Adjusting to London – chapter 6

It occurs to me that this constant process of negotiating my own social situatedness (I’ve been reading a lot of academic books about researcher identity lately!) in London may not be, as I’d imagined, about settling in and adjusting. Maybe this is what life in London is all about.

Yesterday I saw some friends. They’re new-ish friends but I really enjoy their company and I hope that the friendship grows. This is not the first time I meet them, but I confess I can’t remember all of their names. I remember some of their names but not all. It was informal hanging-out, the kind of thing at which we already know each other, you know? No need for introductions. As the evening came to a close it felt good: comfortable in a way I hadn’t felt for a while. Maybe this is what life is going to be about in this big city: enjoying the company of people whose names I don’t remember but with whom I’m pretty sure I’ll get along well. This is the level of connectivity I can hope for. This is it.

So, if that’s the case, it will indeed be a constant, neverending process of situating myself, of negotiating my place in this society. This sounds familiar. My research was with people who lived in the same city their whole lives but who had decided not to live their lives like their families. From the moment they made that decision, life became about situating and about negotiating. Every day they had to invest a great deal of energy into asking: who are my friends? what is appropriate social engagement? what should I share openly and what should I keep to myself? Perhaps life in London is destined to be the same, by virtue of my anonymity, by virtue of the fact I’m not from here, by virtue of the diversity of this grand town.

Maybe that grand ambition of being known, truly known, and knowing others, truly knowing others… maybe that’s not a fair ambition. Maybe London is about reveling in the journey, never actually arriving at the destination.

This is not all bad. This is what I’m good at and have spent the last decade of my life doing. I can handle it. But it leaves me wondering if there’s not something more, something missing…

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