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precarious since 1997 | by maryann johanson

so I didn’t need to move to London at all? (yes, I really did)

That thing that I wrote about breaking all my habits and routines when I up and moved to London? Somewhere along the way over the past few months, the realization snuck up on me that everything I’ve been doing to get both my personal and professional lives out of the rut they’d been in — which was the reason I came to London in the first place — are things I could have easily done in New York.

I joined Meetup.com in order to meet new people and make new friends… and Meetup.com is actually based in New York City. I’ve been reaching out to Web pros and business coaches, talking shop with the kind of people who can hopefully help me figure out why this site isn’t doing as well as it should be doing… and there are certainly such people I could have spoken to in New York.
It simply had never occurred to me to do these things back home.

So I didn’t need to come to London at all.

Except I did. I really really did.

I did have an inkling, before I left New York, that making such a huge change as moving to another city in another country on another continent would be good for shaking things up and helping me see things — everything — in a fresh way. I knew that learning new stuff would kickstart my brain in ways I couldn’t predict. But I was wrong about which kinds of new stuff I’d learn would be the driver of that. I was really looking forward to learning how to drive a car with a stick shift, from the right side of the car on the lefthand side of the road. I sincerely believed this would be the one thing that would get some dormant part of my brain working again, that elastic part that little kids use so effortlessly when they’re learning all about the world.

I’m still looking forward to that. I just haven’t had time to call up driving schools yet (although every time I see a learner car zip by, I make a mental note of the school’s name and URL on the side of the car — damn, there are a lot of driving schools just in the Croydon area).

Now, I sincerely believe that having to learn my way around the neighborhoods of London, building a map of the city in my head in a way that is never really possible when you’re just a tourist, has been the key to jumpstarting my brain and letting me recognize new opportunities that I simply couldn’t see before (even more so than the mental shock of breaking habits and routines and having to create new ones). I could practically feel a little lightbulb flare on in my head when I suddenly realized that Leicester Square is right behind Trafalgar Square, and a squiggle of connection linked these two areas for the first time in the mental image of the city in my head. When you visit a place like London as a tourist, you don’t built up a cohesive sense of the city: it’s just disconnected highlights. As part of my disconnected highlights, I had Leicester Square oriented the wrong way, and I still haven’t quite fixed that in my head yet: I’m still surprised when I enter the square thinking I’m going to be on one side of it but turn out to be on the other side. But I’m a little less surprised each time. I’ll get it right eventually… but it’s taking a lot longer than it did to, say, figuring out how to navigate all the convoluted little streets of Soho did.

Even realizing that is itself surprising. Fixing the wrong images you have in your head — images of a city, images of yourself — is a helluva lot harder than building new images.

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