Eight years later, I pass by the first place I ever lived in London at least once a week. Each time I drive past, I look up at the still windows, one of the dining chairs I used to sit on has been broken for months, exiled to the balcony like a discarded soldier.
Before I moved to London, I viewed a room in Streatham in a 1930s apartment block, around the corner from Nando’s. The room was light and airy, with well-worn floorboards, but one of the panes of glass in one of the windows was cracked and threatened to split open and let the world in. My mother said “no, way.”
Four years later, I lived down the road in Streatham Hill, in another 1930s apartment that was also light and airy, with creaking polished floorboards and double-glazing. I didn’t remember until one day I passed by the Nando’s. You don’t expect life to loop back on you like that, but it always seems to.
We’ve lived our lives on the streets of South London. We’ve lived, bled and near enough died in these streets. Our love story is woven around lamp posts and set in invisible monuments on nondescript street corners. Like the time we broke up and you were running to my house with pizza. You rounded the corner near the station and some guy tried to take the box from you. I asked you about your bleeding knuckles, “I wanted to see you” was all you said. That was Deptford.
We’re like ghosts in the machine. It’s our own glitches that keep us here, keep us looping around from that cafe in New Cross to that summer’s day in Westow Park, from the lake in Burgess to endangered estates in Brixton. I’ve got another seven years of the 20mph zone from Herne Hill to Walworth Road and back again. That was never the plan. That was not the plan at all.
I wanted to be a writer. The youngest published author to be precise. Then it was a journalist, a war correspondent, a news anchor, an executive news producer, a graphic designer, a photographer…then a writer. I mean, I am a writer – and I’m also a photographer and a filmmaker, but right now, I’m a writer. I’ve come full circle, and a part of me feels like I’ve betrayed some unspoken rule about ambition because you’re meant to be bigger and better and beyond what you were at six years old. But here I am still writing, and enjoying it more than ever.
I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve become so much along the way. I probably wouldn’t be a filmmaker, if I hadn’t wanted to be a graphic designer. I wouldn’t be a photographer, if I hadn’t wanted to be a journalist. I am my own life cycle, and I’ve made peace with that. I’ve also made peace with that not making sense to anyone else but myself.
I’ve been thinking about reincarnation. Maybe it’s not so much about becoming a different person, or moving on up and out of the ‘hood. I think it’s just a chance to do you better. Better doesn’t necessarily mean drastic change, or even what we understand to be an upgrade. Better does not have to mean running from whoever you are, whoever you’ve been or whatever your life is and was.
I’m on my fourth life. I’ve said this before. It feels like a lot of lives to have lived within 26 years, but I’m grateful for the blank slate that remains after the pain and BS fades away. Life is not what I ever imagined it would be, but these loops and circles aren’t me going backwards, it’s me just getting into my groove.
Images: Tasha photographed by Jendella