I just returned from a long overdue trip to London. Since my early twenties I have traveled there once or twice every year, and I nearly relocated there eight years ago. Over the last few years, a series of events has prevented me from making regular trips to my other home. Family-friends and pockets of my research live there, and it was nourishing for my heart and brain to finally make the journey.
My first trip to London was at age 23. Winding streets, customary tea, flowered B&B curtains, skyscapes of grey clouds hanging low over bright white buildings—some historically old and some distinctly new—are all vivid memories. One treasured memory of that maiden voyage was sitting in the Southbank Centre where I was drinking tea and diving into a copy of Wallpaper magazine. It was a fairly new periodical at that time. If you are unfamiliar with the publication, Wallpaper curates a view of travel, leisure, design, and lifestyle. Its feature articles are about the distinct styles and creativity of people and places. The photography makes you want to step into those worlds…for a day or a lifetime. My perspective greatly shifted on that day, and a tone was set for how I wanted to live my life as an artist and thinker. I defined specific dreams, goals, and possible pathways.
The city, the tea, and the reading material made it possible.
I am extraordinarily comfortable in my skin when in London. I also feel I am able to meet again with the young woman who created her vision on the banks of the Thames. Each time I visit I pick up where I left off with her. My customary way to reconnect is to walk back and forth across the varied and spectacular bridges over the Thames River until I zig-zag my way to the Southbank Centre for tea and contemplation. What dreams have I honored by taking steps towards them? What have I forgotten and should prioritize again with renewed energy and focus? What must remain a dream?
When I returned to London recently, I needed my walking meditation more than ever. I even considered buying a Wallpaper magazine to complete the experience, but did not (more on this part of the tale later). In the last few years, my path has greatly shifted from what that young woman had once imagined. Some experiences have been wonderful surprises and some have been deep disappointments. Usually, I pull her vision forward and compare it to my current situation. On this occasion, I was also broadening her vision to include aspects of my present experience. There are some developments that would certainly have met her approval. I felt like my past and present were in conversation. The contents of that conversation are not of importance, but it was an intense experience. I came home with work to do and dreams—old and new—to honor. I brought a little of her with me, and I left a little of my present-day self there for the next visit.
We often speak of time chronologically in the order of past-present-future, but there are so many theories in quantum physics that explain how time actually moves in both directions. When we make choices, interact with others, and tend to emotional situations, we are not only affecting our future, but also our past. Doesn’t that open up possibilities to be more patient with our present selves?
If our present day can alter our experience in both directions, then perhaps we can take the pressure off ourselves to make the “right” decision or the “best” decision today. Perhaps we can allow our daily life a certain fluidity, knowing that another moment will present itself when we can edit, revisit, question, or redirect. It certainly allows us to take more risks. Furthermore, we do not lose the ability to remember a day or a time or a place that inspired a dream. Those moments are worth carrying forward with us. And sometimes those past definitions can be broadened to include our present day and future dreams too.
You can look at every book you read, every place you visit, every person you meet as a potential partner in writing your life story:
Have you ever read a book that transports you to another place or time familiar enough that you could step into the pages to live there? Have you ever traveled somewhere and felt alive and open because you were able to access a freedom of spirit you don’t access at home? Do you notice that you shift into a slightly different yet familiar version of yourself when you are there? Do new people in your life allow you to discover dormant aspects of your personality? Do you ever wake up and find yourself deeply connected to the places of your dreams that it takes time to find your bearings again?
With such fun questions to contemplate, this is where this post could naturally end. But there is one last tale to tell.
I did not buy a copy of Wallpaper magazine to accompany me that day for tea on the river. Additionally, I resisted the urge to buy a copy at the airport for my flight home to NYC a few days later. I had to laugh, though, when I arrived to my gate early and found on the seat behind me a lone complimentary issue of Wallpaper. Of course, I dove right in and brought it home with me as a souvenir. At that point, how could I resist? Yet, the tale still does not end there. A week after I returned to NYC, and London was a distant memory, I was waiting in line at Whole Foods. Right next to me was a single issue of Wallpaper magazine, thrown on top of a stack of impulse-buy chocolate.
It seems the magazine was a time-traveling signal from my London self, wanting to keep the conversation going. And so I am.
Is there a time or place calling you into contact with another part of yourself? How can you inform the present by reflecting on how that space takes you into past or future time? Or vice versa?
- TaraMarie Perri