By Monica Hamilton
It was dark. I had no umbrella. I was alone. How did I end up wandering the streets of London at two o’clock in the morning looking like a hopeless, drenched Californian? I thought I was independent.
Most of us think that if we travel “independently” to the grocery store, pick out the right milk our moms’ tell us to buy, and make it back safely to our car, that proves we are “independent.” Because this is all our Santa Clarita “bubble” has prepared us for, we are trained to believe these small travels signify independence. Wrong. We are misinformed. Raised in the suburbs, I experienced first hand the true meaning of independence…the hard way.
After landing in London from a weekend in Prague, my friends walked me to the nearest bus station where the next bus would soon pick me up and drop me off right in front of my home stay -perfect! When I was with my friends there was no confusion or hesitation about my journey home. I felt this security until my bus didn’t come…10 minutes…30 minutes…45 minutes…an hour later…This was odd; my bus should have come by now.
I figured that if my bus had not arrived, it would never come. So, I walked to find the next nearest bus stop. After what seemed like hours, I had no luck in finding a single bus stop and had no way of communicating with anyone to seek help. The streets were deserted; I looked down the street, left and right-nothing. I had no one to cry to, no one to comfort me, and no one to fix my predicament. If I was going to make it home tonight, I would have to use the only resource I had-me. As I was becoming overwhelmed with the daunting situation, I felt the first drops of the imminent rainstorm. I wobbled down the street with my suitcase in one hand and a newspaper over my head in the other. I felt so stupid. Why did I think I was capable of traveling alone? What happened to “Independent Monica” who could conquer anything? She wasn’t there.
I was out of luck and out of resources, so I held my hand out with my left thumb in the air, hoping someone would stop and pick me up. In hindsight, this was dangerous decision, but I had no other options. One car drove past without stopping, another car sped past, four cars later…no one was willing to stop, but I was persistent. Finally, a car pulled over. My heart was pounding. Will I arrive home safely tonight? Is this person going to take advantage of me? Should I just drop my bags and run? The car window rolled down and inside was a young couple, “Do you need help?” they asked.
Never in my life have I been more scared. I wish someone would have told me that “traveling is not always going to be easy and sometimes, you will have to fend for yourself.” Humble, sheltered SCV did not prepare me for situations like these. Although, I do understand why parents and families move to this valley, for the spectacular schools, the tight knit communities, and the title of “one of the safest cities in the U.S.” Parents want what is best for their children. But, is hovering, sheltering, and shielding really what is best for us? It seems that as children, our parents neglect to inform us that the beautiful neighborhoods of the cookie-cutters homes and perfectly manicured lawns aren’t “life.” Before traveling half way across the world, in my mind, I was prepared for any challenge. Unfortunately, this proved to be incorrect. That unexpected night in London was my “wake up call” and strong dose of reality. There is no way for me to predict how you will experience the reality outside of SCV, only you have the opportunity to discover your own path. That is life.