I remember an interview I had about a year ago where the interviewer asked me to list my five favourite places in London. It's worth mentioning it was for an internship-to-job working for a conceirge travel website, and that I didn't get it, unsurprisingly. They wanted me to list luxury spas and unique boutiques.
I listed places I genuinely loved. Architectural delights. Peaceful parks. The heady, horrible rush of Harrods. Places like that. Places that are London to me.
I came to the city ready to give it love. When you finish a relationship with someone you stop loving, the love has to go somewhere. It goes inwards, and it most likely destroys you, or you can open yourself up and let it flow through you.
Walking along the South Bank, with the lights and the noise of the city all around me, I become that channel. All what was pain and sorrow emerges into nothing but euphoria, the great unbounded joy that finally, I got what I think I really want.
I know people hate London. I know people are in love with New York. And I myself know that I won't stay here forever, and that I miss the countryside and simplicity and where it's cheaper to take public transport. I know that it's grim to watch identical people looking angrily down at the Metro to avoid the bright lights that hurt your eyes in the morning. I know it's grim to see the sunrise in the morning obscured by a tower block. I know full well that there's not much beauty to be had here.
And that to call the city lights inspiring, majestic and the greatest site I'll see is hopelessly naive and no doubt embarassing.
But this city has probably helped save my life. It gave me something to aim for, something to love again and something to lose myself in. London holds up a mirror to everyone who passes through it. And I think now that I can look myself full in the face and like it.
I know I'll resent it soon enough and one day it'll break me, like it breaks everyone. And that it's full of corruption and the darkness of humanity. But it's full of goodness. Hidden beneath the grime on the tubes and mashed copies of Stylist.
We're still lonely. It's still quiet. But we're not alone in that here.