My love for you kindled years ago, the first time I visited on a cold November day as a child in the 3rd grade. I remember how the younger me, who loved traveling but was always glad to be going back home to Istanbul, was in a silent woe as she got onto the escalator that dragged her into the underground on the last day of my trip. It was the first time I had felt such gloom for leaving a city that wasn’t my hometown. For the first time, I actually wanted to stay and not return home.
During the years I was away visiting other cities, New York may have cajoled me into a love affair, and Istanbul may have blurred my vision with its salty smell of the sea, but I rejoice that I finally found my way back to you.
Last year when I moved here, I wasn’t exactly glad to be with you because you were the reason I was away from all my friends, you were the place I was forced to call home although I was still a tourist tiptoe-ing around the streets. My loneliness was overbearing, sorrowful, and miserable. Yet at my worst time, my lowest point, you conquered my world and made me feel like I belong.
The first time I left my house to wander was during Clerkenwell Week 2017 in May. On that stunning sunny day, I discovered the beauty of Shroderitch. I went into streets I had never been to before as a tourist and saw the artful, creative potential you hold very close to your heart. Of course, my revelations didn’t stop there, you kept disclosing more of your admirable character to me with every passing day.
The day I went to Bermondsey for the first time to attend an architecture tour of the neighborhood during London Festival of Architecture in June, my heart was bursting with inspiration. I recall standing in front of one of the many micro-breweries built inside the railway arches, in complete awe. As the train raced above the day-drinkers before me, everyone trembled with joy, laughing and cheering on.
Needless to say, that day was one of many just as delightful times we spent together. Wandering inside the City Hall, accidentally coming across Parasol Unit gallery, visiting Zaha Hadid’s architecture office and exhibition, attending RIBA Sterling Prize presentations, devouring Turkish food at Haringey, taking a walk in Richmond, and spending endless hours at Southbank are several of our memorable moments. I also have to thank you for conveniently placing whimsical ‘coincidences’ for me such as that small recruitment notice at Tate Modern that lead to me becoming a volunteer at the museum and that last discounted Hamlet ticket for the play at Harold Pinter Theatre.
Not only your never-ending abundance of opportunities but also your overwhelmingly welcoming attitude made my falling in love with you inevitable. I admire how you’ve become home for people from all continents; you’re almost like a distinct country, a utopia whose citizens are not Brits but simply Londoners. The way you embrace differences as diversity and accept it as an enriching factor in your idiosyncratic culture rather than trying to impose a uniform identity is exemplary. You accept your fragmented nature and by doing so, manage to maintain yourself as a wholesome city. I hope someday, all cities, countries, and people can learn from you.
But above all, I love and admire your art. You are where the heart of the art world is beating with your galleries and museums literally on every street corner! I don’t think I have yet grasped the range of art you possess so I cannot wait to unveil the rest of your hidden gems.
London, thank you for accepting me as I was and surrounding me with an unbelievable abundance of opportunities that would transform me into the person I wanted to become, the person I am today. I found myself while meandering your graceful streets, chasing inspiration from one exhibition to another.
Although life may do as part, you will always remain to be the home of my soul; the place where I can unwind, get inspired and truly be myself.
One of the many Londoners you lovingly provide for
x x x