The Caffè Nero on Great George Street was completely crowded, so the miracle that I found a free stool by the window was not lost in me. I was feeling pretty lucky that day. I had visited the Trafalgar Square and the London Eye and was sipping hot chocolate with the most beautiful view available: the Big Ben.
I remember forgetting about my hot chocolate for a moment while I admired the construction. It was officially finished in 1858 (although the clock started working only in 1859). Its original name was just Clock Tower, but it was renamed Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to honor Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. Nobody knows exactly how it started being called Big Ben, but rumor has it that the nickname comes from Sir Benjamin Hall, who oversaw the installation of the bell in the tower. Fact is, the Big Ben is considered an important English symbol, and it was the thing I wanted to see the most when I went there.
Of course, I had already been there – I had already seen the Big Ben from inside and out more times than I can count. One of my sisters lived for a while in London and I was fortunate enough to have the chance to visit her a few times. So I was as familiarized with the tower as I was with the landmarks of my own land. That day, though, while I admired the construction, it occurred to me what I like to call the Big Bang thought (the name is because of the origin of the universe). It’s a sort of epiphany that strikes you like an unexpected slap and throws you off course forever, because you are never able to forget it or ignore it – more than that, it starts to dictate the way you project your future.
My Big Bang thought was: My adult life would not be lived in Brazil.
I don’t know why the understanding came to me, but I didn’t question it. My eyes filled with mournful tears because I knew the truth even if I didn’t have any proofs. The place where I grew up, my comfort zone, would not be my home anymore. I had no way of knowing what was going to happen, but I knew this with a certainty that broke my heart – the same certainty that you have that the bells from the Big Ben will resonate at the right time. I was about to start my second year in university and I understood that after I finished the four years it took to graduate, I would move to a different country.
Not a single tear fell. Even though I felt that pang of hurt for a few seconds, the acceptance was immediate. I knew I had to leave to do whatever it is I was born to do. So the tear didn’t have time to fall before my heart filled with a delicious sense of adventure. I couldn’t know that too, but after that day, everything I did while in Brazil was a preparation for when I moved out. The group I was traveling with called me and I went to them without finishing my hot chocolate. But it was ok. I knew I would come back to finished it someday. I would be back.
And you know what? I am. Not in London, but outside my home port. Ten thousand miles away, with the feeling that I am exactly where I was supposed to be. London is just around the corner and I thought about continuing my adventure there earlier this year. Who knows, maybe I will someday. But for now, I am happy to drink my hot chocolate here in cozy Brussels. It’s all that matters, as far as I can say.