Monday, March 21, 2011

Lying in the Grass at Hyde Park

So, today after meeting with my advisor here in London I decided to take a little walk.  It is a beautiful day in London, one that I'm sure you would all be envious of!  My walk ended up taking me all the way to Hyde Park where I walked in, got an ice cream cone and then found a quiet spot on a patch of grass to sit.  After I finished my ice cream cone I laid back in the grass and looked up at the sky, closed my eyes and thought about the following things:

1) My Family.
About a week ago my family left London after visiting me for a while.  My goal for their visit was to really try and show them the London that I know, not really the touristy London.  That included a lot of walks!  We explored the Thames Path, where I go on walks almost every Monday.  We explored Clerkenwell and the area near FSU where I go to school (right next to the British Museum).  My favorite part of their visit was the dinners they cooked for me and my friends back in my Flat at Crawford House.  There is nothing better than sharing a nice dinner with new friends and family.  What I thought a lot about while I was lying in the grass today was how my family perceived me while they were here.  My dad mentioned at one point that I seemed as if I had changed since I left the USA back in January.  Personally I think I've become a lot more independent over the past couple of months.  In my mind, for as much as it annoyed me that my dad wears shorts in London, I couldn't help but think about how much my family has given me to help me pursue the chances I've taken that have made me who I am.  I'm really happy they got to see me here.  I think the things I look forward to the most when I get home is riding in the car with my dad, going and getting coffee with my mom and hanging out with my brother at UConn.  Here are some pictures from their visit:  of course we all tried to hang spoons on our noses.
My Parents at the Tower of London

Helping with directions, because we are locals of course.

I got to walk around the British Museum with my Mom for a while.  It was one of my favorite parts of their visit.

Dinner party spooning!

WOW!  Laura has mad skillz

Konstantin did it!

Jill (our program director) was able to take my brother on an Urban Art Walk! 

My dad with one of his favorite spots in London.

2) My Friends (old and new).
I haven't seen a lot of my friends for a long time now.  I couldn't help today but think about what it will be like when I go home and see them all again.  I hope nothing too much has changed.  I love the relationships I have with them.  I got to thinking about the time I came home from D.C. and told all of them that I was coming home a week later so that I could surprise them all while they were spending the weekend up in Vermont.  That was one of the most exciting moments in my life.  I think that time away gives you two opportunities.  The first being to make new friends, the second being to really learn to appreciate what the friends you have back home contribute to your life.  Which, brings me to the first point there...making new friends.  While I was lying in the grass I thought a lot about the friendships I've built here.  I thought about the people who have really made me happy over here, or the people who have made me laugh, the people I've shared drinks with, chatted with, cried with and with all that I wondered what it would be like when we get back to UConn, whether we would still be as close?  I like to think so, I am really looking forward to the Team Rosebery Reunions.  I guess there is really something to be said for a group of people who share such a life changing adventure together.  Maybe we wont really realize it until we get back home.  Anyways, here are some pictures from the Martini night (which I stole from my other friend's cameras).
Dennis and I keeping it classy at Martini Night

The Host with the Most...Konstantin

This is what happens if you loose dirty olive. 

Everyone looks so nice!

3) Running.
I finally admitted to myself that I gave up on my running today.  I let injuries get in the way of my progression that I could have overcome.  But today while lying in the grass I decided I'm going to stop moping about what I missed out on in High School and make something of my running abilities. I've been thinking about this lately because the other day I went to Regent's Park and spontaneously ran in the British Heart Foundation's 5K race.  During the race, I didn't start my watch, but just ran.  It was the best I've ever felt running a race since before I had injured myself.  I want to run a sub 20 minute 5K again, and I want to run a marathon.  I'm going to do these things.

4) My major.
I have to pick classes soon.  For all I know, I may have already needed to.  One of the reasons I decided to leave Storrs for a semester was to try and figure out where I wanted my life to bring me.  What I wanted to do.  Honestly, I wish that there was a day that I could just have no questions crossing my mind, but I realized while lying in the grass that if I just focus on myself and my attributes a bit more than I have been maybe I can find happiness in whatever it is that I do.  Plus, who cares if I stay in Public Policy and decide to change.  Our program director went to school when she was forty, and even got a PhD after that.  So, I have decided to stick it out in Public Policy.  Maybe I'll do amazing things in Politics, maybe I'll do amazing things somewhere else.  I don't know.  I just know that I have to let destiny just sort of work this one out for me.  I like surprises anyways.

5) Waggers.
I saw a dog in the park.  I miss Waggers. 

