Why I’m Leaving London After Four Years

Dear Reader,

Welcome to another blog of mine. If you’re a returning reader, I apologise for my absence – my brain hasn’t exactly been clear lately. If you’re new, well you’ve come along at an interesting crossroad. It’s a lot of words, and I’ve written and re-written this many times, so I’m deciding to just post it in it’s current state. Here ya go…

Why I’m Leaving London After Four Years

Today’s blog is brought to you by a big decision I made a few weeks ago, and one I’ve had difficulty making for over a year: leaving London. I moved to London when I was eighteen, and ready for an adventure of self-discovery and risks. The last few years have been nothing short of that; I’ve met people who will stay friends for the remainder of my life, I’ve explored cultures, cities & countries, whilst furthered myself through skill and awareness. I know I know, all of the classic & cliché things, but it’s true and I am not lying when I say this city has changed me as a person for the better.

I love London, and it is one of the best places to live in the world – I say that wholeheartedly – however, London is not an easy place to live. It’s a city where unless you are lucky enough to find a job which douses your bank account, it can be very much a situation of living pay check to pay check. It’s a city of competition, and entitlement. It’s fast-paced, and unless you can keep up with it, you can feel left behind.

I wasn’t one of these ‘unlucky’ ones; I like to think I have thrived here. And this isn’t in a “look at me” way, it’s in a way of pride. I got a good job, I worked hard and in result got promoted twice. I now have incredible friends who have given my life excitement and memories of a lifetime. I improved my living situation with every move. All of this, and having never worried about money, makes me proud of myself and everything I have achieved here.

So, if all was going well, what changed my mind about living here?

Well, if I’m completely honest, I became unhappy. Ultimately this is what I wanted to get down in this blog. This website has followed my entire London journey (my very first blog being about my first day here), through the ups and downs, and this process doesn’t stop with my decision to leave.

There was never one thing which caused the unhappiness, but I knew in my heart of hearts, there was something wrong. It stuck around, constantly underneath the sporadic smiles and dance parties, never really going away. It was a feeling I don’t want to label, because it’s not about that it, but it was a feeling of lostness. I felt alone, whilst surrounded by a city of 8 million, I felt unsupported from all angles in my life, I felt heavy and held down. It is important to understand that this isn’t directed at anyone, because I truly believe it was my body telling me I wasn’t where I was supposed to be, and not the byproduct of something in my life.

It is a scary thing to realise your “home” has detrimental effects on your mental state.

From the moment I set foot on English soil, I’ve been announcing to the world I would never leave – London was my new home. I absolutely wasn’t about to be one of those people who came to the UK, or Europe, for 6 months only to give up and go back to the little ol’ home town. I think this is partly why I’ve struggled so much the last several months, because for years I’ve been subconsciously telling myself I would be a failure if I even considered moving home. Insert another lovely feeling: of being trapped.

I started making plans to rid this unhappiness; plans to make changes to my work situation, my living situation; I had decided I was going to convert a Sprinter van and join the #VanLife movement. I was going to travel Europe whilst writing, combining two of my favourite things. I was convinced that my life was just missing some freedom. I became excited, I started telling people and I was happy because people were excited about the idea. I thought “Yes, this is the answer”.

A week passed, and that feeling in the pit of my stomach started crawling back up to my throat. Back to square one. I knew deep down this wasn’t the solution.

Then some suggested an idea that I couldn’t shake. Moving home. I sat on it, and after a week it still felt like it may be a good idea. After two weeks, I had my flight booked, my resignation submitted, and I felt like a weight had been lifted. It was the first time in months I could wake up and not feel heavy.

Since making this decision, it hasn’t been smooth sailing. It’s been an emotional adventure coming to terms with leaving this life behind. But after a chat with one of my best-friends I have been reminded this isn’t leaving anything behind, and moving to New Zealand isn’t a step backwards towards my old life, it’s a step forward. It’s simply change; a new chapter.

I will not say ‘I am moving back’, because that implies I’m going backwards. This is me going forward, this is a new chapter in my life. 

London has been a love affair, and it’s something I don’t want to ruin. I’m leaving at a time that is right for me, and for my writing, and I’m excited about that. Being a creative in London is also something I wanted to discuss. You can feel like you’re failing yourself and your art if you take time off from it. London adds this pressure, and it’s hard to ignore. Acting, writing, dancing, singing – if it’s your passion – shouldn’t be pressured, and/or done for the sake of trying to keep up to be successful.

I’m excited to go to New Zealand and find new inspirations in my writing, to further my life, to build a future, to be surrounded by family, to enjoy the things that I love – the ocean, nature, the quiet and calm, living a more organic lifestyle.

My goal now? To enjoy every second I have being based in London. I am creating a project called #100WaysToSayGoodbye – the last 100 days, every day with something new, simple, weird or exciting.

I apologise because this blog is less for you, and more for me, with lots (and lots) of words. But if you’ve read to the end, I guess throughout this decision to move home I’ve learnt the importance of putting myself, and my health, first. Even though I still can’t understand why I feel London isn’t right for me anymore, I’ve listened to myself and I know this is the right thing to do.

I will miss you London, I will miss you my London friends, but I am happy because I know I will see you again.

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Liberty

As we grow and age, our sense of freedom also changes. I’ve always been one to be self-righteous about freedom. I know most of us are, but I remember from a  young age always demanding the freedom to go to the shopping mall with my friends, demanding my parents to just let me do what I want, demanding that I go where I want. Rightly so my parents were strict on discipline and for me as a teenager, freedom wasn’t a right, it was a privilege.

