As the saying goes; all good things must come to an end. And just like that, it dawns on me that my time in London Town is nearing its very own finishing line.
I remember when I first arrived in the big city. It was in late -97. I recall the excitement as at the age of 17 I stepped off the train at Liverpool Street Station, fresh off the boat from Sweden. I was happy and scared, excited and nervous all rolled into one. I was tingling with butterflies all over. I had left home to come to this metropolitan city and I didn’t know a single soul here. It was a brand new start and one I was looking forward to.
Over the years I had fallen in love with London. I thrived on the fast paced lifestyle, the buzz of the crowded streets, variety of smells in different neighbourhoods and the diversity of people living here. I remember how I’d leave my house to go out on a Thursday night and not come home until late Monday afternoon. There is always something to do in this city. No matter what time of day, be it summer or winter or fall. I think back and smile at how easy it was to make friends.
You could just sit at a cafe and someone would start a conversation with you.
‘Ah, you’re sending a postcard to Sweden I see? Is that where you’re from?’ was a typical starting line seeing as most weeks I’d found myself sipping a latte in Old Compton Street Cafe, cautiously contemplating what to write home about. It was a line that worked effectively on a naive young boy who’d come to the big city to chase a dream.
In the back of my mind I had Madonna’s success story playing on repeat. How she came to New York with $35, how she asked to be dropped off in the middle of everything, how she worked real hard and how hear dream came true. I was looking to relive that story but in my own words.
Sadly, my fairytale didn’t have the same conclusion. Don’t get me wrong. This is a story with a happy ending only not one that left me rich to my teeth and famous all over the world.
After a couple of years some of my closest friends had come to live in London too. It was an incredibly happy time for me. Finally I could show them all the things I’d been writing home about and I could share the experience with someone I knew and loved. They were surprised to see how I’d grown. Actually, evolved would be a better word to use.
London was a city with lots great opportunity for anyone willing enough to go for it.
I had worked so many different jobs that I am embarrassed to say I can’t even remember some of them. When I first arrived I worked as a barman in the oldest gay pub in the city. It even had the atrocious nickname ‘The Elephants Graveyard’ – because some of the clientele were so ancient they’d been there since day one. Some of them never left, if you catch my drift. During another period I worked as an usher at a cinema in Leicester Square. When I got bored of that I somehow ended up managing a boutique Dry Cleaner in Chelsea. I was a waiter, a store salesman, a receptionist followed by a salon manager at a celebrity hairdressers, to mention just a few.
Each of these roles came with its own unique lifestyle. One I had to adapt to in order to fit in.
Like I said, there are a lot of opportunities here. If you are confident and hungry and not afraid to blag your way to what you want – you’re in. And trust me, there was nothing I was afraid of doing. I wanted it all. And I got most of what I wanted in the process.
But sadly, once I had it, it wasn’t interesting anymore. During one period of time I’d change jobs every three months. I’d get bored. I’d realise that I don’t actually want to do this. I wanted to try something different. So I did.
It wasn’t until I’d reached the age of 26 that I’d actually stuck with a job for a longer period of time. Three years to be exact. I managed a busy reception at a prestigious PR agency in West End. It was a dream job. One that allowed me to lead a pretty fabulous lifestyle. The hours were great, the colleagues were amazing and the salary was more than I could have ever hoped for.
At this point I felt like I was on top of the world. I went on extravagant holidays, partied at the best clubs and brushed shoulders with celebrities on a daily basis. I lived with my best friend Monica in a beautiful apartment overlooking Tower Bridge and I had even met a boy I’d fallen for. Life couldn’t get any better.
Then one day a dark cloud came and placed itself right over my head. That’s how it felt at least. But then again I’m sure that more than half the population of the world felt the same once the credit crunch reared its ugly face. Suddenly, I had lost my job. The company was downsizing. I couldn’t afford the apartment anymore. The lover I’d taken on decided to move on too. I found out the hard way why he was in the relationship to begin with. I had thought I was invincible only to find out just how wrong I’d really been. Everything changed.
I was about to turn 30 and suddenly, whilst struggling to find work in an extremely competitive environment I started to realise just what had changed so much. It wasn’t the city. It was me.
The job market was turning into a battlefield. I watched as bankers fought over bar jobs just to make ends meet and I refused to take such a huge step backwards. I hadn’t worked this hard just to drop all that way down again. But beggars can’t be choosers and I was forced to take a massive pay cut and start all over again. I realise that a lot of people had to do the same and with that I understood that I was slowly but surely getting over London.
I started to plan my next strategic move. Like a game of chess I contemplated where to go next.
The most logical idea that sprung to mind was to move to Serbia. I speak the language fluently, I have loads of friends and family there and I’d be arriving packed with ‘international experience’ that could secure me a job even in the worst job market.
I will always have a place for London in my heart. It has been a home for half my life and it has acted like a step mother in a way. It has taught me some very important lessons in life and it has enriched me with incredible experiences. Some extraordinarily good, some gruesomely bad and some outright unmentionable. But all of which I have learned something valuable from.
I leave this city with a smile on my face and some sadness in my heart. I will miss many great aspects of it but mainly the amazing friends I’ve made along the way.
Once again I find myself on square one. Only this time it feels different.
I am taking a deep breath, closing my eyes and I am taking a giant leap in to the (relatively) unknown. I don’t know what the future holds in store for me. But it’s exciting. And once again I have butterflies in my belly.
I am going home to recharge my batteries. I am going home to spend some time with my family. And I am going home to be with my beautiful man. And life is good!
Bye Bye London. You will be missed - but not forgotten.
Until we meet again.