When I go back and think about some of the happiest moments in my life, they usually have some sort of bittersweet twist.
I’ve said it before—I’m not, by inclination, a naturally happy person (maybe it’s the influence of all the reading I’ve had to do for my major…in any good book, at least one important character dies), and maybe it’s because I too often get high off the nostalgia from good old days I can never go back to.
My mind will take me back to a song from a band that’s no longer together, the aroma of pool chlorine from my kid days or the memory of being a teen and having someone hold my hand for the first time.
But probably the one that sticks out most in my mind is my last day in London, a little over two years ago.
Background: It was spring 2014—I’d been studying abroad in Oxford for almost four months. After backpacking for a couple weeks with friends at the end of the semester, I stayed with family in London for my final four days across the pond.
One of my favorite things to do in a new city (though I’d been to and from London a number of times by this point) is to simply explore and familiarize myself with my surroundings—alone. I suppose I like the idea of knowing I could get lost with no choice but to use my street smarts to find my way back home. I’d done this in other places where English was not the official language, so at least this time it’d be a little easier if I did lose my way.
With a map of the London Tube routes and an Oyster card (aka subway pass) in hand, I set out that spring morning not having much of a game plan, except to say goodbye to the things I’d become somewhat familiar with over the last several weeks.
There was Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly, the British History Museum, a far-off view of the Shard and my personal favorite, Tower Bridge (often mistakenly called London Bridge).
For the last hour of my day, I just sat on a bench and watch the sun sink below the water. I watched couples hand-in-hand stroll past, tourists exit the Tower of London tour that was going on behind me and flocks of pigeons scavenge whatever late lunch passerbys left behind.
I was at peace, yet somewhat disheartened at the same time—firstly, I’d be en route to smoggy, hot LAX the following afternoon, where it’d be a lot harder to simply “be” in the moment as I was now.
That entire day, and several times throughout my England experience, I had moments where I was trapped with my own thoughts for long periods of time, but not in a negative way. It was a time of self and spiritual reflection, free from the loudness of the voices and expectations of those I felt I needed to impress.
In my college and even my current environment, there wasn’t a lot of that serene silence. Too many people to try to be “enough” of something for.
But I think that’s part of why I relished—and still do—that Tower Bridge twilight. I knew in my heart it couldn’t last forever, or even beyond that afternoon.
Guess I’ve never been much of a sucker for entirely happy endings.