When I was 13 or 14, I decided I wanted a job. Not legally old enough to be hired in New Zealand, I volunteered at my local library. For me, not only was this a chance to prove responsibility with shifts and everything else that came with the job, it felt like a step closer to freedom. I wanted to feel like an adult and a job seemed to come hand in hand with that idea in my head – funny how a badge with my name on it felt like liberty. As I neared 15, I got a job delivering papers in my local area. Suddenly I had an income on my very own bank card and a whole lot more freedom. In the grand scheme of things I was earning cents, but as a young teenager earning my own money – that wasn’t originally my parents – was invigorating. It was at that ripe age of 14, and about a month before my 15th birthday, I bought myself a scooter; freedom in the form of a 50cc engine, bright yellow. To be fair I bought it second hand, and my Dad did a fair bit of fixing it up, but it was the next step up the staircase of liberty.

The day after turning 15, and months after learning the NZ road code start to finish, I got my drivers license. I was 15, and suddenly my definition of freedom changed. From being dropped of at the mall by my Mum for a few hours, to being able to drive anywhere on 50km/h roads. There were of course curfews, and countless safety lectures, but I could drive myself to school, and as I got better paying part-time jobs, to those too. I was able to help my Mum when she was in need of a few things from the supermarket. Having a bucket on the back of my scooter, I volunteered and went up. I may have only been able to carry 2L of milk, and a broccoli, but I’ll tell you I was stoked. The most memorable thing about getting my scooter was filling up my scooter for the first time.  I remember driving out of that petrol station, singing to the pedestrians I passed, grinning my face off behind my Dad’s motorbike helmet – I perfectly remember how liberated I felt in that moment.

Fast forward to a year later, and I passed my restricted license test – I could now not only drive a scooter alone, I could drive a car by myself. No parents, a speaker system (!!!) and the ability to conquer my Mum’s entire shopping lists if need be. I know shopping seems like a weird thing for a 16 year old to be excited about, but to be able to do that for Mum seemed like the ultimate privilege of freedom. Plus, if I got to use Mum’s car I could play the music as loud as I wanted. I never had my own car officially, but when my Dad bought a convertible Peugeot… well, well, well… imagine this: a 17 year old, a red convertible, driving along the coast in the middle of summer, sea sparkling in the wing mirror, stereo blasting Twenty One Pilots. Oh how I miss that car. If someone were to ask me about freedom, that memory would come to mind – so would a smile.

Fast forward to now, and my sense of freedom is somehow less perceptible. This is my third year living in London and away from home, and I do have endless freedom. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, wherever I want, yet somehow it doesn’t feel that way. I used to find liberty in the simple things – walking my dog alone, solo adventures to the beach, staying out after dark, and now I find it harder to get that same thrill. And no, going to Sainsbury’s to get groceries no longer makes me sing. I’ve been decently poorly the last week and I’ve had more than enough time to mull this thought over. I’m 21 now, and everything considered I am officially an adult anywhere in the world. International freedom but when do I feel the most liberated? I feel free when I’m writing. I can play with words limitlessly and I can lose myself in any creative world I choose. I feel free when I travel; away from the bills and responsibilities, I can lose myself in the new sights. I live for experiences and to travel is to self-liberate. Without thinking too much about the words I just used, looking back I’ve used the term “lose myself” in both cases. Is this really true? Am I using this in a negative way? No, I don’t think so. After a bit of thought, I think losing myself is a good thing; I stop stressing, I stop over-thinking and immerse myself in the now.

For me, living in the moment is the true key to liberty.

 

Ignite

I still find myself trying to figure out how a passion is ignited, how a mood is lightened, how a day is made, by such simple things. If you live in London, you would have realised that the last few days have been beyond beautiful – blue skies, windless parks, and sun that is above 15ºC and has actual heat to it.

It was Friday last week, and I was having a pretty good day. I blame this living in London thing, any hint of sun and my day becomes that much brighter (no joke intended). So, on this fine, Spring day I was walking through the park and I saw a man on a longboard and I wanted to instantly hurl in envy. The sunglasses, the cool hat, the effortless glide of wheels on pavement; I wanted that back. In NZ, my Dad makes longboards. In total he’s made a miniature cruiser, and three longboards varying in shape. Living on the beach, in a beautiful town built on coastal hills, a longboard was the coolest way to get around. Picture this: You’ve finished work and you’ve changed into your favourite loose shirt. You grab your headphones and your board, and with an upbeat song blasting in your headphones, you’re carving through the beach roads, with the setting sun glistening on perfectly blue waves with an island in the distance? … Picture perfect right? It makes me sort of homesick in a way because that part of coastal life is something to miss. This scene is also possibly one of the things I look forward to recreating most when I go home for a visit next year. It was that image, that perfect image, flashing through my mind in the park that made my blood curdle green. I almost bought one last summer, and seeing this skater made me realise I couldn’t go another summer without it. So with the word impatient in mind, I had a board purchased and paid for from my phone screen through squinting eyes within 10 minutes .

My board arrived three days later and I couldn’t have been more excited. I was tracking it on the map as it circled in on my street. I tore open the box, and I couldn’t stop smiling. It wasn’t my Dad’s but it was damn near as special: a pinstripe, bamboo, 41″ pintail cruiser. I was stoked, I still am. The first chance of freedom, I was out there sailing the streets of London; the sun and Thames filling me with almost as much glee as boarding the coast in New Zealand did. I think even the simple thing of being on a board with a favourite song playing in my ears, is enough to ignite a genuine happiness within me. It’s just me, nobody else, I am in 100% control and totally free.

Ultimately I don’t know what the point of this blog is, but I wanted to share this simple thing that has made my last week so beautiful. As the days get longer, and as the sun shines brighter, I can’t wait to spend my second summer in London with friends and things that make me happy.