It’s been weird, these past couple of weeks, watching my ‘On This Day’ feed in Facebook. Day after day:
Today it is one year since I announced I was moving to the UK.
Today it is one year since my visa came through (yes, I took a risk there).
Today it is one year since I moved out of my apartment.
Today it is one year since I finished up at work.
Today is Sunday, and that means it is a year since I finished packing my last suitcase, had breakfast with my siblings and sister-in-law, watched my sister-in-law’s comedy science competition, and then had dinner with my lovely friend Sue. It’s one year since I hopped in a cab to an airport hotel, having said goodbye to everyone I knew. After hugging Sue goodbye, I was on my own, ready to fly to a new country where – on the whole – I knew almost no one, with no job and no real plan.
When I look back, I half wonder if I was crazy.
It was a spectacular leap of faith on my part. I’m not known for being impulsive, and I am definitely not known for doing things that haven’t been meticulously planned. I don’t quit jobs without other jobs to go to. I just don’t.
But here I am, one year later. I started a new job four weeks to the day of arriving in London, and moved into a flat less than week after that. I was lucky enough to win a promotion within two months of starting that job, and even though I regularly feel like an imposter and a fraud, the truth is that I’m fairly confident that I’m good at that job, that it wasn’t a mistake to promote me.
That first place I moved to may not have been ideal – may not have been my best decision – but it served its purpose: it gave me someplace to call for six months, and time to find better people to live with, a better home.
Today, I had brunch with some friends whom I met at one of the first meetup groups I joined, 11 months ago. I no longer attend the bookclub we met up, but it served its purpose, and that quiet, insecure voice at the back of my head marvels at being chosen to continue a friendship with (12 months has not destroyed those insecurities, despite my best efforts).
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, though I will say I have had less homesickness than I expected – or than I was told to expect. People warned me about the six-month mark, where the newness had worn off and the reality set in. Six months hit in December for me, just before Christmas, and I expected it to be hard… but it wasn’t. I was homeless, half a world from home, and it was the depths of winter, but I was ok.
Actually, my first day of homesickness and despair was the day I interviewed from my first London job. I left the interview feeling that it had gone incredibly poorly – and I was normally so good in interviews! – and had to force myself not to cry as I walked blindly down the Strand. I had lunch in one of the dumb tourist restaurants along there, and blinked back misery; then, I washed my face, dried my eyes, and took myself to the National Gallery (and then the National Portrait Gallery), where I took solace in water lilies… and tried not to cry over paintings of Sirius Cove and Coogee beach, both places I know well, by Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton. The art helped, but I think I still cried myself to sleep that night.
(And then, of course, I actually got the job, and it worked out to be such an amazing opportunity to for me. Go figure.)
I am wistful for those first four weeks in London. How often does one get the opportunity to be a tourist in a city for so long? I did so much, but surely I could have done more. Twelve months on, there are still so many things I haven’t seen, and places I haven’t been. London is amazing like that.
I’ve been to the theatre more than thirty times(!), in the past twelve months. I’ve been to Rome, to Reims, to Cyprus, to Spain, to Paris. I’ve been to countless museums, and enjoyed countless amazing meals.
There are things – and people – I miss a lot. In retrospect, I might have been ok, staying in Sydney. I was rediscovering friends, and myself. The thing is, of course, that I think I’m more than ok, in London. I’m amplifying the process; in twelve months, I think I have rediscovered more than I would have in so much longer. In many ways, I feel like a different person.
I’m not, of course: I’m still me. Perhaps I’ve moved in a different direction; perhaps I’m exploring new facets. Still, I’m not a different person.
I am, I think, a better person. Happier. Healthier (who would’ve imagined the me of twelve months ago cycling to work!?). More comfortable in my own skin.
I’m tentatively planning a week in Switzerland, later this year. I’m going to buy a rail pass and travel around the country on my own steam. There’s something absolutely liberating in doing that: with a rail pass, most of the time you don’t buy tickets in advance. You just… catch the train. This adds variables, and variables are not – traditionally – something I’m all that good with. What if I miss a train? What if I can’t get a seat?
I’ll be fine. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned, these past twelve months, it’s that I can look after myself.
I arrived in London at about 9pm on a Monday night – the 20th. I expect I’ll be conscious of that, tomorrow, on Monday night the 19th, one year later. On Tuesday, I’m taking myself to dinner and then to the theatre– when I first arrived I awarded myself (for interviews, for finding a place to live, for getting a job) with theatre trips, and it makes sense to do so again now.
I promised myself, twelve months ago, that I would give London at least a year. Well, no. I promised myself that if I didn’t have a job within a couple of months I was free to go home, but as long as I did, I would stay at least a year.
Clearly, I’m not going home after one year. I doubt I’ll go back after two.
Beyond that… actually, it’s kind of nice not to have a plan.