I’ve hinted that I have some big news lately. It’s two-fold, really. I handed in my notice at work a few weeks ago, and we plan on leaving London. It’s something that Sam and I had been mulling over for a very long time. For a while, work was securely holding us here, but then we slowly realised that there are opportunities for us elsewhere and that London was not the be all and end all in a creative life.
London is so exciting when you first move here. You wake up every day revitalised and full of the spirit for exploration. You’re going across Tower Bridge on the way to work! Maybe you spotted Daniel Radcliffe walking down the street! There’s always an exciting pop up, or a new restaurant to try, or a free event to attend. You can spend a lifetime perusing London’s museums and still not see everything. It’s truly the land of limitless opportunity and it’s boundless….. until it isn’t.
We both found ourselves being priced out of areas again and again; pushed further and further out of London to cheaper rents that we can afford. Owning our own home would never happen for us in London (and that’s not a exaggeration). Sam would never be able to fully involve himself in his burgeoning photography business because he had to work another job just to keep us on an even keel financially. All the things you love about London: the excitement, the amazing restaurants, the culture – none of that seems important when you don’t have time to enjoy it. Poor Emma has been with me on multiple occasions where I’ve appeared distant or distracted by work, or had to duck out to take care of something. I was stressed all the time and felt trapped. We still managed to add to our savings, but did so by cutting out the things that we enjoy doing in London.
For a while it seemed bleak, and I think Sam and I both resented living in London. Neither of us could understand how we could be working so hard and having so little to show for it. Part of me still feels like a spoiled child when I think about my feelings about London; I was turning up my nose at a city that many people feel so privileged to live in. I found myself getting angry and snapping at fellow commuters on the Tube; and woebetide those people who didn’t wait for those on the Tube to get off before getting on.
When I was in my early twenties, training in drama school, London was everything. It’s where I studied abroad, it’s why I came back to England for graduate school. It’s where Sam and I met. Where we went on our first date. Where I lived in a crazy student house. Where Sam and I first lived together. So many milestones in my life revolve around this wondrously mystifying city. 6 years of my life. But Sam and I reached a point in our lives together when London being London just wasn’t enough. We started thinking about the life we could lead elsewhere if we were unshackled from our London rent; the places we might me able to travel to; the freelance jobs we wouldn’t be scared to take; the house we might be able to finally save for. We slowly realised our quality of life will actually hugely improve if we move.
Suddenly, London just wasn’t enough anymore. The idea of being elsewhere was exciting. I harboured fears of missing the things I love most about London; the excitement, the theatre, the culture, the food, how Londoners seem to hoard the “cool” – but the more I researched the more I realised how exciting other areas of the UK are becoming, and all the things I love about London can be found elsewhere at a slightly more achievable cost. I started thinking about other things that are super important to me; being out in nature, enjoying the fresh air, not being stressed all the time.
Sam and I are both painfully aware that leaving London isn’t a magical solution to all our worries. In fact, it’s going to be particularly challenging at first as we transition our freelancing work to a new region. (Let’s not mention the terrifying job hunt, eh? I’ve managed to try to naively ignore that. Anyone elsewhere in England hiring?) But eventually, it will give us some freedom to breathe again, which is something we couldn’t get in London. Though the upcoming challenge is going to be difficult, sometimes frightening and undoubtedly stressful, recently I’ve felt that Sam and I can do anything together. That we can rise to the occasion, albeit somewhat ungracefully- at times.
Once we’d set our minds to moving, I started to love London again. The deep seated resentment that we had been feeling started to melt away. I was able to see the city that I first feel in love with again. I was able to walk across Waterloo bridge and stop and admire the view instead of hurtling towards my next bus. And what a view it is! I started to feel something that I hadn’t felt in awhile: optimism.
Here’s the secret: London will always be here. It might be a train ride away, but I think I’ve reached the turning point in my life that I’ll love it more as a visitor, getting to relish happy memories of my previous London life.