Looking Through the Eye of London

Rachel NarducciNovember 29, 2016Beauty and the SensesAwesome Moments
Looking Through the Eye of London

Artwork by Eleanor Bennett

I stand there, at the top of the world, and look down through the glass below me. It’s raining, of course.

Typical London weather. The rain has been relentless since the day I arrived. Nevertheless, the view is still phenomenal. Big Ben stands majestically. A red double-decker bus provides a pop of color against the grey sky. You can see the entire city; you can see everything for miles and miles.

I didn’t want to go on The London Eye; I’ve been scared of heights for as long as I can remember. Now I am glad I did, the view alone is well worth facing my fears. Being so high up makes me feel important, all-powerful. Yet it also makes me feel so miniscule, so inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. As we start heading back down on the other side, two realizations strike me at once. One, my fear of heights is at least temporarily gone. And two, I want to go back up again.

I allow myself to savor the moment a little while longer. To enjoy the experience of being somewhere entirely new. I try not to think about the other fears in the back of my head, taunting me to face them. I am nervous about learning photography, which is a bit ironic considering I’m in London because of a photography program. The fear had sunk its teeth into my consciousness the first day when I realized photography was a lot harder than I had originally thought, and that everyone else was way ahead in terms of experience. And then there was that other fear, the one that formed when I was packing and realized I knew nothing about the people I was traveling with. I was going to a city I barely remembered with strangers. Suddenly, everything that could go right just vanished, replaced with the insistent pounding of everything I was sure was going to go wrong. These two fears were the most persistent, like my fear of heights, in that they prevented me from experiences I could have otherwise enjoyed. And they seemed insurmountable, I told myself I couldn’t face them and I did not want to. I was tempted to just give up and do what I used to do with my fear of heights: avoid situations where I had to confront it.

I take out my camera, adjust the shutter speed and the aperture, and start shooting pictures. The photography workshop is a 12-day program for high school students. Before the trip, I didn’t know a lot about photography. I applied because the program was intended for all skill levels. Despite this, on my first day I felt like I was drowning. Drowning in a sea of technical terms, blurry and overexposed pictures, cryptic buttons on my camera, and the London rain, which never seemed to stop.

Over the course of the trip, one of my fears would solve itself. I got to know the other people in the program easily. In just a few days, I felt like I had known everyone forever. Seven-hour plane rides, shared jet lag, and living in the same dorms at the University of London will do that to people. They got to know everything about me, from my love of Starbucks (it’s even better in England), to how long it takes me to wake up in the morning (quite a while). We bonded over painting our nails in the rooms at night, finding our “real” laughs, and getting lost on the tube (London’s Underground) for a scary five minutes.

My fear of learning photography was conquered through experience. As the days went on, my photography vastly improved. While I still wasn’t as good as many of my friends, I liked the pictures I took, and I grew to love the many nuances of photography. One of the nice things about having talented friends is that they help you improve your pictures.

In London I was put into situations where I had no choice but to dive headfirst into what I was most worried about. But instead of my trip being a gigantic disaster, I had three amazing experiences. I faced my fear of heights, and got to see a unique perspective of London from 443 feet in the air. I learned how to use a DSLR camera, and found a new hobby in photography. I made 27 friends who live around the world, everywhere from Japan to Bermuda. None of this would have happened if I hadn’t taken a risk, and went to London despite my fears. And the experience of going there, and succeeding, has given me the confidence to take future risks, even though I know they may not work out. Now, I am willing to try them just because of the possibility that they will.

Rachel Narducci attends Bard High School Early College. She lives in Manhattan, and enjoys writing, painting, traveling, and photography.