In the two days between coming home from my best friends wedding and boarding a plane to London for security training, stuff happened. A significant relationship ended, a dear family friend passed on, and one of my best friends told me they would be moving several states away in about a months time.
It was one of those times that tears don’t suffice, so you stop crying and live with this hollow achy feeling instead. The reality was I was leaving in 48 hours, sad or not. My heart shut off, and autopilot kicked in. I packed my bags and did what I could to ready myself.
I would be spending 4 days by myself exploring London, and then another 4 days getting trained on what to do if I am caught in crossfire, find myself in a minefield, or people are trying to kidnap me. As much as I wanted to buck up and be excited- it seemed like the next 8 days were designed to remind me of how alone I felt.
I boarded a plane to London with about 100 fifth graders, and I prayed. I asked God to prepare people for me to meet. I prayed that I could just cross paths with a friendly face or two. I just didn’t want to feel completely alone, even if I was.
Despite my complete lack of sleep from the night before (Can you blame the 5th graders for their excitement? They were pretty precious…) I found my way on the tube, and navigated to the hostel where I’d be staying.
Armed with a guidebook, an itinerary from a knowledgeable friend, and an oyster card, I began to explore the city. Each night back at the hostel, a few of my roommates and I shared about what we had seen and done that day. One girl had taken her first plane to London from Montreal, and was staying two weeks by herself. It was comforting to know I wasn’t the only one traveling alone.
Over the next few days, I found myself empowered and excited at the prospect of navigating a brand new city and transit system by myself. By the end of my 4 days, I had this bubbling sense of childish pride. “Look at what I did! All by myself!” Instead of being sentenced to being alone, I was making my own way in a new place.
The next chapter of my journey was security training, and I knew that would be difficult, regardless of how I felt.
The people I met in the security training were from (quite literally) all over the world and had some of the most fascinating life stories. Every night some of us would gather at the local pub and talk about what we’d learned, working in the humanitarian sector, and life.
One girl I met was about my age, also worked in communications, and had also recently gone through a break up as well. We mostly chatted about pop culture, life in London, and what dog breeds are the cutest puppies. In the wake of heavy things, light conversation was a welcome relief.
One night during my security training, I was feeling a bit homesick, and missing my garden. I do realize that sounds a bit silly, but it’s the one thing I do consistently for my own peace of mind. So I walked across the street to get a close look at a particularly beautiful garden I’d been eying earlier that day.
A group of women were gathering at the training facility for a knitting group. As I walked back across the street, a woman around my grandmothers age approached me. She asked if I was interested in gardening (yessss!) and informed me that it was her garden I had been admiring.
We chatted about the currants, tomatoes, and asparagus she was growing, and how weeds can be so difficult. It was nice to know that someone else found peace in the same place I did: digging in the dirt and watching things grow.
Reflecting back on my time in the UK I see how my prayers were answered in a really beautiful way. Most of the people I met didn’t know anything about what was going on in my life back home. But that didn’t matter. In the midst of my loss, it was nice to know that people, even strangers, are capable of caring for one another.