London is my only “love at first sight” experience. It’s also my only heartbreak experience.
As a Peter Pan fanatic, I had always been dying to see where J.M. Barrie created this magical character. So when I was 17, I visited London for the first time, and I fell in love. Hard. I don’t know if it was the culture, the air of magic, the sophistication, or the accent, but there was no turning back. As I sat on a bench in Kensington Gardens, looking out into the mystical, even grounds (maybe only mystical from the London fog), I knew my life would never be the same. Three days later, I was on a plane to France, but I knew I couldn’t wait too long before London and I reunited.
When I started college a few months later, I told my advisor that I wanted to spend my semester abroad with London. She was worried I that walked in the door ready to take off, but I was too head over heels in love to hear her. (You know you’ve been there.)
Although I was in a serious relationship at home, I applied for a British theatre program during my junior year. And when I was accepted, I was off, against my grandmother’s wishes, who as a true Jewish grandma, couldn’t understand why I’d leave such a nice boy behind.
London soon came in between my boyfriend and I. As soon as he said I was free to do what I wanted with London, I dove head first into this passionate affair. I could never get enough. It was the honeymoon stage, and I never wanted it to end.
Unfortunately, it had to end six months later. I parted ways with London, teary-eyed but so happy. This relationship had changed me. While tangled up in the affair, I somehow figured out who I was as a singular person and what I wanted in life. What I wanted was a life involving London.
As soon as I stepped off the plane in NYC, I was planning my trip back. The separation was difficult but I kept my spirits high by fantasizing about my return. As luck would have it, the program I studied abroad with asked me to come back and chaperone one of their programs right after I graduated college. This was it. I would get to move to the U.K. and start a real life with London. Without an end date. I was so excited, my life was falling into place, or so I thought.
I arrived at Heathrow Airport without a work visa (courtesy of my employers, thanks for that), ready to make London my home, and my life. But London wasn’t ready for me. Apparently, London didn’t want me. After a grueling 10 hours of what was essentially a break up in Heathrow Airport’s immigration “holding room”, my heart had been smashed into tiny pieces; U.K. immigration would not let me in the country basically because of a mix-up with my future employer (read here for more on that). Essentially, London told immigration that he had no idea I was coming, or why I was coming. Although this has been thoroughly planned.
Ten hours of crying, yelling, hoping, and regretting. I didn’t know what to feel. Was I angry at London for doing this to me? Or did I hope and pray that I would be let in? I was emotionally and physically drained, and when I was told I would be returning to the U.S., I realized London just didn’t feel the same way about our relationship.
When I got home, I didn’t leave my bed for weeks. Friends came over to cheer me up, and try to distract me from the pain I was feeling. I was so furious with London. We were on very bad terms. I eventually realized I had to move on with my life though, and decided to meet other cities, including Israel and Italy.
After a year of dating around, I decided I was ready to approach London again. Not to move there or make any big steps, but just for a visit. As I neared the immigration gate, I began to shake and sweat. Would London reject me, again? Had I made a huge mistake thinking I could handle a reunion so soon? Immigration held me for a few minutes because of my previous issue a year back. That’s when I really started to panic. What had I been thinking coming back here?
As it turned out, London was ready to let me back in. Maybe I was moving too fast a year ago. Maybe it was just too much too soon. So I spent a week enjoying what I used to love about London and discovering new things, too. My love for London was still strong after what had happened. When it was time to leave though, I was okay. I had accepted that this just wasn’t the time for us. But just like the high school sweetheart that will always have a place in your heart, London will always have a place in mine. I don’t have any doubts that we are meant to be, the timing’s just off.
What I learned about travel: Make sure you have a VISA if you need one! There is no getting around this.
What I learned about dating: Take it slow, there is no rush. At the same time, even if a door closes, it doesn’t mean it’s closed for good.
*Read this for more on Mag’s disaster date with London, and getting deported back to the States.