Entry #3: Hackney
My home sits in between the bustle and noise of Shoreditch and the barbecue loving artists huddled in London Fields. On one side, there is Columbia Road, which every Sunday turns into a mad arena of human anthophilous, a shower of seasonal flowers, men shouting ‘two for £5!’ on orchids and stacks of dry lavender sold by sweet old ladies. On the opposite end, you’ll find Broadway Market, where every Saturday, the road closes down to late twenty-year-olds in bucket hats and loose silk shirts, swaying around with plastic cups of craft beer. Apart from the already trendy restaurants and cafes, Broadway hosts a variety of independent businesses selling street food, your weekly grocery shop, cosmetics, knitwear and books on photography.
Today, it’s Monday and the neighborhood is hushed. Both Columbia and Broadway are desolate. We go along Regent’s Canal, taking our time to look at the boathouses and their own small inventive gardens. The traffic noise slowly dissipates, a few joggers run pass and as we reach our destination, it feels we are no longer in London.
Hm, the fresh air! The sound of morning birds chirping, dog walkers strolling and children occasionally giggling as their parents walk them to school. This is the southern pocket of Hackney. We are in Victoria Park. It is beautiful, green, and vast. On Sundays, you may also find a market here and late in the afternoon (on pretty much any day of the week), a crowded cafe called the Pavilion. Right next to the gorgeous West Boating Lake, finding a seat in this little coffee house is an impossible feat. But now, it’s half past 7 AM and it's serene. It almost feels like home and for the first time in my life, I look at London and fantasize about one day having a family.
I never knew I wanted this lifestyle and by this lifestyle, I don’t mean living in a suburban house, pushing around a mountain bike-size buggy while strutting a sexy pair of Fabletics, simultaneously drinking a skinny extra hot flat white. No, I mean it took me a while to realize that my deepest, darkest desire is to dive right into the nastiest C word in the Oxford dictionary: commitment.
Yes, I am every bachelor’s nightmare: a strong, independent woman who wants a 45-year-old marriage. And no, I was never afraid of the concept; I just didn’t realize that it was something possible for me, that I had the ability to commit. Sure, I thought about it, rather unconsciously, towards my studies, my work ethic, my group of friends...but love? Not a chance.
It was a real learning curve when I started to play volleyball in high school. I had to commit to the training, the change in diet, and team spirit. I couldn’t not go because ‘I didn’t feel like it’ or because there was ‘something more important/fun to do’. I had to dedicate myself to the present moment and believe that we were worthy of becoming stronger together.
Now, I know a romantic relationship is not the same as whacking a softball with five other girls, but it challenges you in similar ways. It demands your attention, you must learn how to time-manage and prioritize your work, but above all else, you must be compassionate towards one another, knowing when and how to take the lead while also maintaining your relationship as a team.
Leaving my longest relationship I realized I valued commitment in love only because I had to choose: commit to a man I love that lives miles away or commit to a post-graduate degree that is miles away. I chose the man. He didn’t choose me.
Departing from my most recent relationship, I realized the most integral necessary for commitment: mutual respect. Sounds pretty logical, doesn’t it? But there I was again, having to choose: commit to a man who is unsure about committing to me or commit to myself. I chose myself.
It’s when we are pushed to make choices that we know more about ourselves and what we value. Yet, in this current climate of modern day love where gratification comes so quick and patience boils so thin, do we actually take enough time with ourselves to make these decisions?
Oxford dictionary defines commitment in two ways: 1) a promise to do something or to behave in a particular way; to support somebody/something; and 2) the willingness to work hard and give your energy and time to a job and/or an activity.
By those definitions, commitment sounds a lot like compromise, self-sacrifice and ultimately, setting yourself up for disappointment. If you see it that way then all types of commitments are terrifying. To a job in another country, to family down the road, to a loved one that sits on your bed, and maybe even, in the worst of times, to the person looking back at you in the mirror.
Because all of these commitments come entangled with yet another dirty word: duty.
And the real question is, how are you to be dutiful towards others when you only know how to uphold a sense of duty towards yourself? Reversibly so, how are you meant to be dutiful towards others, when you haven’t got a clue of how to uphold a sense of duty to yourself?
Yeah. I keep using the word duty. I know, I see you! I knew there would be least one asshole out there making the immediate association of the word ‘duty’ to a zookeeper scooping up elephant dung, and if you’re not that asshole then I don’t know what kind of cartoons you spent watching in your childhood but welcome to this analogy. Because honestly, isn’t that what commitment is all about!?
Not some empty promise, or tripping on a radical spiel about forgoing the very core values of yourself for something or someone else (although this may happen). It’s about waking up, tending to your beautiful garden and when along your morning walk you find (or you take) a big fat dump, a giant splat of turd unmoving, you go and you grab a shovel and you take that shit right out!
It was my dad who taught me this. Every day I’d have to go to our backyard and pick up our family dog’s little poops (and no, they weren’t particularly little, he was a damn retriever). This task was agonizing; the methane gasses a real toxin, my dog in the far distance just panting and smiling at me, and my father, peeking through the backdoor to supervise my poop collecting abilities. As you can imagine, a real shitstorm.
But if you want a dog, you got to pick up after its shit. If you want a job, you’ve got to grind through the shit. If you want a friend, you’ve got sit through their shit. And if you want a relationship, well, then get ready to infuse some shit together.
In order to commit to anything in life the first step forward is owning your shit. It’s not about getting things your own way, it’s about having each other’s back, including and if not, most importantly, your own. At the end of the day, we are all capable of that. Though sometimes, and this is the crux of it, even when we want to commit to something and are willing to put in the whole nine yards, does it mean we are ready?
I don’t know the answer for sure, but I am certain that, whoever cleans Broadway on a Sunday, Columbia on the Monday or Victoria Park on any given day, didn’t think they were ready when they started either.