My aunt had to teach me how to wrap a scarf around my neck again some weeks ago. Yup, I’m back in England.
Hopped on the bus at Wilmslow Road, jumped off for uni at Oxford Road, then went past Oxford Street for a night out later on. Wilmslow Road, Oxford Road, Oxford Street. The name changes along the way, but it’s one main road down the centre of Manchester, that I used to zoom up and down every single day. This is where I spent my first two years of uni.
Familiarity is a hell of a thing. Routine, comfortable and easy…but unstimulated. I didn’t notice it until I decided to leave England to do my year abroad (“decided”…my brother told me I had no choice and that I had to do it). Yes, I went through the first few lonely/awkward weeks…like every other exchange student who felt the same even if they didn’t show it. But the people I met and the places I went, no matter how short-lived they were, have really left something special with me.
I started to understand my life as a journey (no cheesy-ness intended). Being approached by a Muslim man in a Singapore mosque one Saturday, having a 2 hour conversation with him, finding out he had recently read the book I was reading, and tearing up together after relating in ways I cannot really put into words. Just tiny realisations and guidance in the direction I wanted to take my life.
I had friends for a single semester that I feel closer to than people I’ve now known for more than three years.
…and soooo many more that I have not and will not forget. My friend, who was also on exchange in Singapore (Hi Paul), put it perfectly the other day. He said the people he met there were more interested in the ‘Why’ rather than the ‘What’.
I’ve settled back into Manchester life, zooming up and down Oxford Road again. But this time I understand that familiarity will only keep me unstimulated if I allow it to.