Moving to London – A Year On

So, you might remember that a year ago, Lewis and I packed up our lives and our belongings to have a new (or not so new) adventure; we moved from our home in the lovely, leafy, bohemian West End of Glasgow to try our hand at life in South London, my childhood home. After seven years of living in Scotland for me, and a whole lifetime of it for Lewis, we were excited to have a new challenge and to try the biggest, baddest city of them all for ourselves. I was so excited to go home, to be within a reasonable distance of my family and to see more of my friends, to live the high life and enjoy being young and free in the most exciting city in the world. And I’m here to tell you – sometimes things don’t work out the way you plan them to. And while that’s not ideal, it’s ok. And sometimes, you really, really don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. That’s ok too – at least you know what you want now.

We started out on an odd balance; our office was cool, work was fun and being close to my family was a huge plus-point. However, our rental flat was tiny, damp and definitely not what we were used to – we left a generous two-bed in a leafy part of Glasgow for a barely-one-bed in an overpriced leafy part of London. For a LOT more rent. Three nights in we learned that our downstairs neighbour was something of a drug-addled party-bastard, and that set the pattern for the next eight months.

Of course, things have improved hugely since then; we got our heads down and saved every spare penny to buy our own flat in a slightly more suburban part of London earlier this year. It was a huge achievement and we’re so pleased to have a lovely home of our own, but the experience of renting here has made me appreciate having our own place all the more. It’s by no means perfect (and I’m already dreaming of our future ‘forever home’) but it’s the best thing we’ve ever owned. That in itself is more than enough.

I’m not going to talk about work too much on here as I like to leave it at the door, but it’s been a bit of a struggle for sure. Lewis and I work together and without other colleagues in the office, there’s been days when it’s all been a bit too Groundhog for me. We’ve also had four offices in the year that we’ve been here, including six weeks of working from our damp and dingy little rental flat – less than ideal. So it’s been a very temperamental year in that respect, it’s been very difficult to settle and to relax back into my job. Without a boss in the office, I feel like I put more pressure on myself because I wouldn’t ever want them to think I’m slacking – so I feel guilty about going to make tea or taking a time out, things that would have been par for the course in a communal office. As a result, I often feel like my nose is permanently pressed to the grindstone.

Friends and family was a huge factor in me deciding to take the opportunity to move home; it was always something we’d discussed but if my family hadn’t have moved back to London a few years back, I’m not sure it would have ever been on the table. I love seeing my parents more regularly, it’s still not as much as I’d like but considering I sometimes went six months without a visit in Glasgow, it’s miles better. Since we bought our flat we’ve seen them less as we’re in a more awkward location; it now takes me two hours on a train to see my parents (they live 20 minutes from Croydon, not the South Coast, FYI) which is about the same length of time it took when I lived in Glasgow. Utter madness. I miss being in the middle of our parents; two hours on a plane to mine, two hours on the train to Lewis’. Not quite how it works out these days.

Also, my best friend moved 90 miles north a few months ago, so I don’t see her anywhere near as much as I’d like to either. Seven years at opposite ends of the country and she moves away within seven months of me getting here. Hmph.

One huge factor that we’ve struggled to adjust to is the sheer cost of living in London. It is extortionate. We’ve gone from having no travel fees to paying ยฃ200+ each every month, just to go to work, and if we want to have dinner out, we’re looking at double what we’d have spent elsewhere. And our flat? This makes me want to weep a little; the price of our one bed flat would buy a six-bed, detached house just outside of Glasgow city centre. There’s perspective for you.

London is thriving and buzzing and busy and wild and moving all the time. It’s amazing. There’s always something new, in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of way. Whenever I stepped off of the train from Scotland into the midst of the city, I felt an absolute hunger to be here, back in my city. It tugged at me and I thought about it all the time, more than I maybe should have done. But being here, it’s a different world. It’s chaotic and crazy and downright stressful at times – I’ve never suffered with anxiety like I have done in this last year, and I can’t see that it’s a coincidence. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still fun and glamorous, and there’s no other city in the world like it – but it doesn’t make it home. Not a forever home, anyway. This was a landmark realisation for me, and it’s taken me quite a while to get my head around it.

It took me about eight months to start thinking about Glasgow again. I was so ecstatic to be here that the only time I thought about it was to compare the dire weather there with the not-so-dire weather here. But then it started creeping in. I miss our friends, of course – I miss spontaneous Saturday nights out, fun Fridays playing board games and drinking games, the pub quiz on a Tuesday night. I didn’t really think about the impact of that, I guess that maybe deep, deep down, I didn’t believe this move would ever be permanent enough to make much of a difference long-term.

But then I started to miss the scenery, the parks, the shops, the people. Glaswegians are the friendliest people in the world! I miss the countryside being twenty minutes away to escape to – proper rolling, roaring countryside, all purple and gold and green, with mountains and lochs and a wildness about it, not the neat and tidy fields half an hour from here, in the midst of Kent.

I miss the whole lifestyle we had in the city we made our home without even realising it; popping out to dinner or brunch several times a week and barely noticing the dent it made in our bank accounts, walking everywhere, even in the constant rain. I miss what we’ve never had – the flat (or house!) that we could have bought with the money that bought the roof over our heads now. Silly stuff really. I’m looking at all the positive elements though; this flat will allow us to buy something in Glasgow that we could never have afforded otherwise, and the experience of moving here will be an adventure I’ll always value having. Something to tell the grandkids, eh?

But it’s all taught me a very valuable lesson; home isn’t where you were born, or where you were brought up. Home might not even be where you’re living now. Home is where you left your heart, where it feels like sliding into a hot bath or your favourite slippers. So, I might have moved “home”, but it turns out that all I really did was leave it.

One day – not anytime soon, but not too far away – we’ll be back, I think. Until then, I’m going to enjoy my time in the most busy, buzzy city in the world, until I decide to head back to the city that somehow made itself my home.

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