For the first time in my life, I got robbed last week. Nothing major, what they stole is replaceable and the only thing it hurt was my pride.
I’ve been very lucky since living abroad for the past five years and travelling to different places. I haven’t had my passport or my wallet nicked and we haven’t been broken into (yet). These are all things I used to chalk up to renting in non-flash places, having minimal possessions and looking like regular middle/working class 20/30 somethings.
My husband tells me his flat was broken into three times while living in one of the nicest suburbs of Dublin. He was amazed when living in Canada to see someone chase after another person who had left their wallet behind. Europe is just another ball game.
Now this isn’t meant to be a ‘life lessons’ post for anyone reading, it’s a ‘put it into perspective’ post for me. London is a big city and it will swallow you whole if you’re not careful. But your own personal outlook has a lot to do with what you can get out of it.
Two guys came over to me as I ate my lunch on a patio in a nice part of Hampstead and put a few cards in my face and over my table, asking me to buy their wares. Of course this was a distraction tactic, I got angry and told them to leave me alone. Once they left I quickly checked my bag on the chair beside me to make sure nothing was stolen. When I turned back to the table, I realised it was my mobile they had stolen out from underneath the cards they used to block my view.
Once I realised it was gone, I told the waiter I think I had been robbed and unfortunately no one else on the patio or in the café had seen it happen. They were just too fast and they were gone before I knew it!
My immediate thoughts were:
“I’m such an idiot!” [pride reaction]
“They played me for a too nice, naive fool.” [Canadian reaction]
“I don’t know anyone here, no one knows who I am.” [foreigner’s panic/country bumpkin/expat reaction]
“If I was a man, those two guys wouldn’t have tried it on me.” [feminist reaction]
“Now the only people I know here won’t be able to contact me!” [illusion of importance reaction]
Of course the most important things were, I didn’t chase them down, they didn’t hurt me and everyone who didn’t quite witness it but knew what had happened was lovely and very helpful.
The staff called the police, I filed a report, then the café gave me lunch on the house and told me stories of other petty crimes in nice areas of London.
Another lady bought me a coffee without mentioning it so the staff could take my order, almost in a ‘pay it forward’ token.
A nice girl from Belfast who was visiting her family in London leant me her phone to call my husband and told me about her phone getting stolen the last time she visited the city. I think she was angrier for me on my behalf and told me I was coping very well as I continued to eat my toasted sandwich and order an iced coffee.
These things happen and I almost knew it was coming, but I let my guard down at the wrong moment. I had deleted all of my message threads (I had tons left over from my time in Australia and Ireland) and had begun uploading all of my photos to Dropbox and deleting them from my four-year-old phone. My contract was paid for and my SIM was cheap so no major losses.
Putting it into perspective
I woke up this morning and saw an article about ‘4 Things Everyone Should Learn By 30’. Reading through them, I agreed with them all and since I am turning the big 3-0 in a few months’ time, I almost used it as a personal check up.
#1) You’re not the only one with good ideas
I feel like this becomes more apparent by the day, especially in London. There are sooo many creative people. Problems to be solved, ways to solve them. Cultures to learn about, customs to understand. The older I get, the less I know for sure. Here’s hoping I can keep meeting new people to share their ideas and work on solving problems together!
#2) Friends are worth more than money
They are indeed! As soon as I was robbed on Friday and realised I was surrounded by strangers and couldn’t contact anyone, this became very real.
I didn’t care about money or the financial value of the phone, I was worried about the photos I had taken from my travels home and with friends. I have been lucky to keep in touch with friends in Canada and Australia via Skype and old-fashioned letters since we’ve been moving around and I always make a point of catching up with them when I can.
I think when we meet people we click with or share similar ideals with, we work hard to maintain these friendships and support networks. For the most part, it doesn’t feel like work because when you get that letter in the mail, it is almost as good as sitting across from them.
We’re inviting each other into our lives and sharing our future hopes, dreams, fears and present adventures. These are moments you can’t buy and friendships that can’t materialise overnight.
#3) A little bit goes a long way
As a freelancer and remote worker, this is an important one to remember. I cannot accomplish everything in one day and sometimes as a solo worker, you feel isolated.
But since moving to London, I’ve been taking small steps to put myself out there. Going to networking events, creative talks and signing up for a few classes to stretch myself more. I feel like this summer is an opportunity to refine what I am working on, where I’m going and absorb as much as I can. So each day, I am trying to do something new and see where it takes me.
#4) Control what you can control
This is a big one for me and something I try to live by. You can only control yourself and certain things within your immediate vicinity. These things do not include people, situations or the weather.
It’s your behaviour, your outlook, your actions and reactions. The best you can do is to work within it and adjust. If you do not want to work within it, then change yourself and how you approach it. Put one foot in front of the other, keep going and move on. Needless to say, I have been singing this song to myself quite a bit in the face of each new challenge.
So that’s what I’m focusing on – being flexible to change and aware of my surroundings, being grateful for what I have and welcoming new experiences.
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