Sometimes, my inner control freak expresses herself in strange ways. There are moments when I catch a glimpse of myself from the outside, almost as if my subconscious leaves my body and gives me a birds-eye-view of my own unique, slightly batty, approach to life.
A few nights ago I had one of such moments. Sitting on my bed, surrounded by Time Out magazines and coloured pens, I was frantically flicking through the pages and carefully tearing out articles.
“There’s just so much to do in London!” I exclaimed to Tom, who was sitting quietly next to me, absorbed by an article on the internet and effectively blocking out my little circle of stress.
I was feeling anxious – but in an excited way. You see, I’ve had a tough few weeks. I’ve learned something new about myself: I’m not very good at being unemployed. I’d been moping around feeling blue and dreaming of flying back home to the New Zealand summer. But then I snapped out of it, by deciding to conquer London like it was the to-do-list of all to-do-lists.
I had started thinking of London as something I had to do, a task I had to tick off my ‘list of things to do in life’ before I could move on successfully to the next stage. Like a level on a video game. Or a chapter in a book. I felt as if there were certain coupons I needed to collect before I could say “I’ve DONE London.” Like visiting all the major tourist destinations. Attending a high tea. Eating fish and chips in a local pub. You get my drift.
But the problem with a place like London is – where do you even begin? London is huge, not just in terms of population or land mass, but in terms of what it has to offer. Even if you lived here your whole life, you couldn’t possibly do it all.
Besides, to make things even more complicated, there are many different Londons within London. There’s the arty London, the muso London, the foodie London – and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Whatever you’re interested in, you can find a group, club, venue which caters to your passion.
All of this only contributed to my anxiety, as I sat on that bed and tried to find a way to begin.
“I think I need to buy a clearfile,” I said to Tom. “You know, so we can organise activities by category – food, tourist, music, art etc.”
“Mmmm,” said Tom. Eyes still glued firmly to the computer screen.
“Or maybe we should just fold up pieces of paper and put them into a bucket and pick one every week? You know, be adventurous?”
“Yep, sounds good.” This time I get a small nod.
“Oh but then we will have to categorise the buckets, you know, for rainy day activities and sunny day activities, expensive activities and free ones. Otherwise we could pick out an outdoor activity when it’s raining?!?!”
At this point my voice was most likely beginning to border on slight hysteria and I was probably chewing anxiously on my pen, mind going a million miles an hour. An OUTDOOR activity on a rainy day?! God forbid.
Tom shut his laptop, placed it on the floor and turned to me slowly.
“We just have to begin,” he said simply.
Begin?! But that’s what I’m trying to do, I protest. Doesn’t he understand?
“We just start doing things. You don’t need a clearfile, or a bucket system, or to organise it logically. We just get out, every weekend. Simple.”
And that’s probably about when my subconscious left my body and gave me a birds-eye-view of my silly state of anxiety. I could almost see the stress particles zooming around my head, in the form of Time Out cut-outs.
All of a sudden, it dawned on me how completely ridiculous I was being.
London is not a task. Living here is an experience. And here I was, trying to turn it into a chore of enormous proportions and tackle it like a project at work, or a university assignment. Armed with highlighters and post-it notes, I was ready to blow this thing out of the water. I wanted an A+ on my London report card. I wanted to tick ‘101 things to do’ off a list with a bold red marker. I could already see the blog posts unfolding. “Look at me, I’m up to number 59 – getting attacked by pigeons in Trafalgar Square!” Let’s face it, no one wants to read about me trying to play the role of ‘perfect tourist’.
Fortunately, opposites attract, and I have a relaxed, logical partner who kindly helps me see things through clearer lenses. We don’t have to begin – we’ve already started.
Don’t worry, I’m still writing a list. I like lists. But the anxiety is gone. The ‘list’ is just for kicks now :)