It was the 14:25 Heathrow to Copenhagen British Airways flight.
I was seated in the BA lounge, a little luxury courtesy of a family members frequent flyer perks. The BA lounge is usually a playground for me- people watching, a perfect writing table with my journal, and all the cocktails/wine/diet soda my bladder can handle before take off. This time, however, the experience was two dimensional. I made a Bloody Mary with a side of prosecco to calm my nerves and perhaps get me excited, but it didn’t work. I stared at the empty brown papers of my open journal with dismay. I didn’t know how I felt- perhaps because it was so alien at the time I could not fathom how to transcribe it, even to my own journal.
As mentioned before, I had met a particularly lovely gentleman in May. We had three encounters within the last week I had in the UK before working in America for three months, and we didn’t exchange a message until I was in Philadelphia airport about to get my flight to Heathrow. My time in America had been tough, and indeed my behaviour regrettable. It’s fair to say I was a little reckless, rebellious and indulgent of inhibitions in a bid for both friendship and drowning the grief of losing my Grandfather, my father figure, my best friend.
Coming back to UK, I had no idea what the heck to do with myself. I knew I needed to reign things in substantially (the classic saying, get one’s shit together springs to mind). Eager still to explore and travel, I applied for a role at a hostel I’d stayed in back in 2015 which cropped up on my facebook feed. Didn’t think it through in logical detail: it simply gave me a month at home, but it mentioned social media/marketing opportunities for a hostel chain in Copenhagen and was well paid. Marvellous.
The month was full of recovery (I’d broken my nose at the end of the America trip), family, some freelance work, and spending more and more time with the particularly lovely gentleman. The apprehension for falling for someone was intense, my last boyfriend had left me a soggy and unstable mess for a substantial amount of time (but hey, doesn’t everyone’s these days?) and the trip to Copenhagen was looming day by day. Before we knew it, we were cussing how much we had accidentally fallen for each other. He said, let’s make Copenhagen work. I agreed. There was a fire in my heart about the connection, and we felt so at ease and comfortable with each other at rapid speed.
The few days before Copenhagen were the worst. I didn’t want to leave, and felt it would be acid on a blossoming opportunity. He was kind and spoke about which weekends he could visit and vice versa, underplaying it with style to reassure me.
But at the airport on 3rd October, the blank pages in the BA lounge spoke for themselves. I could feel my heart pounding and stomach was riddled with nausea, the move didn’t feel right. Traveling and working abroad wasn’t new so it wasn’t those familiar excited nerves. It was the particularly lovely gentleman. I didn’t want this. I didn’t want Copenhagen- not now.
I arrived to the hostel in Copenhagen, and I’d never been so relieved for a job to go so awry. I shan’t dwell on the details, but let’s just say it was far from ideal- or livable. On the first night I cried in the cold top bunk ten inches from the ceiling, feeling pathetic and wondering what to do. My gut screamed, go home. My epic fear of failure led me to pursue this, that giving up was not an option. But I knew- this wasn’t worth it. The hangover of October 3rd was monstrous, the only solace found the following day in a local Scottish pub where the Guinness’ were 9£ but the company was familiar. I messaged my particularly lovely gentleman, who assured me it was teething problems and to stick it out.
The following day, after another 6am long shift inclusive of unsanitary tasks, I was at breaking point. My colleagues mocked me, I had no sleep, I was being yelled at by the worst backpackers on the map and then had to clean up their literal shit. I pined for each message from my gentleman, they gave me the buzz I needed. He was asking when he could come see me now I had a rota. I couldn’t wait.
My mothers’ partner is ex-military, and subsequently awfully pragmatic. I coined him my overseas logistics. Not wanting to worry my mother, I explained what was going on to him. He told me he could get me back with his BA connections, he booked a flight home for October 6th after my next shift.
My post shift time came, I was mentally exhausted from another night of no sleep, bullying from my colleagues, being shouted at by guests and being hands and knees with cleaning products. It felt surreal. My mother’s’ partner walked me through the whole escape, from packing to discreetly leaving and making it to the airport. As someone with a chronic anxiety disorder, that lifeline was a crutch in those hours.
In the BA lounge at Copenhagen, I was violently sick with nerves, shaking, and visibly stood out among the business men who occupied the area. It was one of those complete IDGAF moments. I finally poured into my journal, emptied by emotions, how relieved I was the opportunity dived. How much I wanted to see my particularly lovely gentleman again. So soon we’d come to fall for each other, to then have found myself craving his comfort so heavily. As a very independent person, it was awfully unsettling. But in that tsunami of emotion, I knew, that’s how you know it’s right.
The next day, October 7th, I coordinated with one of my gentleman’s friends as to where they would be that night. I entered the pub, the same we had met in, and tapped his shoulder. He turned around completely unsuspecting, and his eyes said it all.
Typically, when you look back on this time a year ago, we often feel where did that time go? It surely hasn’t been a year! yet to me it feels the opposite. My gentleman and I have had a whirlwind year, and on October 3rd this year instead of saying goodbye we flew back from Kiev in Ukraine, a surprise trip I booked for our anniversary. We go to Pula in Croatia in two weeks, and have an apartment in Amsterdam for the two of us to have our first Christmas alone together. It was inspired by our stunning trip to Amsterdam in March, which came off the back of our debut dream trip to Slovenia. Perhaps it’s the natural change that comes in your mid twenties, perhaps it’s the stability and emotional maturity developed through this new found strength in a solid relationship; perhaps it is the grieving process playing out its card of time.
Looking back on October 3rd 2017, it’s a far cry from who I am exactly one year on- in all the good ways. (My mum agrees, I haven’t broken a bone since.) For this I am grateful, that on October 3rd 2017 that writers block spoke for itself. My head and heart were resisting each other. When London became a distant glowworm from the clouds, they finally agreed- there were two ways life could go now. And I chose the right one.
I handed the rebellion Copenhagen symbolised back to passport control as a memory, and found my better self.