Writing from the plane to Newark
Transitioning back feels equally alien and effortless. My mind adjusted to the streets of Bloomsbury after a few days; the storefronts and people working inside of them began to look familiar, Connaught Hall began to be referenced as “home.” My body felt that it became part of the city. The ebb and flow of the traffic navigated me down and across the streets.
I’ve always been fascinated with cities and how you can walk around for hours and forget your identity. At the crosswalks, the ground tells you which way to look for oncoming traffic and the lights tell you to “WAIT,” the green man tells you when to go. Familiarity with the streets makes thinking about where to go or if you’ll get lost obsolete. One of the excursions we went on, the Mrs. Dalloway Walk, helped me understand Clarissa’s journey and just how far she traveled throughout the novel. Right in he beginning of the novel, Clarissa is walking down Piccadilly, where “she would not say of any one in the world now that they were this or were that. She felt very young; at the same time unspeakably aged,” and then later on,” did it matter that she must inevitably cease completely; all this must go on without her; did she resent it; or did it not become consoling to believe that death ended absolutely?’ Throughout her she feels she embodies different ages and contemplates identity in the singular and the plural. She passed by many areas that were filled with people (I’d say crowded, but that sounds like there were big clumps of people. In some places there were, but for the most part the areas were simply populated) which fascinated both Clarissa in the novel and myself during the walk. I identify with Clarissa because walking has been one of the ways I’ve dealt with my anxiety and general stress in the world, for it helps me escape unwanted thoughts and situations that I cannot handle. Walking in London allowed me to forget everything going on at home and let go of my identity, at least for a little while.
Now on the plane going home, my identity is becoming increasingly present. The anonymity London provided me with is slipping away as we get closer to Newark and the weight of my identity at home is returning. And as my identity begins to pressure me, the routine of my daily life at home runs through my thoughts. I contemplate whether or not I’ll be too jet lagged to wake up at my usual time of 9:30, did my mother remember to buy me a new gallon of 1% milk, should I throw in a load of laundry before my morning shower or after? Realizing that routine is consuming my thoughts during this transition, I make the connection to Henry Perowne in Saturday transitioning from watching a tragedy (having a life changing experience) to moving right back into the routine of daily life. Perowne watches a plane crash on its way to Heathrow airport and while contemplating the horror of the occurrence, begins to wonder if he will be called into work and has flashbacks of his previous week at work. Regardless of the incredible, traumatic experience in front of him, the monotonous routine of daily life takes over. We discussed how peculiar it is that Henry almost instantaneously considers his monotonous daily routine during and after the plane crash, but now I catch myself doing something similar. Granted, my mind is returning to the routine after an incredible journey, not a horrific plane crash, but the connection is still evident.
One of the main lessons I learned in London that has become evident during this transition is not directly tied back to the topic of the course, yet is still important. My mind and body almost instantly identified with London, from understanding the Tube to crossing the street, to being aware of various historical and modern sites and becoming one with the group. I won’t say that I became a true Londoner or fit in completely, but for a brief two weeks, my mind and body felt that I did. And now, how easily my self is transitioning back home isn’t that shocking based on how easily is transitioned to London. Maybe that’s how this all ties into transnational identities. I sort of feel at home in London and I sort of feel at home in Smithtown, New York. Why is that? What does that say about the spaces and how my mind and body occupied them? Possibly it has to do with the fact that cities definitely have some familiar qualities, maybe it’s because I could understand the language in both areas. I’m still working on understanding it though.