by Diana Rusu
In 2010, a group of Dutch researchers led by Dr. Jaap Peen found that living in a city doubles the risk of schizophrenia; urban living was also in charge of raising the risk of anxiety (by 21%) and mood disorders (by 39%). Whilst these brilliant minds are so interested in the effects of city life over human beings, I can't say my mental health has been deteriorated by the city where a group of architecture students in the mid 60's, were secretly rehearsing their music in a tearoom, in a basement on Regent Street.
It's been a few d̶a̶y̶s̶ weeks since I left this draft unfinished, open like something on the operation table; until today, when I tried to remember what was it that I wanted to write about.
Don't ask me what I was doing in 2010. What did my dreams look like, Where - oh wait. I could probably tell you where I was. Travelling from one city to another, starting up my masters degree in Romania and not having a burning desire of moving abroad. On the contrary, perhaps, when I had the opportunity to study for a good six months in la belle France, I felt so overwhelmed with the happiness of being there, with (what seemed to me) the miracle of being able to study contemporary literature and art with the support of extraordinary tutors. Overwhelmed by the amount of things I could learn, my way of thinking changed with the speed and drive I never have experienced in terms of education, from school to uni, in my country. It looked so much like a dream, that I rejected its reality. I wanted to go back to my small town, to my friends and family.
Little did I know my life was going to *dramatically* change again when I embarked on a one way flight to London.
Probably most of my friends grew up watching shows such as Sex and the City. The early blogging, the strong female characters, a mad city, diversity, careers, fashion and everything in between. I mean, how could you not fall in love with it? It was one of the phenomena that inspired me to break down gender and all sorts of stereotypes. Also, my fantasies of discovering a different place were quietly growing every day. And when I say different, I know I was a sucker for diversity. But diversity as I knew it in my small hometown and later in my university city, was nothing compared to the Big City that was going to steal my heart, at 28.
As I became more conscious of my states of wonder and of what captured my attention, I thought there might be some sort of addiction, a Big City addiction so to speak, and I began to wonder if there are other people out there like me, if there is a way of getting over it or if you simply have to accept it and live with it. Because, when you move to London, it's like something hits you in the face. You can often question your own feelings and maybe get to a denial stage. And when it comes to leaving London, the struggle is real, I would say similar to drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms, for some. Just to let you know, I hear you, sister. It's ok. I don't know if my words will come in handy one day, but here's what I learned so far.
The 5 signs I was addicted to a big city
1. The culture addict
I wanted to be able to visit a different gallery/ museum every week, go to a different venue and see a different show/ discover a different garden/ park every weekend. This wasn't so much goal oriented as it was like a thirsty beast had awaken in me, ready to drink all that London juice like a drunk teenager at a beer pong party. I did try my best to keep up with the ever changing cultural scene of the city. The best thing was, though, the fact that I had the freedom to decide when and where to be, at every step, and always find something inspiring.
2. Eating became a learning experience
I would eat Chinese today, Italian next week, Korean the next one, and so on. This fueled my creativity in the kitchen as well as testing my limits and stepping on my feet. At first, I didn't mind travelling for an hour to get to a restaurant if the place really interested me. Then, over time, I learned how to find the gems nearby, but still didn't mind waiting for up to half an hour to get a table. Some would call this habit time and money consuming, but for me, it was something quite unique, something that reached deep inside my guts to the little girl that was not scared of seeing what's inside the wolf's belly.
3. A lesson of positive thinking
In the big city, my work, effort and talent were appreciated. I was not judged. As a genderqueer, I felt welcomed into the world. One would assume this is normal in any civilized country, but anywhere in Romania, this isn't the case. In London, people are way more open, but you already know that.
4. I cannot breathe in a place that has no diversity
Diversity is an invincible super-power and we can only accept, embrace and surrender to it. Just like breathing is a basic human function, being surrounded by diversity is to me a basic human need. London is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world, with more than 300 languages spoken within its territory. Many of us have crossed the streets of a big city, enjoying the cultural diversity in all its splendor; when living there, I felt like I was made up of all the roads people have taken to get to London. And I didn't want to get used to it or take it for granted.
After all, you never know what passage way to a different world the next street is going to be.
5. I wanted to measure time in my own way
Finally, I realized that not only I had my freedom, but I could also measure time in my own way, no matter if I had a job or not. Time could flow from the very end to the beginning, with glimpses of unknown, un-lived memories. With the feeling that, if I once had a deja-vu, I saw myself in the future seeing myself in a past life. The future was this very moment in the present time, myself having limitless love and all sorts of emotions, and that past life, well, that must have been this overwhelming experience of living in a city without boundaries.