I noticed that my hand was shaking as I slipped the key into the lock. I turned it slowly as I prayed silently to myself, “Please let it be there today…”
As soon as I pulled the small square door of the private post office box towards me, I spied the official-looking envelope.
There was never really any doubt about being granted the right to live and work in the UK. My mother is British and whilst the law at the time did not grant me a passport, it meant I could apply for Right of Abode – which was pretty much the same thing anyway.
Still, until I had the official paperwork, I felt like my life was in limbo. But there it was. One small piece of paper that would allow me to enter the UK and go on an adventure that would be entirely of my own making.
Less than three months later, my flight touched down at Heathrow. I still remember how stretched out and scratchy I felt that morning. I’d never flown so far or cried so much. The day before I’d pressed my face against the plane’s window and looked down at the glittering sea as it crashed gently against the sand of my favorite beach. As I passed through immigration, into a country I’d never stepped foot in, I was met with a low, grey sky and heavy rain.
One of the first things I did in London was purchase an umbrella. I walked for miles that first day. It may have been wet, but it was also magical. I was captivated by how anonymous I could feel in such a big city, surrounded by so many people. I soaked up sights, sounds and smells that were entirely new, but also strangely familiar. I was surprised by how deeply happy I felt as I wandered, content in my own company and whilst I felt a kaleidoscope of emotions, loneliness wasn’t one of them.
More than a decade later, London is my home. Whilst there are days when I barely notice her icons and find her quirks frustrating, my heart is forever knitted to this city. It’s where I finally grew up, and yet, I never seem to move past feeling like I’m always twenty-seven.
Over the years my face and body – and even my heart – have changed. I’ve had far more adventures than I could have imagined. My mind has expanded through the people I’ve met, the places I’ve travelled, and I’ve been exposed to experiences which have helped me grow. There are also things I wish I’d never experienced or seen, but I’ve learned from those too.
Regardless, I recall how my twenty-seven year old self felt, making the decision to leave everything that was happy, familiar and safe and come to the UK. I treasure her bravery. Youth doesn’t automatically shield us from our fears. So on those days when I catch myself resisting a dream because of everything that could go wrong, I remember that at twenty-seven, I focused on what could go right.
I don’t suppose I’ll ever know why I continue to feel rooted to this particular age though, and I don’t really need to. What I do know is that whenever anyone asks, “So, how old do you feel?” My response is always, “Twenty-seven.”
Do you have an age you always seem to feel, no matter how many years go by?
I’m not sure…I guess I feel the age I am, but I want to have adventures involving new places, foods, and people! I never want to quit learning or stop doing new things because I’m afraid. Change is GOOD!
Well, it doesn’t matter what age you feel as long as you still want to have adventures and learn and do new things! I think that’s so important. I’ve watched a bunch of friends turn 40 in the last few years and it’s like they’ve suddenly being gripped by this fear of change. I’m hoping it’s just a phase, in the meantime, I’m trying to lead by example and be brave with my own life! Esther xx
I think that you CAN make a difference in your friend’s lives, Esther! I have a friend that lives just miles from where she was born and raised and often fears the unknown or things she’s never done before. I’ve gotten her to get her 1st manicure, take a train into NYC, go to The Plaza for tea, and shop at stores she never would have considered before! We’re having a blast!
Oh I JUST LOVE this story! Thank you for sharing how you’ve been encouraging your friend to face her fears and do new things, I’ve actually got tears in my eyes – what a beautiful difference you’re making to her life! xx
Thank you! She’s worth it!
My 20s were filled with exotic, daring travel. It set the tone for much of my life to come, so in many ways, I must agree with you. In many ways I will be 27. Just a savvier, more experienced 27. xoxox, Brenda
I like that Brenda, “It set the tone for much of my life to come”. That’s so true, I’m certain that if I had not taken the plunge and moved here, that my life would be very different – I suspect it would have been lovely, but a little dull. And a savvier, more experienced 27 is always good! I look forward to sharing new adventures with you in future! Essie xx
That age would be 21 for me. I can’t say there was anything momentous that happened at that age. I just remember, being younger, and feeling my life would be perfect when I reached 21. You were very brave!
Jennifer, that’s so interesting as a few other friends also said 21. Isn’t it funny how we think that once we reach a certain number that things will be ‘perfect’? I thought 30 would be like that – instead I was a complete mess at that age! Fortunately I sorted myself out and now I focus on progress, not perfection. And thank you, I felt very brave at the time! Esther xx
Beautiful. I want to do similar one day. I honestly need a few lifetimes, because when I visit a place, I always wish I could live there for a while. Living somewhere seems like a richer experience than being a tourist in that place.
Thank you, Heather! Oh yes, “A few lifetimes” – I would like a few of those too! Well, I adore Paris and have spent two separate months ‘living’ there. It’s not the same as actually moving and working in a place, but it’s still a great way to get a richer experience than you do as a tourist. Plus the upside is that you don’t have to worry about all the administration and stress of actually moving! Esther xx
Lovely. Time is a funny thing. We age but we are still our younger selves. I loved 27. I think it’s the perfect age between youth and grown up. I don’t always feel 27 but it’s the place my brain really likes to be.
What a great way to phrase it! Brenda
I agree with Brenda, what a great way to phrase it! And whilst I thought I was all grown-up at the time, looking back I see I was really only on the cusp of adulthood. Esther xx
At my very best…when I am “in the flow” and feeling creative and free, I am 10. I am relatively independent and autonomous and not yet worried about what others think of me. If I want to turn cartwheels, I do it. If I want to sing, I sing.
Oh Karen, this is lovely! I think it’s wonderful that you have moments when you still feel 10! We’re all so keen to grow up, but there’s something special about holding on to those feelings of flow and joy, regardless of what others have to say. Esther xx
You write so well Esther – love how you share your stories. How brave of you to move to England! I will forever feel 37. It was a life changing year for me. I married the love of my life and lost a loved one when my brother died 8 months later from cancer. I am blessed to have my husband but will always ache for my brother. You learn from tragedies though and I have learned to appreciate the small things and to make the best of every day.
Elaine, thank you so much for your kind words. And thank you for sharing your story, what a sweet but sad year for you, I can understand why you will forever feel 37. I’m sorry to read that you lost your brother to cancer, I cannot imagine how that must feel, although I do understand the ache of losing a loved one. Much love to you, Esther xx
I am 12 on the inside.
Liz, 12 was a good year for me and I hope it was for you too! Esther xx
It still is 🙂
I felt 18 until well into my 30s, so I get it. I am always taken with the courage of people like my grandparents who crossed the ocean from Sicily to the US, knowing nothing, not even English. Blessings to you!
That was so very brave! Brenda
My husband’s grandparents immigrated from Ascoli Piceno in Italy to the US too! I cannot imagine moving to a different country without knowing the language. That is really brave! Esther xx