6) War.
Random, huh.  While I was walking to Hyde Park I saw a group of Libyans marching and protesting the UK's involvement in the bombings of their country.  I don't know where the world is going right now, but it sort of made me think about how much I've appreciated not watching the news as much over here.  Although I believe its important to have a basic knowledge on whats going on, its just so depressing.  It brought me to a memory of a speech that Uncle Brian made one memorial day weekend at our Pearl Lake get together after he won the golf tournament.  He talked about how we take it for granted sometimes, how lucky we are to have a safe spot to enjoy the real comforts and joys of life, that being the friendships and relationships we share, hidden away from the cruelty that exists in other parts of the world.  I guess today while I was lying in Hyde Park I really thought about how scary it is to think about where the world is going, but also how safe I felt knowing that I have a safe place to go. 

7) Traveling.
Who ever said you learn the most about yourself while traveling, they were right.  I've come to realize a lot about the person I am, my strengths, my weaknesses and more.  In the past year I thought about all the places I've been: Mexico City, Playa Del Carmen, Chichen Itza, Boston, New York City, London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, Bruges, Brighton, Greenwich and who knows where else in the next couple of weeks.  I have always dreamed of traveling and I guess this year I've really decided to take advantage of the opportunities to do just that.  It is the first time that I really feel like I have achieved a real dream of mine.  Its a good feeling, and an addicting one.  While I was in Hyde Park lying in the grass I thought about all of the places I still want to go.  I want to bike around the country side in France, I want to see Latvia where Mrs. P grew up, I want to see Prague and Budapest.  I want to go to Asia and see the busy streets in China, the beautiful views in Japan.  I want to hike in the Amazon and I want to go on a safari in Africa.  I really want to see the Pyramids in Egypt.  Most importantly I want to explore America.  I want to hit all fifty states.  Hike as much as the Appalachian Trail as possible.  I want to see the sunset at the Grand Canyon and the stars at night in the Prairies.  Just talking about this has gotten me really excited again!  Anyone want to do all this with me?  

8) Depression.
Honestly, as some of you know, I've had to deal with some tough spots of depression.  This past week, even with all of the great stuff going on and the fact that I'm living a dream,  I realized that I had let myself and my depression get in the way of communicating with people and really appreciating life (I mean seriously, I'm talking as if this was a tough week...but look at all the amazing stuff I did).     Anyways, I don't know when it may hit again, but for one of the first times I really felt like taking initiative and not mopping like I used to (although I did a bit).  Instead I climbed a mountain!  I know a big part of my depression is how other people perceive me, or what I can or can't do for other people.  But for once I am finally starting to really be able to focus on me, and what will make me happy.  I think things are going to get a lot better.    

9) Going to the Lake District and climbing a Mountain.
I think it was Nietzsche who said the best thing a person can do is to climb a mountain.  Whether he said that or not, I would have to second that statement.  I've climbed mountains before, but this one was different.  Maybe because it seemed to come at the right point in the trip, or maybe because it was a place I always wanted to go, but climbing Helvellyn, just seemed right.  I woke up at 3:30 the morning after Martini Night (with a bit of a head ache) although I didn't need to be up until 4:30, mainly because I was so excited to climb this mountain.  My friends Laura, Andy, Janice, Fauve, Sarah and Carolin were picked up by Nick (our program director Jill's husband) and his friend Simon around five in the morning.  There we began our five hour journey to the Lake District.  While we were driving I was looking out the window and couldn't help but be amazed at the sky as the sun was rising.  It felt so good to be leaving the city for a bit.  We arrived at the Lake District and were ready to hike around 11:15.  The day was a bit overcast, but it would only get better (apparently a rarity in the Lake District).  As we began climbing up Helvellyn, I felt so alive, it felt so good to breathe fresh air.  Today while I was looking back at the trip while lying in the grass, I thought about how I felt like basically running up the mountain at the beginning.  I just had so much energy, so much I needed to let out.  I don't know why, I just did.
Right before going up! 

As we approached the top of the first crest, we had an amazing panoramic view of the mountain and the surrounding area.  As daunting as the task seemed, I just needed to get there.  We ended up hiking/rock climbing for a big portion of the way up the mountain.  It was literally the most fun I've ever had on a hike.  The challenges were new.   I never felt in danger, but I felt as if I was really taking risks.  It was a great feeling.  Once we reached the top, I took a minute to look out over the view.  It is hard to really describe what I thought, but it was one of those moments in your life where you feel accomplished, and surrounded by beautiful things.  Look at this picture, close your eyes imagine you are there and its very windy....and then you maybe will know what its like.

