The right places


There’s something almost spiritually invigorating about ending up in the same place twice without meaning to. Especially when it’s a place you never thought you’d end up twice. More so when it’s a place you never expected to make it to once.

The first time I came to London, it was for a band trip in high school — the kind of trip where everything is planned down to what you’ll order from what menu at what restaurant on what day, but everyone pretends to have agency and free will anyway, and so aggressively chaperoned that if you make an accidental wrong turn, someone’s mom or granddad will have gently ushered you back into place before you even realize where you misstepped. We visited seven countries in roughly two weeks, staying in the same place for no more than three days.

For whatever reason — or maybe a nice cocktail of naivete and crippling self-doubt — I convinced myself the whole trip that it was one of a handful of shots I’d ever have to see somewhere besides Southern Indiana. I soaked up every sight and enjoyed every place as if I would never see it again.

So fast forward three years and some change — including the utter dismay of the day I got my rejection letter to the scholarship program that would’ve guaranteed me a spot on The Media School’s London trip, the day I stubbornly (and hopefully) applied anyway and the day I got my acceptance email (and then snuck out of a Quantum Mechanics lecture to call my mom and cry in the rain about it) — and lo and behold, I found myself not only in London again, but wandering through familiar places.

And yes, it was a joy to see the sights again — Big Ben, the Eye, Westminster, Buckingham and every other tourist spot with a name so singularly British it sounds like parody — but I found myself most moved by two in particular.

On the second day of my trip, after my roommate accidentally woke me up at an ungodly hour and despite the fact that I was still in the throes of a nasty battle with jet lag, I practice-ran my Tube route to work and decided to walk around the city on my own. It took me until a few feet before the sign marked “Victoria Embankment Gardens” to realize that my path was taking me directly to the venue where my high school concert band performed back in 2016.

It was a nice moment of misty-eyed reminiscence and reflection, and a preface to the day earlier this week when my internship supervisor told me I’d be attending a press day for a gallery at the Barbican, which just so happens to be the hotel I stayed in three years ago.

Instantly, a tidal wave of nostalgia came rushing in. I looked through pictures in my camera roll from the three cloudy days I spent in that hotel three years ago, and then up at the clear blue sky that backlit it today. I thought about how much has changed since then, and how here I was doing something I love in a place I love even more; happy, free.

Whoever the metaphorical “they” in all those old sayings is cares an awful lot about right places and right times, but maybe some places are just right, no matter the time.