‘If you think you’re cool when you’re a first year commuter then you really have another thing coming!’
Some words of wisdom I received from my third year boyfriend (far too early on in our relationship), which shoved me into a reevaluation of my social standing within the university hierarchy. Up to this point I had naively thought being a Londoner would award me some enviable ‘home turf’ intimidation points. Apparently not. Tube map apps and the Time Out website selfishly robbed me of any advantage I had over un-Londoners at QM. Staying in London for university seemed like a no brainer but there are times when I’ve felt like I’ve been robbed of the daunting excitement of choosing London, rather than being dealt it.
A few pretentious people I chose to spend my time with (when I was a younger and shallower reflection of myself), used ‘London’ as a reliable adjective. Examples such as ‘I know this bar that is uber London’ and ‘that top isn’t very London’, were thrown at me regularly. This empty description came to encapsulate an ambiguous concept that I yearned to be a part of. If living in London couldn’t constitute a membership into this elite club, then what could? I assumed going to university in the big smoke would up my ‘London’ cred, but still I feel unconvinced on what the criteria are.
My first year as a commuter and I saw myself as a picture of student London. Weekly travel card in hand and a bag way too heavy for a commute, I bustled my way to campus day in, day out. An hour of diminished personal space and a face full of germs, this is ‘London’. Reading a studious book on the tube turned in to listening to Taylor Swift as a last desperate bid to reconsider kicking the person in fronts massive travel bag onto the tracks. This is ‘London’, right?
The hometowners in university come few and far between. I wondered how I was suppose to learn the trait of being ‘London’ from all these intruders? Surely it is my duty to teach them the meaning behind the tourist attractions, but I felt like I was caught up in a whirlwind of underground maps and Metro’s. They didn’t seem to be worrying about the reliability of the northern line, or the sprained ankle they acquired whilst running for the last train.
I learnt in my first year that there is no wrestling London to the floor and claiming ownership of all it embodies. It’s something that sweeps you up and affects everyone completely differently. Anyone narrow minded enough to pigeon-hole London into a niche characteristic is missing the point of what it means to live in a city with such dimension. I also came to realise that anyone who chose to be in London had the potential to be equally as generous in what they gave back to the city as us lot who had no bloody choice about the matter. (She says in her cockneyest accent).