This week was the 20th anniversary of the Poll Tax Riots in England. The news of this somewhat shocked me - mostly because it seems like it was just a couple years ago. I was living in London at the time and I found it all quite exciting. Civil unrest is something I had never witnessed and I sometimes I think I was born in the wrong time period. Certainly I was meant to be a flower child of the sixties and early seventies. I always believed in peace and love and that my voice and a hand painted sign could change the world.
I actually missed most of the riots and got to Trafalgar Square only after everyone was dispersing. All I really got to see was a couple of burnt-out cars (one a Porsche 911), some broken windows and lots of trash. I thought I might be witnessing history. It really turned out to be nothing much at all.
Sometimes you know that you are a part of something big; like watching the Twin Towers fall or the election of the first African American President. Other times, you don't know that you are at a life changing moment until many years later.
Almost 20 years ago, I got on a bus that took me to Heathrow airport. There I would board a plane that would take me home to my boyfriend, Gary, whom I hoped would become my husband. I remember resting my head against the window and watching the passing rooftops of the London suburbs. I was so excited to get home to Florida. I was going to graduate from college. I was going to start my career. I was hoping to get engaged.
I remember what was playing on my Sony Walkman tuned to Capitol Radio, "Back to Life" by Soul II Soul.
I remember a little tiny voice inside of me that said "You don't have to go. You could just stay."
I squashed that little voice with logic. "Where would you stay? You're not allowed to work here. Besides, you WANT to go home and marry Gary."
And I did. At 21 years old, that is exactly what I wanted and exactly what I did. At 21 years old.
And so in a bit of melancholy, I think of this:
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And both that morning equally lay
I shall be telling this with a sigh