I’ve been terribly remiss with my blogging since I left. Mostly because, you know, I’ve been experiencing London and/or trying to find work and/or doing completely boring things that no one really wants to read about anyway, so why would I write about them?
And so, I welcome you all to the “Super Sara Catch-up Blog!” in which I will give you all an outline of what’s happened in my life since I made the leap across the pond.
Because it’s a handy writing device and it’ll make things a little more logical for me to write and for you to read, I’m going to employ a few useful lists. Lists: they’re great at keeping me focused, and less “Oh for the love of God, get to the point!” inducing for readers — genius!
Before I left, a friend of mine accurately described my intentions on this adventure by saying that I was going more for the “immersive experience” than anything. He was right (more right than I could have ever realized at the time, actually). Here are some things about the “immersive experience” that I have loved so far:
1. I love efficient public transit.
This needs no further explanation except to say that it now seems like a drag when I narrowly miss an Overground train because I have to wait a whole 4 MINUTES before another one comes along… WHO HAVE I BECOME?!
2. Developing a “local routine” has been really fun and surprising.
My local coffee shop is AMAZING: they know me by drink and the staff actually ask me about my life and comment on how long it’s been since they’ve seen me.
My walking routes are brilliant and mostly free of traffic. I LOVE THAT.
3. Everything is so close!
You never have to go very far for anything — food, clothes, fun, etc. The furthest I have gone for anything is a 40-minute train journey to work in the AM, and that doesn’t even seem like a long time.
4. You don’t have to go looking for interesting things to do or see because you stumble on them all the time.
Seriously. I’m living in London — history and art and culture is… in the air I breathe. I often trip over it on the way to work. If you’re not paying attention, you can miss it. Fortunately, having lived on a limited budget many times in my life has taught me to pay extra diligent attention to the small stuff, and I have learned to love the little bits of London because of that.
5. I really did pick the right place to live.
Wapping is gorgeous and a part of London that has only recently (slowly over the last half century) pulled itself up by its bootstraps. I am comforted by the proximity to water and the marine culture here, and the cobblestone streets (though annoying to walk on when you’re wearing certain footwear) are a great daily reminder of “where I am”. It is quiet enough that I feel like I’m in a really cozy, quiet “home” when I arrive back at my flat at the end of a long day, but central enough that all of London is just hop, skip, and jump away.
Now that we’ve got the pleasantries out of the way, here are some things about the “immersive experience” that I’m not so fond of:
1. You gotta earn a living, man.
The job search and all related business (use your imaginations!) hasn’t been a lot of fun. I’ve learned A BOATLOAD (several, in fact) about the international job search since I’ve been here, and I don’t regret a moment of it but wow, does it get emotionally and physically tiring after a while.
2. Adjusting to top-up culture has been a little strange.
Almost every service here is (or can be) done by top-up: mobile, water, gas, electricity, etc. In ways, that’s really convenient and wonderful (mobile top-up via bank machine has saved me several times in the last few weeks), but it has certainly been a mentality adjustment. Not a big complaint, but one worth noting. It’s one of those little life things that can become incredibly annoying if you let it.
3. Giving up your space.
It goes without saying that the amount of personal living space I have at my disposal in London is significantly less than I had either in St. John’s or Shoal Harbour. I do have a great room in my flat (which includes a nice big bed — very important), but the space adjustment has been something else. They say that many Canadians who come to the UK end up in Scotland and I can definitely see why: there’s just more space up there. Love and adventure in wide open spaces — that’s where it’s at.
4. City living, while brilliant in some ways, can make for too much hurrying and too many long days.
I love London, but there are moments when I just want to kick people for being inconsiderate, hurrying, jackasses. Sometimes it’s just a matter of rising above paying attention to that sort of thing, which I manage relatively well, but there are days when I just want to grab some people by the collar and say: “It’s not worth it! Unless there is a serious emergency you absolutely MUST attend to, for the love of God, SLOW DOWN!”
5. Dammit, I miss my community!
When I say “community”, I mean: family, friends, and members of my professional network (most of whom I count as friends anyway, but it’s worth noting separately). The unfortunate part about having moved when I did is that (as my mother so rightly observed about 2 months before it actually happened) it happened just at the point I had really started to feel “at home” and like I was building something in Clarenville. The results of this rather unfortunate timing have been incredibly instructive and have taught me more about myself and where I actually feel like I belong than anything else. Having gone from St. John’s to Shoal Harbour to London in the last year, I can safely say that while St. John’s and London are both fabulous, there is nowhere I feel more at home than in my actual home in Shoal Harbour. There are days when it’s harder to be away, and there are days when I just feel like I’m glad I know I’ll be headed back there eventually (which, unless something changes rather drastically, I will).
And now for a brief interlude of experiences I’ve had since I arrived:
1. Made some great friends and gained some wonderful flatmates.
2. Spent Canada Day in central London and loved it.
3. Worked jobs in St. James’s Square and Grosvenor Street in Mayfair.
4. Roamed around Shoreditch at an unGodly hour of the morning and witnessed all manner of disgusting and horrific things in the process, including: levels of drunkenness I don’t think I realized existed previously (and that’s saying something), fashion choices that are burned into my memory in a bad way, more vomit than you’d ever want to see in one night, and a truly tragic accident scene that most people were just strolling by (emergency crews were on site, but it was so hard to see).
5. Spent a lot of time walking and reading in the various wonderful parks of London (I love London’s green spaces –one of my favourite parts of living here!).
6. Shopped in some amazing markets (Spitalfields is my absolute favourite! Brick Lane is a close second).
7. Developed a real love for the city at night through visits to Trafalgar Square, Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s, etc. after dark. London is even more dynamic and haunting at night.
8. Stumbled on some really fabulous street performances — one of the “everyday pleasures” of London living.
9. Attended the “celebrity arrivals” part of a movie premiere in Leicester Square.
10. Had some amazing culinary experiences, including some brilliant Italian and Indian food.
And finally, the list of things I’ve learned so far:
1. Making the move you’ve waited a lifetime to make will not make you as happy as you always thought it would… at least, not right away.
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned (and there have been many, but this is the biggest) since I made the jump, it’s that moving really doesn’t ever turn out how you imagined it would, even if you’ve got a plan. Moreover, it shouldn’t turn out exactly how you planned it, because somehow, that would be the opposite of what it was meant to do for you, the role it was meant to play. Going on an adventure and taking a leap as I have done has, more than anything, helped me define myself in ways that I didn’t quite expect, and outlined for me the sort of people I want and need in my life, the sort of atmosphere I want and need, and the incredibly large divide between what I once thought would make me happy and what actually does make me happy.
Sometimes, you’ve got to break out of your comfort zone to find and define both yourself and what you want that comfort zone to be on your terms. After 3 months away, I feel like my whole vision of myself and what I want my life to be has been smashed to smithereens and that I’m now putting it back together, piece by piece, friendship by friendship, professional move by professional move and — most importantly — act of love by act of love. It’s incredibly empowering to find out who you’ve been all along, who you’ve become, and how that can dramatically change your vision for the future.
…I think I’ll leave that last list at 1 because that pretty much sums it all up: everything else I’ve learned feeds directly into that one point, and I needn’t belabour it. There will be no belabouring of points, here!
On a closing note: I sometimes think I should be doing more, or that I should have accomplished more since I’ve been here, but you know, I think moving to another country on my own, smashing my life to smithereens, and beginning to rebuild it is enough to accomplish in 3 months. Let’s see what the next 3 bring!