For this post, I think it’s important I give you a quick summary of my home history, so bare with me. I was born in Hammersmith, London, moved to the suburbs in Surrey as a toddler, moved to Worthing (or thereabouts) in Sussex when I was seven, and stayed there, albeit in several houses until I swanned off to university at 18.
I went to Kingston University, which, depending on where you stand – is either in London or Surrey. To me, it’s both – it has all the amenities that London has, the night buses, sort of tubes (Wimbledon is the closest) and it has a buzz to it. That indescribable buzz that only Londoners can understand. But it also has parks, plenty of OAP residents and there are, without a doubt, far less sirens than there are in central London.
After graduating I did a stint back at home, I moved to Isleworth to become an estate agent (long story, lasted six weeks), and then ended up commuting from my best friend’s bedroom is Sussex up to London Bridge every day for my job at LOOK.
After a year, I moved into a house share in Bow where I stayed for a few months before moving into a studio flat on my own in Leytonstone (nearest station)/Leyton (according to my postcode). And then, after a year there, I moved to Suffolk to live in my boyfriend’s house back in August this year and that’s where I am now. Nestled in a town centre home 70 miles east of London.
So where am I from? I tend to say Sussex. But I do feel like a Londoner at times, I know true Londoners will probably attack me for saying that (soz guys). But I do feel like i’ve been in and out of London enough to explain what both feel like, and why living in London is the best and worst thing you could ever do in your twenties.
You’re probably reading this pretty damn happy it’s Sunday and HELLO LIE-IN, maybe you’ll do some Chrustmas shopping, maybe you’ll watch Netflix all day on the sofa or maybe you’ll nurse your killer hangover with a Domino’s delivery, but no matter what you do, the majority of you will feel that Sunday dread come a-knocking at about 4pm.
The dread and realisation that when we next wake up it’ll be because an alarm has woken us up at an unearthly hour, it’ll be dark, cold, maybe rainy, and we’ll have to go to work. It’s heartbreaking to the soul, isn’t it?
The average commuting time in the UK is around 50 minutes – that’s 25 minutes to work and 25 minutes back, for Londoners it’s an hour and 14 minutes. Since my working life began in 2008, my personal average is more like three hours, an hour and a half in and an hour and a half out – until August, when it became about 30 seconds, or the time it takes me to go from bed to desk.
For those of you reading this who live in London, or at least work in London, how many days a week do you leave work on time and go straight home? For me, it was once a week. The other days were usually taken up with work events – press days, dinners or even drinks with colleagues. Because drinks with colleagues following a particularly draining day in the office is what makes working in London bearable.
London is the social capital of the UK, and that is singly the most exciting and most devastating thing about it. Shots on a Monday are totally cool, Sunday brunch drinks are the norm – around six days a week are taken up seeing people outside of your working hours, some of them will be friends and some of them will be people you know through work. And sure, if you were a Sim your social bar would be through the roof, but you know what? It’s exhausting, like new level exhausting.
The thing with living outside of London is that most of you drive, and your friends will live in a ten minute perimetre of your house – you don’t drink with them when you see them during the week, maybe you’ll snuggle down with tea, chocolate and a film, maybe you’ll meet at the gym for a swim and sauna gossip – but either way, it’s done within a couple of hours and you’ll simply swan off home before bedtime. In London it costs more than a graduate salary to live anywhere within zone 2, let alone zone 1, which in turn makes journeys home tiresome and long – making you constantly exhausted and tired, because you know what? No-one makes enough of a deal of how bloody exhausting travelling is, whether it’s a red eye flight from the States or an hour long journey across three different tube lines, travelling makes you tired and irritable. It just does.
London has the opportunities – the endless work invites, the jobs, the like minded people, a heck of a good transport system (no matter how overcrowded and deathly, you have to admit it’s amazing and beyond useful), but it also has the loneliness that comes from not living near friends (because zone 3 in East London to zone 3 in West London is a bit like a trek over the Himalayas) and absolute all over exhaustion. The sort of exhaustion that’ll leave you tearful, miserable and constantly counting down the days to your next lie-in.
The problem with London is it’s like a drug. It’s addictive and that buzz, that you’ll probably notice most whilst a bit drunk walking across the Millennium Bridge at night – probably making your way home from another electrifying work night – just makes you want more and more. It’s all-consuming. You feel like the luckiest person alive to be a part of this elite Londoner club.
I never managed to find a balance in London, not truly – of making time for myself, my work and my sleep, but I have in Ipswich. Sure, OK, I have pretty much no friends (turns out all the likeminded individuals are off in London working themselves into a quarter life crisis), but I sleep, I’ve lost THE fear and I eat better, I even make time for the gym. But, ironically, the one thing that keeps me sane, living out here away from work opportunities and people I love, is going into London at least once every single week.
London has everything you ever wanted for yourself growing up, in fact it’s even more glittery and beautiful than you could have dreamed, but it’s also destructive and money-sucking and it makes it beyond difficult to escape. Because if you’re not in London, how the heck will you get a job?
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