Seizing the day…but having to give it back

I should in London right now.

Really. I’m not speaking whimsically, but factually. Which is worse by far. Knowing that right now I should be standing in the middle of my favorite city on earth is KILLING me.

A few weeks ago, the photographer Ben Morse announced that he was going to be opening a photo exhibition featuring his friend, the one and only Frank Turner, whose rise to prominence Ben had captured on film for a decade. A book containing the photos would be sold and, if you purchased one, you could enter for a chance to win tickets to a performance by Frank at the gallery in London. How awesome, right? The show was scheduled during one of the few weeks this summer where I had no plans whatsoever. The odds of being selected weren’t bad but were still long – there would only be seventy-five winners out of upwards of a thousand. Seeing as how I’m the unluckiest person ever when it comes to random drawings, there was no way that streak would be broken on something as special as this, so what did I have to lose? And if I were chosen, turnaround would be incredibly tight considering that the winners were announced a mere three days (this past Sunday) before the show (today). But I thought I could make it work…so I clicked “Yes” when asked if I wanted to be in the lottery. Carpe diem, right??

Sunday morning arrived, and I was scrolling through my email inbox while having a cup of coffee when I saw a new message with a subject that made my heart sink to somewhere in the vicinity of my stomach.

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When I said that I’ve never won anything in my life, I meant it. At least, I’ve never won anything of any real substance. Maybe a few trinkets at my elementary school’s annual Chinese auction or a few bucks on the scratch-offs my grandmother would buy when I was a kid, but that’s it. So I was stupefied that I would stumble into something like this. After a minute or two of sputtering, I frantically started searching for flights and hotels. If I was going to do this, I needed to be on a plane in forty-eight hours, which meant that I had to book my reservations at that very moment. Never mind the fact that I hadn’t even gotten approval yet to take almost a week off work – those details would figure themselves out.

I had done a cursory search for flights and hotels back when I entered the raffle to get an idea of availability and cost, and it was doable. Pricey, certainly, but not crippling. But that had been two weeks earlier. On Sunday, two days before I needed to leave, the prices had soared into the stratosphere. They were jaw-dropping, astronomical. I feverishly started brainstorming ways to find the money, which accounts I could raid, what slush funds I could deplete. The husband, a wonderful, understanding man, said that, if I was truly set on it, he wouldn’t tell me I couldn’t go…but he was sure to point out what I already knew in my heart of hearts: that for the cost of what would be a whirlwind, exhausting two-day trip, the two of us could vacation there in luxury for an entire week.

This is one of those instances where I wish I could be completely irresponsible and selfish and irrational…but I’m none of those things. I already knew what I was going to have to do, and let me tell you, disappointment has never tasted so bitter. So I responded to Ben and told him I’d have to give up my tickets. As if I didn’t feel bad enough about it, later in the day he expressed his frustration on Twitter that twenty of the seventy-five winners gave up their spots.

This isn’t just about me missing out on a concert or some exclusive event. I lived on the outskirts of London during my last year of college, you see, in Kingston-upon-Thames. And while it was a hard year, homesickness and loneliness never far from the surface, it was a good year. It was the proof I needed that, if I could move to a foreign city by myself, I could do anything. It was perhaps the best, most formative experience of my life. Kingston, and by extension London, became home. I’ve only been back once since then, and the longing I feel for that city, the hold it has on me, is so powerful, it’s almost a physical, tangible thing. The thought of seeing it again, walking its streets, standing on the banks of the Thames, being a part of it again, was so overwhelming that I nearly lost my head and drained my bank account to make it happen.

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The last time I was in London, almost exactly seven years ago 
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My university town, Kingston-upon-Thames

So instead of wandering the familiar and beloved streets of Southwark, I’m sitting at work, staring out the window and wondering if the skies are as gloomy in London as they are here today. This whole incident was a harsh but needed reminder that my seize-the-day attitude does in fact have limitations. I’ve gotten so used to saying yes to pretty much every opportunity that presents itself that saying no is almost unthinkable and damn the repercussions. But whether I like it or not, I’m level-headed, rational, and once the fever of excitement passes, I know a good (and bad) decision when I see one. Saying stateside this week wasn’t the call I wanted to make, but it was the right one. Frank Turner’s not going anywhere – there will be other shows (and soon). And London’s not going anywhere, either…it will wait for me like it always has.

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