The first time I went to London, something really cool was happening. The entire city was hosting an awareness for elephants, who (if you didn’t already know) are endangered. The Elephant Parade is where businesses, celebrities, and artists decorate an elephant the size of a baby elephant and then have it displayed around a city. I was lucky to see the London one in 2010.
The first statue I remember seeing was in the Docklands Museum (or whatever it’s called). The statue sat in the lobby. I clicked a picture of it and read the plaque, mostly because I was bored and waiting for the rest of the class to make it through the museum. But I started noticing them everywhere. They were in Trafalgar Square and outside of Harrod’s and in Covent Garden. My Professor, Papa looker, pointed them out to me because he saw me noticing them. Every time I saw one, I’d snap a picture. I loved them because there was no rhyme or reason to how they were decorated. People took them as a blank 3D canvas and simply went for it. They were gorgeous.
My friend, Haley, really enjoyed the elephants as well. In fact, my entire friendship with Haley started in London. On that first trip, she might have been the only person I didn’t hate at one point or another. Near the end of our three week stay, Haley and I decided that we wanted to use our last Saturday to take an Elephant Walk, as we called it. We were going to spend the whole day, walking around London, for the specific purpose of seeing as many elephant statues as we could before being too exhausted to walk around anymore. We even printed out the official Elephant Walk map. There were over two hundred elephants situated around London for a quick reference.
Our downfall was mentioning it to anyone else. Thinking back, we should have snuck out of the house at four in the morning and hitchhiked our way into London from Catford in stealth mode. But no. We had to say something about it, which meant that other people wanted to come too. It was classic class trip mentality. Seven of us were staying in one apartment. We’d sort of adopted the boys’ apartment because there was only two of them. There was another girls apartment of like five freshman girls, but we don’t talk about them. Anyway, we mentioned our plans for the next day and suddenly the herd grouped together in the spirit of “we should all go!” No. No we shouldn’t. Accept, that’s not what Haley and I said to them.
We said yes. (Despite the faint niggling in our guts)
But then they really wanted to go see Buckingham Palace first. (I didn’t care if we went. I’d seen it in passing. That was good enough for me.)
So we went. (There were no elephants there. And we had to wait an hour for anything to happen. I think possibly a guard change took place.)
But then they didn’t really want to go see elephant statues on second thought. (WHY THE HELL ARE YOU HERE THEN? They could have gone on their own and left me to my elephant walk.)
So we left. (Without them and with a new sort of bitterness in our hearts.)
But then we had to go stop at this shop so that the perpetual drunk could buy his girlfriend a teapot. (Let’s talk about things I do not care about, watching people gift shop for their significant other especially when it’s hindering what I want to do with my life.)
So we went. (Regrettably.)
But then why don’t we buy tickets to that show we were going to see that night right now so that we have them later and don’t have to rush? (I guess… but there weren’t any elephants in Leicester Square either…)
So we did. (It took like an hour for that chick to find what she felt was the cheapest priced ticket, and then another half an hour of waiting in line and purchasing the ticket.)
Despite leaving the apartment at like nine in the morning, we didn’t see an elephant statue until roughly four in the afternoon. We ended up getting lost in some park. Arguably, that one was my fault, but I really think that I was blinded by anger at this point. We saw maybe ten statues that day. I’ve never been so pissed off in my entire life. This is probably why I can say that at some point on that trip I hated everyone but Haley. Both of us sort of hung back in our own anger. I ran color commentary on how stupid everyone was, and Haley stewed in silent rage. I like to believe she appreciated my comments the way I appreciated that she matched my level of anger in her silence.
In a memorable moment, Haley and I were walking several feet behind the rest of the group. By this point I think it was The Person I Hate Most in the World and the Why Did You Even Come to London? Girl. Who knows where anyone else had gotten to. Haley and I sort of blended into one dark cloud of bitterness in which I turned to her and said, “Remember that Elephant Walk? Me either.” In that moment, we lit up with laughter. We were so unbelievably angry, yet so mindbogglingly astounded at how out of control our plans had gotten. Even in worst case scenarios, we could not have predicted something like this happening. So we spent the last few moments of the walk just laughing at the craziness of it all. We still laugh about it to this day.
The anger does come back at various times though. Writing this, I’m seething at the memory. All I wanted to do was do the Elephant Walk, but I let people walk all over me like I was a doormat. Embarrassingly, that’s a lot of the first trip, me not speaking up for what I want to do and thinking some else’s ideas were better than mine. Or worse, just not having opinions and letting people do all the planning and then having to follow their dumb ideas. It also spurred Haley’s and my determination to go back to London, in which we did and gave zero fucks about what anyone else wanted to do. We did what we wanted.
As much as I would have rather just seen the elephant statues, the Elephant Walk really helped push me into adulthood. There’s nothing like the sneaking suspicion that you wasted a fair amount of money on following idiot’s directions to cause you to grow the hell up. Because, let’s talk about how I wasn’t going to let that happen to me ever again. I went back to American and started junior year a different person.
I didn’t need people to like me. I didn’t need to do things I didn’t want to do. I hung out with people I liked. I did activities I wanted to do. Oh, I still absolutely made terrible life decisions, but I still was doing what I wanted, however poorly informed I was. That event (non-event?) has given me the ability to go to the movies on my own and be my own dinner date. I simply don’t want to put up with the bullshit of following along anymore. I do the things that I want to do, and when I’m doing something I don’t want to do, it really wrecks me. Before it was tolerable and bearable. Now it practically kills me and I can’t keep it up like I once did. I think I’m better off for it.