When my world fell about when I was 25, and everything I had known – my partner, my flat, my life – disintegrated, I did what we all do when that right of passage relationship breaks down: I cut all my hair off and went on an adventure.
But my adventure wasn’t in India or Thailand or anywhere that involved possessing money or belonging to second home-owning parents. My adventure began in a room for one with a single bed, three exposed walls, underneath the bathroom, next to the kitchen, in a house of four other excitable 20something girls. I didn’t sleep or eat much. But I met a lot of people – especially boys and I went out and danced and danced and danced.
And then I realised I needed to sleep and eat so I moved out and that’s when the real adventure began: I moved to south London.
When I moved down to south London, I carved out a new patch in my life, a new chapter. I threw away everything familiar and became a different version of me
This may not sound far. It was 45 minutes in a van. But my move to that attic in that corner of south east London remains one the most life affirming things I’ve ever done. It was my flag in the ground, it was my postcode, it was my life that I had built on my own. I was responsible for me and only me and I was pretty proud of myself. I shopped for furniture in flea markets and lined the living room walls with books and my flatmate’s grandmother’s chaise lounge. We couldn’t fit much else in but it really didn’t matter. My flatmate was in a similar boat to me and we might as well have had Noah and some animals in there too –we were starting over.
And that is true adventure. Yes, a couple of months in foreign places is exciting – eyes are opened, horizons are broadened, opinions evolve, outlooks change and ambitions switch. Yes, strange tastes and smells and faces make us feel alive and travelled and experienced. And this is exceptionally valuable.
But starting a whole bit of your life again – there’s no adventure quite like that. When I moved to Amsterdam and lived there for two years, I had a daily adventure, learning the ways of another city so much so that I momentarily could pass as one of them; drink where they drink, know what they know, understand the invisible clogs that made their city tick.
And when I moved down to south London, I carved out a new patch in my life, a new chapter. I threw away everything familiar and became a different version of me. If I’m honest, I think I intentionally moved away from my best friends (sorry, Moll), because I wanted that experience to be mine – I wanted the adventure to be total.
And now I’ve just done it again. After a brief foray back to north London, a few weeks ago I put all my belongings in a van and moved back to south London, another 45 minute drive, another corner again. And this time, I started the adventure with someone else. We started this chapter together, we went in search of a new local pub together, we learned to turn on the boiler together.
And the adventure starts again. New postcode, new you. Postcodes are as much of an identity in London as the trainers you wear or the podcasts you profess to listen to. We live and die by them in this silly city where the stakes are so high but for reasons people don’t really know. And so we nervously try on our new postcode, we slowly stumble round the new streets, we wonder who the neighbours are, we wonder who we are now that we live that neighbourhood.
And we’ve entered the new chapter – the one where we don’t just talk about Obamacare or chief mouser, Larry or S-Town but where we talk about bills and washing and bins, too.
And you remember that every adventure comes with a cliff edge and you hope you remember well enough how to avoid falling over the edge, how to stay on track, how to stay in the adventure and how to remember to keep having adventures.