Sonia Hadj Said
I never believed that to be a true Londoner one had to be born in London. After all, like Paris and New York City, this is where all the dreamers, artists and misfits go. The anonymity of big cities promise a chance of being whoever you would like to be. In there, it doesn’t matter if you were someone else, if you ran away from something or if you just want to have a fresh start. I like to think this is why there are still so many people descending on the harsh cities that take so much time to come out of shelves and introduce themselves. You can never meet a city properly through the eyes of a tourist, nor would you want to – it would make you think they’re wonderful to live in.
I’ve been here for about five years now and boy, has it been the time of my life. It doesn’t mean I was always having fun. Most of the time it’s hard work, sad realities, big opportunities sliding by and the feeling that everyone has it better – a feeling that is easy to come by when you sit on a bus looking at tipsy people in the middle of a night after a long shift. But just as about everything – these things are only illusions and we never know if others have it better. I really enjoy watching people, the way they dress differently in each areas and listening to their conversations, resisting a strange urge to jump into each and every one of them because there is so much happening around me.
This is where all the dreamers, artists and misfits go
But my love for London doesn’t simply mean that I like to torture myself. When you leave your home at age 19, wherever you go, this place will shape you as an adult. I haven’t arrived in London until I was 21 and if I wanted to look at it differently, I could say it gave me nothing but pain. All these awful jobs! Cleaning, waitressing, bartending, you name it. Shared rooms, shared beds, my own room in a questionable area, part-time jobs that barely pay for full-time passions, expensive transport, loneliness. So why do all these young people come here still? Because.
The way I see it in reality is so much better. The awful jobs that made me a much better and compassionate person, someone strong and willing to go extra mile for things I believe in. The absolute wonder that are strangers I met along the way who became like my family in every sense of it. When your own family is far away and you can’t explain a completely different life that occurs here, you start looking for your people. Ones who understand, who love it and hate it just as much as you do, ones to have wine with at 1 am while complaining about all the struggles, but not even mentioning any other scenario.
‘Would you move out of London if you got something elsewhere?’
My trembling ‘yes’ is a testimony of how I hate leaving London. I can leave it for a week or so to escape the madness, but in the end all wonderfully mad people need the buzz and freedom that comes with a big city. Some will never understand why you would go through all that pain while getting nothing in return. For me, that nothing is: a place I made my home as an adult, place that made me an adult actually, friendships that turned into something much stronger and unbreakable, lessons on poverty and gratefulness for what we have even if it seems nothing, strength to keep pushing, freedom allowing me to live life without explaining it to anyone. Yes, I’m a slave for London. I tend to hate it, kick it, detest it, but most of all, I thank it.