England is my favorite place in the world. It’s exciting, busy, and filled with beautiful people who are very interested in everything. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to spend the day there alone last December, and it was a day that changed me and my outlook on adulthood. There are only a few moments in people’s lives where they can pinpoint an exact day where life changed for them, and this was one of mine.
The weather was beautiful. For December in England, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky – truly shocking. I had on a light, fashionable jacket that made me feel a little too confident in myself. I wore shiny boots that were pretty uncomfortable, but made me look like a disco-astronaut. London is filled with unusual styles, and I was bent on fitting into the chaotic fashion of the city.
The trains were on time and the London Underground was running smoothly. I loved the Underground. So much so that my friends bought me a giant map of the tube system that is now hanging on my apartment wall. That day, my first time alone in London ever, I felt slightly nervous having to travel alone, but confident in myself and my knowledge of the city. The London Underground was neutral territory for me, and navigating it served as a nice ego boost. I didn’t get lost at all.
Above ground I walked everywhere. I walked through Covent Gardens, which was decorated for Christmas and looked whimsical. I walked along South Bank and accidentally wandered onto a set for a Japanese commercial. The director even asked me to stay and hold a product for their video. I wish I could tell you what the commercial was for, but unfortunately, I do not speak Japanese. I walked through the government district and past Buckingham Palace. I walked through Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park and even through China Town and Oxford Circus. I felt like the Queen.
I ate lunch alone that afternoon. I rode the tube alone. I walked alone. I took the bus alone. I even saw Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre alone. (It was amazing, magical, and mind-blowing, by the way). As an extrovert, I’m normally very dependent on the energy of people around me. I feed off my friends’ laughter and it pushes me to be outgoing and funny and wild. That day, I had none of that. I had myself and the city. I had never been more alone, yet more connected to the world, in my entire life.
For the first time, I was forced into truly being an adult. I had to rely entirely on myself and my ability to get around. I shouldn’t have been afraid, but I was a bit. I didn’t have a phone, or family, or friends to help me get around. I had to follow maps, ask for directions, and trust strangers when they gave me advice.
This forced isolation made me feel fulfilled. Finally, the raging independent side of my personality was being used. It was sitting on a bench, across from Big Ben, where I realized I was fine with being me. I can be strong and successful on my own, and that was an amazing relief.
Sheaffer is a junior broadcast major