Saying goodbye to London

As of writing this, I have 6 weeks left before I make another major move in my life – leaving London/ the UK, and migrating back to Aus. Back to the sun, lots of nature, the laid-back lifestyle & attitude… back to FRESH AIR.

The last year has been a difficult one – which may be obvious from the lack of posts on this site. I’ve lost my spark, my energy, my out-going nature. I feel trapped in my head and in London. Working too hard in a competitive and fast-paced city has grinded-down my ‘mojo’ and I’ve lost perspective and motivation. I got sucked into the trap of putting work/ career too high on my daily priorities – I let the London culture convince me to take business and ‘success’ all too seriously.

The worst thing is that I realised too late that this was all because I didn’t have the right environment, people and space around me to help me be resilent when the going got tough. The combination over the past 2 years or so of gradually putting more and more focus and energy on work and not taking care of my needs or building solid friendships, meant that when facing setbacks professionally and personally, it was like being emotionally pummeled repeatedly, until all I wanted to do was curl up in a big bruised ball under the blankets and just spend the rest of my days sleeping. Its manifested into health problems and weight gain too. Its classic symptoms of depression, and I knew the person I had become was not the person I want to be.

So I mad the decision that this year when my UK visa comes to an end, I would not renew it and instead head back to the land of plenty. But it wasn’t an easy decision to make. Frankly I was, and still am, scared. I’m not entirely sure if I’m making the right decision. Especially as I still remember how I felt when I wanted to move away from my hometown in Perth in the first place, and make a new life in the UK – in fact I captured some of it in this post The First Step Is The Hardest.

At that time in my life, almost 5 years ago and fresh after a year travelling the world, I wanted to shake things up, live an ‘epic’ and exciting life, and my hometown felt too small and safe and comfortable after exploring the big wide world. I’m scared that after giving up all that I have built in London, I’ll still feel all those things again once I’m back. Yet, I’m hopeful that I wont. Re-reading that post, I know I’ve changed since then. I threw myself into the deep end and through these wonderful and awful experiences, I have come to see the real value all those simple things that frustrated me about Perth before. In fact, its those things which is making Perth so attractive to live now.

Is there a ‘right’ decision? I’ve given up trying to figure that out. I guess when you feel immobilized by depression, any action is better than inaction in the end. “You can’t expect anything to change if nothing changes” they say. I know some of you might be thinking ‘Yea but uprooting your life to the other side of the world AGAIN is a bit extreme don’t you think?’. Yet I can’t deny that home is where my heart wants to go right now, so maybe that’s where I need to be for some mental R&R? I don’t know. I wish I had the answers.

I’m telling myself there is always the opportunity to come back if I realise this wasn’t the best thing to do. But what really helped me find peace with it, was to ask myself whether I’m satisfied that I have actually achieved all that I wanted to when I first moved here. Reflecting on it all, I had actually done most of the things I wanted, and then some. It made me realise that I need to recognise and celebrate the journey I’ve had, as part of the process of letting go and saying goodbye to London. Some of the awesome things I’ve done include:

  • Made the most of the opportunity to travel, while still working full time: going off for quick weekend jaunts to other countries and experiencing incredible places over most of Europe, such as Belgium, Iceland, Netherlands, Montenegro and Norway Been to all parts of the UK – Wales, Scotland, North and South Ireland, and went to key places in England I wanted to see – Bath, Cornwall, York, Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham, the Cotswolds, the White Cliffs of Dover, Churchill’s House, Stonehenge, Merlin’s Cave and lots of castles!
  • I got to spend time with my nephews and nieces, watch them grow up, and be a part of their young lives. I got the chance to grow closer to my big sister and brother as well, who moved away from Australia while I was still quite young.
  • Made the most of ‘London life’: I got my own place to rent in the heart of London, did New Years in London and experienced London in the snow; I went to lots of amazing West End shows and saw some big artists in concerts, movie premiers with Hollywood stars. Also experienced going to a gigs, and finding ‘underground’ jazz clubs and other cool pubs and shops in nooks and crannies of London. I also got to visit most big attractions, such as the London Zoo, Kew Gardens, Madam Tussauds, Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Opera House, and had dinner at the top of all the main high rise buildings in London, including the top of the Shard, the ‘Gherkin’, Heron Tower, and the Sky Garden. I also went into Westminster Houses of Parliament several times, once on a tour and then others for work – also got to brief UK Government Lords and Ministers (never had a burning wish too, but more like cool unexpected opportunities). Also technically I can also say I got to work on ‘Whitehall’ before they moved all the government offices to other parts of the city to make way for fancy hotels in the historic buildings;
  • Used the opportunity to interact with the royal family! I attended the Trooping of the Colour, waved to the Royals on the balcony of the palace and saw the flyover. I was invited to Clarence House to join a meeting with Prince Charles, and attended an event with Prince William as part of my job. I was also lucky to be in the country for the wedding of Harry and Megan and waved to them at Windsor as they passed in their carriage (yes these ‘royal’ things are all super exciting for me!)
  • Had snowfall on my birthday (twice!)

There are only a handful of things I didn’t get around to doing while in London, but nothing I’ll seriously regret. These included not attending Wimbledon (and having the famous strawberries and cream) or going to Royal Ascot races, not seeing some key places in Europe (e.g. Sweeden, Finalnd or Russia), and never managing to get invited to a Royal Garden Party! (don’t judge me). To top it all off, Brexit is a huge bummer right now. Civil service, and this country, is a hot mess and its going to take some time to sort themselves out.

All in all, I think its safe to say I’ve had a good innings here. I’m convincing myself that I did my best, made the most of it, and there’s no shame in admitting that maybe, at least for now, London is just not my cup of tea (especially in this current climate), and that’s OK. At least I tried. I achieved my goal to live and work in another country. And if nothing else, I’ve learned more about myself. My flights are now booked (with some exciting travel plans in between, naturally) and who knows what the future holds, but for now, I’ll leave you with the words of Peter Allen’s classic tune which suddenly ringed so true for me when I heard the song again the other day:

I realize something I’ve always known
that no matter how far or how wide I roam

I still call Australia home

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