Stepping into the unknown is what this homelessness challenge was meant to be about, and this is exactly what materialised. I could not have forecasted a more perfect, imperfect night spent homeless in London.
Over the past few weeks I had been evaluating my life as I’ll be 35 in September. I had come to the conclusion that my soul was yearning to be free. On some unconscious level, I was seeking a fabricated safety that was making my life feel stagnant. The juice of life had run dry whilst I stood in the familiarity of the known.
I can remember a specific fear since childhood — The fear of not being able to survive. By survival I mean that I wouldn’t have the resources to be able to take care of myself and put a roof over my head. Now this had manifested and played out in my reality in the shape of me moving out of my parents place and moving back in on numerous occasions. Hence confirming that there was a part of me that would always succumb to this unconscious fear.
Therefore when I evaluated my life, I just knew it was time to fully embrace the unknown, starting with a complete moving out from my parents, severing all possibilities of return. Gone for good, barring the brief impermanent visit. Although I made my heart based list of things that I was called to act upon which met my criteria of stepping into the unknown, I knew that this unconscious pattern of fearing not being able to survive had to be dislodged and healed. Therefore, it made total sense when my mind thought up the idea of spending one night in London sleeping rough.
Now I’m not sure if I would have had the courage to sleep rough on my own but before I could get to the point of having to make the decision to go solo or not, my brother from another mother Justin Carr decided to join me on my adventure. Let me tell you, it didn’t feel like an adventure when in the midst of this emotional night.
Fast forward now to the day of reckoning. On the evening, we both made the agreement that if we were going to do this, we would immerse ourselves and really feel what it felt like to be homeless and not just give it lip service.
As the sun began to set, we spent the evening begging for money. The shame that this brought up was unreal. My pride was being smashed but I knew that there were valuable lessons in it, If I could just put my ego aside. Justin managed to collect over £7 and I managed 90p. Now I’m not being competitive but he won in this game hands down.
Then as time elapsed towards midnight, we decided to find a place to lay down our sleeping bags for the night. And on the way to laying down for the night, we spoke to numerous homeless folk, hearing their stories and feeling what they felt. One guy had been homeless for 8 years after his home was repossessed by the bank. Another had tried to commit suicide by jumping off of a bridge. As a result of the jump, he had broken 42 bones in his body. His words still ring in my head, as he pointed at his head he muttered, “I’ve got problems up here”. I felt quite emotional and my heart went out to them. We gave them the money we had collected along with a bag of crisps I had and swiftly moved on to the sleeping rough experience.
Once we settled for a spot in Covent Garden where no one could see us, (after all this was not meant to be a spectacle. It was more our own intimate experience) we fell asleep on the solid concrete floor. It must have been about 2am, when we were abruptly awoken by a security guard, “You can’t sleep here. Move on”. This was the first moment of the evening when I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach and truly experienced the life of the homeless. And then the security guard ushering us on happened again in another location in Covent Garden. At this point it was around 2:30am and my eyes were burning with tiredness.
Suddenly my intuition kicked in. I was guided to St James Park. We found a spot as cosy as they come in an open park, among our tree friends. I had had the premonition that we were to do a powerful declaration about how we promised to live our lives in the unknown and that there would be a symbolical moment that would mark this declaration at 3am but I didn’t know what. Now as we carried out our guided declaration, the moment that me and Justin shock hands, Big Ben struck on the hour. It was indeed 3am and it felt as though a watershed moment had occurred in our lives. The premonition had come to fruition.
Now this is where the story gets dangerous. We feel asleep in the park. We felt we’d get a few hours kip but little did we know that life as a homeless person is a little more unpredictable than when you have a bed and a roof over your head. Shockingly, I was awoken at around 4am, by Justin shouting at the top of his voice box, “Ooooiiiii, Ooooiiiii, Ooooiiii” whilst standing in a fighters stance. I shit myself and as I jumped up, out of my sleeping bag. I could see a man standing no more than two metres from me, looking very dodgy to say the least. Now it made sense why Justin’s fight or flight system had kicked in. Fortunately Justin had been awoken from his slumber, unlike me. This guy got rattled and went on the defensive, “I’m only going for a piss” and then ran off quickly. Now that we had all this adrenaline dancing through our bodies and the realisation that we might just have avoided a potentially dangerous situation, we packed up our stuff and rapidly departed the park.
The rest of the night we spent sitting in Leicester Square. The night was turning out to be a comfort zone smashing night. At times bordering on a harrowing night.
As the Sun started rising, we decided to treat ourselves to breakfast in a five star hotel in Leicester square. The irony. As we sat for over 2 hours in our plush surroundings, I realised that something inside had altered forever. There was a new found courage that never existed before. Ironically, I felt safer after what felt like a relatively unsafe night. This would now allow me to step into the unknown more often. I just knew that I had broken the pattern of feeling I couldn’t survive. Something in me had given way to thriving, as I let go of a big chunk of the fear of not being able to survive.
But not all is hunky dory however. After getting home, I was sitting with my sister talking about the experience, when suddenly the heaviness of the homeless night just hit me for six, as I sobbed the tears of homelessness. It felt that I had kept the emotions of the night at bay, until I felt safe enough to let them loose. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do comment and share.