Last night, I went to meet up with my friends for a few drinks after work. Those few drinks turned into a lot more drinks. They turned into disgusting french fries at 1:30, a dangerous bike ride home. They turned into waking up slimy, thinking I couldn’t breath and then realising my nose was stuffed. They turned into me realising what I had done last night and rolling my eyes so far back into my head that my body flipped over and fell down a black hole.
There aren’t very many things that I find negative about living in the U.K. — I have generally found peace with myself here. I often think this is because I have reached a delicate balance — I am separated just enough from all of the things that I disliked about home (grocery store clerks putting too few items in each plastic bag, driving everywhere), yet still foreign enough to not need to worry about all of the things that I dislike about in the U.K. (the weather, the lack of pretzels).
But the drinking culture is becoming a problem.
For those that don’t live in the U.K., people drink all the time in the U.K.. There is no occasion too distant from a pint for a pint to be had — walking, sitting in the park, going to the movies, eating breakfast, eating lunch, having a work meeting, waiting for a train, being on a train.
Drinking in many of these contexts is utterly sublime, especially on a nice day, and probably does replace some bad habits that Americans have, like random meals, huge coffees and lots of sweets. But, despite my attempts to retrain my brain to think of beer as food, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed about how much I’m forced to drink to be part of the culture here and desperate to leave this culture in search of something more pure.
I struggle to have a day that I’m proud of after I’ve had a pint. A day that would be going home, making a delicious salad, practicing the piano, reading and falling asleep gently with the light on at 10:15 turns into one more pint, taking a photo of the sun setting past The Old Queens Head — graffiti and all — with a bicyclist in the frame, getting Vietnamese food, coming home at 10:15 and crashing into bed. A day where I would have made my life and the things inside of it as I want them to be turns into a day where I have simply been social.
After nights (and nights) like these, I get down on myself for not doing anything but drinking and talking. I utter uncontrollably in my head and outside of it:
When am I going to stop drinking?
I worry that it takes having a family or living somewhere remote or at least living in a city with fewer than 10 million people to be cast into this mold. What else would it take for me to come home, make dinner and do activities most nights? When will watching tv be the most indulgent thing I do instead of being productive?
Sometimes I mourn the life that I perceive I’d be having if I lived in the U.S. — a life where my office is twenty minutes from home by car, where there is enough food in my kitchen to make dinner without going to the supermarket. Where meeting up with friends means getting a salad and an iced coffee. I yearn for a life where travelling somewhere new was by car, with energy drinks, instead of by train, with beer.
I miss the world where your home is distant from a city and sacred and calm and nobody fucking drinks.