A Kiwi takes Flight
Is there a day that you often think back to? Even though it was years ago for me, I still remember it clearly. The problem was, I’d tried to jam everything in, like I always do.
Jam in a quick farewell drink with, seemingly, everyone I’d ever met.
Jam in a few more days of work.
Jam in a quick holiday before I go.
Jam everything into my suitcase.
And I missed the things that were most important. That’s something I realise only now. It was the day I moved to London.
I felt the wheels lift off the tarmac, and I quietly sobbed as I stared out into the night. As we pulled into the clouds, I whispered another goodbye, this time to the lights of Auckland city. It was only at that moment that I realised the extent of my decision. There was no turning back. The next stop was Dubai, in 17 hours time.
I rubbed the tears from my eyes, glancing around to see whether anyone had noticed. Now, thinking back, it amazes me as to how quickly I could make peace with the situation I was in. As soon as the clouds cloaked my home beneath me, and I cosied up to my seat blanket, I felt far removed from...anywhere really. Almost in a state of limbo, I couldn’t feel sad about what was behind me, but I also couldn’t get excited, because I didn’t really know what was ahead. In the lead up to this day, I’d kept myself so busy, so tense, that as I relaxed here now, I felt the weight of my worries fall away.
It’s funny when you’re there in the moment and you’re rushing around, worrying about what to sell, what to pack, who to see and when; you’re not at all focused on the big picture. There’s not one item I recall putting into that suitcase - and yes, it was significantly overfilled. A whopping 45kgs across checked in and carry-on luggage. And to top it off, I nearly missed my flight because of it. What a bunch of needless burden. I’ll tell you what I do remember. Not having the time to visit my Ma (Grandmother) before I left. Later I came to regret this (even more so than I already did at the time), as that would have been my last opportunity to see her. I remember being upset when Mum suddenly announced she could not see me off at the airport, because sitting beside me for two hours on the drive down to Auckland would be too torturous. She thought it better to just say goodbye here and now. I remember the teary glint in my Dad’s eyes as he dropped me off at my Grandma’s house, before I set off for the drive. I felt his pain as he hugged me in silence, unable to say a word. I remember hugging my Grandma goodbye at the airport, her voice shaking as she tried to hide her sadness at seeing me go.
I’m telling you now, don’t fuss about what to pack, don’t hang on to work for a few more days than you need to, don’t even meet everyone (you’ve ever met) for that last drink before you go. Just spend the time with those you care about most. Hug them goodbye, and then hug them again.
That’s the thing about those long haul flights, you might find a lot of time to dwell on all of this. But that wise younger version of myself (does anyone else feel as though they’re seemingly less wise as they grow older?), decided it was best to remove oneself from those worries, tuck into a few films, and allow the remainder of the journey to unfold as it would.
I arrived at London Heathrow, midday, midweek. My best friend, the very instigator of my relocation, greeted me at the airport and guided me to my first journey on the London Underground, aptly nicknamed the “tube”. At this point of the journey, I felt like I was in another world, high on airplane meals and brimming with excitement for exploring the new terrain. I stared and gawked and oohed and aahed as the train burst out from beneath the airport, into the grey light of day, my eyes wide, gasping at the rows of townhouses proclaiming how much it all looked like Coronation Street. My dear friend awkwardly murmuring that I should reign it in. But I didn’t care, it was exactly what I thought it would be, I hadn’t even stepped foot on the ground outside and I knew this was my place.
We must’ve made a change somewhere, because we pulled into Brixton station, at the Southern end of the Victoria line.
During the time I spent in London, I’m still amazed that the very first tube station I ascended from was Brixton station. To call it lively would be a serious understatement. There were preachers and artists, there were campaigners, beggars, and red double-deckers. I stared in open-mouthed awe, and as people swarmed around us, my friend guided me and the significant baggage, to the line-up of buses. I remember asking her “Gosh, there’s so many [buses], how do you know which one to take?”. She laughed and rolled her eyes at me. “You’ll catch on pretty fast, don’t worry”. Here, I feel it’s important to mention that the town (technically a city, but it sure feels like a town to me) that we’re both from doesn’t have public transport to speak of, so it was quite a boggle to the mind, all this. After a few photos of my new street we dragged my belongings into my friend’s three storey flat. This would be my home for...well, I wasn’t sure how long really.
Introductions were made with the many, many housemates, before I retreated to my friends room to collapse on her bed. After not seeing each other for months, we had a lot to catch up on. I propped myself up, while she began unpacking my belongings (so organised, that girl). After a while the ends of my sentences were turning into mixed up mumblings. My friend would wake me saying I’d fallen asleep mid-sentence, but on trying to repeat myself, the same jumbled up mumblings would spill out. Exhausted, I was out like a light.