Londoners are in general, stubborn and resilient. We’ve also earned a reputation for being unfriendly, unapproachable and blunt. I’m pretty sure that one of the unwritten rules of the Tube is to never make eye contact, second only to standing on the right of the escalator. Yet, after the events of last night, I’ve witnessed so many open their homes to strangers and try to help the situation in any way that they can. Whether that’s donating blood or providing hot chicken soup, there’s a strong sense of solidarity.
I’ve never known any other home than London. I was born in Kingston upon Thames, went to University in South Kensington and now I work on Oxford Street. Throughout my life so far, albeit I’ve only had 21 years, I’ve lived and loved in this city. One of the things I love most is the teeming diversity of London. In some ways, I’m so glad that I went to University here where I’ve had the chance to mingle with people from all walks of life. (On the other hand, I’m quite crippled with debt now but that’s another blog post.)
The most obvious reaction to fear and events such as these is to blame. Blaming gives evil a face and holds it accountable. In times of panic and fear like this, we want to find answers to the questions. Even though we don’t know what the questions are, and the answers don’t add up. Three attacks in three months means that we are confused, angry and frustrated. We are frustrated as to why this keeps happening and why we are helpless as to how to stop it. It just doesn’t compute that all these atrocities can be happening and for no good reason.
Don’t let this frustration grow into resentment, instead, let it fuel our defiance. We all deal with grief in different ways. Some of us pray, some of us eat so much chocolate that we fall into sugar comas, some of us just cry until our heads spin. No matter how we deal with it, what matters is what we do next. One thing to me is clear, when somebody attacks our people, they are attacking what London represents. These individuals want to break down our tolerance, our respect for our neighbours and our way of life. They want us to turn on each-other and to divide us.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am scared of absolutely bloody everything. My housemates once got me to hide inside a bathroom for the best part of an hour cause they claimed to be holding a spider outside the door. I’m jumpy, and I startle when people touch me. I’m terrified of dark corridors and being left alone outside. Yet, if I let the fear stop me from going out to London and doing what I usually do, then that would be me complying with what they want. I’m just so determined not to be scared this time.
I’m proud to be a Londoner. Londoners might be seen as blunt and unapproachable, but we sure know how to love and learn from each-other. Lacking a sense of belonging is something that I’ve struggled with for most of my life. Yet I know now that I belong here, and I refuse to live in fear and flinch at every step I take. If anything, I will live more boldly and with more conviction than I ever did previously. And of course, I will keep calm and carry on.