S A R A H

 London | 2018

S A R A H

City  London
Age  32
Love life Dating
Profession Executive Assistent for the Managing Director of a Fine Arts Gallery
Years in London 10
Location Regent’s Canal

T H E  L O N D O N  S T O R I E S

‘SOMETIMES

LONDON PUSHES ME 

OVER THE EDGE’

  • What makes you really happy?
    “At the moment I’m happy because everything in life is good. I have a good job, friends that I love… When you are younger, you want an exciting life, but when you get older, you realize that having a quiet, less dramatic life without things happening all the time is actually quite nice. I also love going to my parent’s house outside the city, and cook in their big French-style kitchen. Cooking is like giving a gift to someone, especially when it’s a dish I’ve never tried before, because it can go wrong as well.”
  • What makes you different than other people?
    “I would say my childhood. My brother and I travelled a lot because of my dad’s job for the United Nations. My parents literally came back to the UK to have me, and moved again after I was four months. From then until my seventeenth, I never lived in the UK. Our four main bases were India, Pakistan, Switzerland and France, and we travelled around those areas as well. I think growing up in all those different countries gave me a great sense of empathy and made me very open-minded, liberal and inclusive. Because you are used to hearing stories from other places and seeing other people’s lives and cultures. London gets the closest to where I grew up, because it has the same mix of cultures and the same huge blend of languages. That is probably why I stayed here so long. I have never really felt comfortable saying that I come from any specific country, and my accent is neither American nor English. When I used to work in bars in London, I would get lot of debate with customers who would say, ‘You’re not English’. That’s why I always keep my passport in my back pocket. I like all those little snippets of memories I have, like running around the entire house in Pakistan to close up all the shutters when monsoon season hit. But if I would go back now to the places I grew up in, I wouldn’t recognize a lot of them. Places like Damascus in Syria are rubble now.”
  • What is the best thing that ever happened to you?
    “It sounds really cheesy, but being born into my family. It is pure luck to a certain extent. You could be born into an upper-class family in New Jersey or you could be born into a working class family in Paris. I got lucky, my family is great. My parents are still married, I got to travel a lot as a child, I had incredible opportunities which I probably didn’t make the most of.”
  • What is the best advice someone ever gave you?
    “My mom gives me a lot of advice, she is probably one of the people who always say, never mind what other people think, as long as you are happy. She reads a lot of practical, educational, non-fiction books about other people’s lives and I think that is a pretty strong way of building up a repertoire of advice-giving.”

  • What is your greatest struggle?
    “We kind of get told all the time by our parents and teachers that we can do anything, that we are supposed to achieve great things and be special. I think the hardest thing is trying to accept that you don’t necessarily have to be like that. Not everyone is going to be a Nobel Prize winning author, or a PhD Lecturer at Oxford. Some people are going to have normal lives that are not going to change the world, and that is not a bad thing. I feel like there is this imaginary path you supposed to be on, and if you are not reaching those milestones, then something is wrong with you. I can’t think of anything worse than being pregnant and I’ve said that since I was sixteen, but people still say to me, when you get older, you’ll change your mind. And in your twenties you feel that you’re supposed to be having fun and if you are not, you are missing out. I hit thirty and I thought, this is great, I no longer care what other people think. If I feel like standing on a table to find somebody in a room, it’s not socially acceptable, but what’s the worst thing that can happen? Since I gave up worrying about what other people think, I feel so much happier. If don’t want to do something, I don’t feel obligated to say yes, but simply say, I don’t want to do it. This is how I feel and that is ok with me, and that is what makes the difference.”
  • What advice would you give to other women?
    “Don’t give up on the city. A lot of my friends are moving out of the city, which is great, if that is what you want. But one of the girls that moved out of the city, posted that it felt like she failed city life. That is quite a common feeling among my university friends, but you can’t fail at a city, that is just not possible! Don’t give up on the city because you feel you failed. If you choose to leave the city, it should be because that’s the next thing you’ve got to do. I think Sex and the City kind of inspired this wrong image of what life in the city is supposed to be like ‘in your thirties you’ll have a great job that will pay for designer clothes’. And then you get into a city and you are like, actually, I have to pay rent. And I don’t wear stiletto heels all day, I am not crazy. My friends and I are running jokes about this all the time. We will be messaging on a Saturday night, like, what are you doing? Well, I am in my pajamas and I just ordered pizza and I am about to watch a marathon of the latest tv show. Soooo Sex and the City of us.”
  • What do you regret the most in life?
    “When I left university, I started working in bars in London. I missed a memo that everybody else got, which was that if you get an office job, you don’t have to stand all day and it pays better. So for years I worked in hospitality, which I loved, but I worked twelve hour days on a pair of two-inch heels and got paid crap. If I could go back and tell myself at 23 what to do, I wouldn’t have worked that hard for so little for so long.”
  • What is your biggest fear?
    “Losing my memory. It’s a long-running feeling ever since I was a kid. When I was in high school, I used to have a proper SLR camera and everyone thought I was going to be a photographer, because I went everywhere with this thing. Now it’s the same thing with my iPhone. I think it comes from not remembering that much of my childhood in those amazing places.”
  • What is your biggest dream or ultimate goal in life?
    “I would love to live and work abroad. It’s on the bucket list, but there is no way I would get that done. I am a great traveller, I can figure out in every city pretty much where I need to go and what I need to do, but my language skills are awful. Yet I studied a year as an exchange student in Boston and I would love to be able to work in the US. Within a year my accent would be unbelievably American.”
  • What does London mean to you?
    “It’s the closest thing I’ve had to a home. It’s the longest I have ever been in one place now. All my friends are here. After ten years of living here, you put down roots. I live with two housemates in a third-floor apartment, which is quite common in London. The salary in London is good, but everything you do is expensive as well. I have considered moving out over the last few years. But my type of work is hard to find outside the city. And I would miss out on a lot of salary. I have a plan now. I give myself until I’m 35, and if I still live in the city and I still don’t want to be here, then I just move somewhere and be a Virtual Assistant. But whenever something is happening, it happens in London. That energy is everywhere. If you walk on a sidewalk in London, you will go full-speed, even if you’re not in a rush, but this is how you function here. It’s almost as if we are happy that we seem busy. But you never get any peace, so there’s a point where you reach a limit and can’t take it anymore. I work in Oxford Circus. Trying to get there during commuting hours is a nightmare. Often, I’ll walk 45 minutes in the evening to get home, because the Oxford Circus tube station will be closed when too many people want to get through. Stuff like that kind of pushes you over the edge.”

Photos by Gordon Roland Peden

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