Otherwise, go to the Lake District and climb this mountain.  It is fantastic.  The way back I felt so good.  I felt so happy.  I was proud of myself.  I was also really happy for all of my friends who had made it.  We went and got some tea at a small shop at the bottom of the mountain at the end.  We walked nearly ten miles up and down a mountain!  It was perfect!   Then we went to our respective bed and breakfasts.  I had an unbelievable single bedroom.  It was so big and comfortable.  Here are some pictures!   Later on we went out for a pub dinner, drank some pints, and shared stories. 

The sign talks about a guy who had been killed in that spot.  I made it past there.  Makes you feel like you are living life sort of on the edge.

You can see everyone else climbing up behind! 

The peak!

Our team!

whole room to myself...not bad!

The next morning we went to another area in the Lake District to see some three thousand old rock formation.  I was more amazed by the fantastic view!  Today I replayed this entire trip in my head, mainly looking out over the world from the top of the mountain while I laid in the grass.  I think its the most at peace I've ever felt with myself.  It is pretty addicting.  Who knows what mountains I have left to climb.

10) Home.
I've been away for two and a half months, and I will not be home for more than three months.  Do I miss home?  No.  Did I think about it today?  Yes.  I wonder if they have started the Downtown Project yet?  I wonder what home will be to me, when I get back.  I'm excited to find out.  But not too excited...yet.

11) Random other things.
These thoughts are for me though!

After about an hour, I sat up, looked at the sky, which was starting to turn that purplish orange color it does as the sun starts to set and decided to get back to Crawford to write my blog, finally.  This blog is full of a lot, mostly because I've thought about so much this week.  But I'm excited to see what is next.  Possibly more so than ever.  On the way up the mountain I asked Simon why he had decided to climb Kilimanjaro on his fiftieth birthday.  He said, "Well, you get to a point in your life were you think, I'm fifty, what have I done?  So you decide to do something exciting with your life.  I decided to climb a mountain.  I mean, that's not a bad way to go, falling off of a mountain.  So I took the risk and did it."  Simon's comments really hit a note with me.  As I walked up the mountain I thought about regrets and living life without them.  I guess its about taking those risks and actually taking time for YOURSELF.  I guess we don't always get the chance to climb a mountain after a tough week, but if you do, take the chance.  I think climbing Helvellyn made me realize that life is just a bunch of mountains, for me, its my depression that gets me down, the relationships I feel I've failed at, the tests I've studied for and failed, the times I've tried at running and turned out injured, the confusion over what I want to do in life or any other time I've felt like I've tried to hit the mark and just missed.  For the mountains we don't make it up I guess we hope to get something, anything out of it.  Even if its just taking the time to lay down in the grass, close your eyes and think about all of the mountains you have left to climb and all the things you have left to do.

I've never been so at peace with myself. 




  1. Wow! Life is great! So is this blog!
    I love you,

  2. Hi Stephen,
    Your blog is great and as mom said above, so is life! The Lake District hike, hanging with your friends, hanging spoons, thinking of life and everything you have and are, running for the joy of it, just laying in the grass, it doesn't get much better than those moments when everything comes together! There is a great song from our generation called "Grazing in the Grass". You may know it, if not, find it and enjoy!
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I miss our rides and conversations, but I wouldn't want for you to be anywhere else at this moment! Give our best to everyone in London.

  3. Hi Stephen,

    Just spent twenty minutes typing out some thoughts regarding your very thought provoking Blog, and when I went to post it, it rejected the password and erased twenty minutes of typing, and now I have to get off to e meeting...very frustrating. I will email you later and attempt to reconstruct my thoughts, but thank you for sharing, it had taken me back to being your age with many of the same thoughts, interests, excitement and fears. Maybe when you return we can go for a hike and compare notes?? Maybe you could also plan a UCONN in London reunion hike up Mount Layfayette in New Hampshire. I hear there is a house not far from there where they make some pretty good egg sandwichs in the morning, and could probably put together a nice BBQ in the evening? I also hear the wine cellar is not too bad either. Something to think about!!

    Look for the email later on. Hope I can get this to post.

    Thanks again, that was very special!

    Tom S

  4. hi Stephen
    my apologies for not commenting earlier on this blog.. Life ran away with me and I didn`t get enough time to completely read the whole essay!
    i loved the photos, especially the ones on the Lake District, having spent numerous holidays there with family, college geology field trips, camping and hiking with Tom, often in the rain.. you were SO lucky with the weather!

    Hiking up mountains is such a fulfilling experience,you realise how insignificant all your own issues are when you see how immense the mountains are, and yet you also sense how complete you feel having achieved such a feat. There are so many positive aspects to being in the mountains,those are just two that come to mind right now.
    As Tom remarked, the White Mountains of NH await your return, and if you ever want to try the Himalayas, let us know. Our hikes in Nepal were life changing to both Tom and I, we can give you lots of info about those mountains!
    love Rosalind