I do know. I am very healthily aware that this year in London is something undeniably precious. I count my seconds in pounds, in dollars, in daylight, in opportunities, in the distance from home and the distance to places I might yet go. I am lucky for so much, even though I know hard work has a hand in it, too.
Today is the first day my brain has been quiet in weeks. At a crosswalk on Denmark Street earlier today, I was judging whether I could run across the asphalt or wait for the little green man, and realized with a start that that was the entirely of my thought processes. I wasn't nervously planning my next course of action or thinking six steps ahead. My breathing was normal, relaxed even. It was sunny enough to wear my new sunglasses (the first I've bought for myself in about a decade or more), and I could feel the sun warming my skin. I felt light.
So I know I'm lucky. I'm lucky that I had a small break today from projects that have been pulling me in a hundred different directions; I called off work placement because I was so worried something would happen while I was locked away in the office (an amazing office filled with kind people and so much art). In recompense, I promised to investigate visitor feedback at a museum in London for them, and a friend had recommended an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery south of the Thames.
For about eight hours yesterday I transcribed a lecture by Gerald Scarfe, who's the brilliant mind behind the unique style for Disney's Hercules, but my ears ached from wearing headphones for so long and I actually pretended I was an operator during the Blitz trying to decode enemy broadcasts to amuse myself. My neck hurt and I actually lunged out of bed this morning with a charlie-horse (this means a leg cramp, for my non-American/Canadian friends!) because I'd remained so pin straight while taking down the lecture word for word. So this morning I worked out, even though it felt like maybe I was going to die. I did an eye shadow tutorial, and stretched, and styled my hair and put on an outfit that sort of makes me look like an 1800s school teacher on top, urban neon city kid on bottom. In London you're allowed to do things like that.
I don't usually like modern art, but today I gave it a try. London ended up being in the mid-fifties and so, so sunny--especially so because we have a winter storm warning for the remaining weekend. I saw some really thought-provoking stuff by Andreas Gurksey; and walked across the Thames all the way to Denmark Street, buying a bottle of soju (Korean liquor I've wanted to try) for my flatmate's birthday in Chinatown, visiting the five-stories-high Foyles bookstore and promising myself I'll buy The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage graphic novel from somewhere cheaper, and finding baggy 80s windbreakers in a thrift store and inwardly perishing because they were too expensive for me to buy at the moment. But man, they were so choice. I think the guy at the till saw my hope implode.
Pretty much between crossing the Thames and popping out of Charing Cross near Shaftsbury (which leads into Leicester Square, where you can squirm your way into Chinatown), I only had a vague idea where I was. I took a white tunnel which surely would've looked menacing at nighttime and whistled so the echoes followed me. In the bookstore, this guy and I accidentally followed each other from the same shelf of travel guides to the graphic novels. I purposely walked down a street of really good restaurants know full well it's Lent and I can't eat meat.
It's still sunny outside. I get to celebrate a birthday later tonight with chocolate cake I made, drinks, and friends, and I'm so calm it's like the eye of a storm. Tomorrow brings formatting sessions for an accursed project on fifty-three bones with basically no provenance, and I'll have to go back to being a groggy, stress-shaking grad student again, but I'm so thankful and lucky for today. I'm lucky. I know. X
♡ Official website of Rachael Kosinski, 23.