I started you in Edinburgh at University. I don’t remember where I was, but I was one year into my university experience. I had met a boy and I had changed my degree from Immunology to Chinese and I still thought University was an extension of school.
You were about discovery, and struggling to believe that anything I did was good enough, but at the same time believing that I required more. It was an odd dichotomy of feelings and it is only in this final year of that I think I might be shedding them.
You were where I felt like I have done so much changing and I expect more will come, where so many expectations were blown to pieces in the best possible way. You consist of so many beautiful, little memories – rather than the sum of my achievements.
It starts with happy, drunken friendships where we had 50p shots and danced to bright lights and thumping beats at University, shouting me too over the music and smiling at the shared connection. There were early library mornings and stuffy classrooms. There was laughter with friends and tea in bed with digestive biscuits as we talked about the night before.
I took a 6-hour train to spend less than a day with a boy I’d fallen in love with, who made me cry in anger and laugh until my stomach hurt. I moved to China where I ate noodles from the side of a street: those wooden chopsticks pulled apart with your hands, the cold peanut and cucumber sauce a respite to the sticky heat of Beijing summer. I remember biting into dumplings, their soft exterior giving way to hot pork juice within. I remember the way the wind felt when I cycled to and from university, and how we’d pick up roasted sweet potatoes from charcoal ovens as a snack.
The way he said, “I love you” into my shoulder. The way our relationship was lots of sitting in airports with flourescent lighting and counting down the hours to home, followed by bedsheets and entwined hands. I remember Taiwan, thinking: “why am I doing this to myself again?” as I left everyone at an airport once more. But I fell in love with its leafy alleyways, spring onion pancake stalls and afternoon rainstorms. We would trek through jungles to find hot springs where we would pull out rice rolls from our backpacks stuffed with pork floss and pickled vegetables, before sinking into the steaming water for our tired legs.
I remember my first job, the rush of my first pay cheque and buying coffee on the way to work, the rim stained dark by the time I reached my desk. My fingers would smudge with freshly printed reports, over the day I would collect colours of highlighter: yellow, pink and orange. London was a playground then: immersive theatre nights, pop-up restaurants, busy rushing through the streets of soho – sensory explorations.
I lived with my parents for a while, I’d be able to walk to work through the park and we’d exchange texts throughout the day about dinner. We’d have movie nights sometimes, I would pick something cheesy and my dad would make pizza, fingers white with flour. We’d eat it happily, the crust dipped in oil as we ate. My mother would fall asleep on the sofa halfway through the film, her feet tucked under my father’s thigh.
I remember sitting under the Italian sunshine, watching my sister get married and smiling so much it made my face hurt because we danced until late, and I thought we were so lucky, so damn lucky to have this.
I remember late night phone calls, and new restaurants – the lights dim and low, candles flickering in the corners as we laugh with friends. Good, good friends who I have known since I was eleven and have stuck with me throughout. I have seen them get engaged, change jobs, buy houses, move countries and through it all we have cried and laughed and played together. They are my inspiration still.
I remember when we bought our first flat. We ordered pizza and ate off the floor, watching a movie from my laptop I had pre-downloaded because we didn’t have internet yet. I cried when my parents left us at our front door because I felt like my life was changing, and he looked up from where he was building our IKEA furniture and said:
“I thought this was a happy moment?” and I kissed him and cried some more and replied: “It is. It definitely is.”
When he asked me to marry him, in the Dolomite mountains (because of course, it would be the mountains) I realised I’d been thinking about this for so long but without really thinking about it. I remember being nervous, because what if I hadn’t thought it through?
Saying yes has been one of the best decisions of my life.
I remember eating pancakes with my mother, drinking coffee while we planned with our notebooks how the wedding day was going to go. We both had scribbles and to-do lists on grid paper, and the sun shone while we walked along cobbled streets, fresh from picking the calligraphy we wanted.
I remember feeling so lost when I left my first job, and then chasing away those feelings with plans – wedding plans, travel plans, eating plans – all the plans. We travelled beautifully that year (with too many memories to name) – New Zealand, Kerala, Colombia, Slovenia, California…and ended up in Italy where we got married in a cloister and ate in a castle, surrounded by family and friends. I will never forget that feeling when we stood in front of our loved ones, and I have never felt so supported – so loved. Our friends and family having braved the thunderstorm that happened after months of no rain in Italy and still smiled with us. We danced until 4am, our friends placing their arms around our shoulders as we sang “Bonfire Heart” to the stars.
Then we moved to Scotland where I thought it would be dark and gloomy and I would hate it. I never expected to find such stability, such peace in the wildnerness, in new friendships and the quiet comfort of home. There has been a rebuilding happening here, internal and external in an unexpected way.
My foundations have been ripped up and flung down. You were where things were shaken about so they could find their place again.
Thank you for the lessons, and thank you for the memories. I’ll always remember you.
It’s been a wondrous journey.