The Reality Of Living Away From Friends And Family

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It’s been three years since I waved goodbye to my London flat and my London job and my London life and moved in with a boy in Ipswich.

It wasn’t some long-planned event, some carefully constructed next stage in our relationship – more a spur of the moment decision based on the fact that lol, my flat was flooded and my blog was taking off and y’know maybe I didn’t need to be in London anymore?

It was the right decision for many reasons. I got space to explore what I really wanted to do, without the financial constraints of living in the capital, I got to see my boyfriend (and soon to be baby daddy wayoooo) every single day, and I got to help create a home that was safe and stable and secure and everything I so desperately needed it to be.

But in doing so, I also had to move further away from the people I love most.

Y’see, I grew up in West Sussex. I had a close friendship group. We did everything together. We played Monopoly and completed Disney puzzles whilst watching crime documentaries and eating nachos. We went for long late night drives to discuss the inner workings of our brains whilst in trackies and trainers. We built sofa dens and chain drank tea and dissected what our texts from boys meant.

And so moving to London, and then on to Ipswich, hit me kinda hard.

And not just because I suddenly found myself on my own a lot, without people to do my favourite activities with, but because I lost my support network. I lost the people who, without even realising it, propped me up every single day.

Now, obviously those people are still there. They still exist on the end of Whatsapp messages and at the end of two hour drives, but they’re not there, round the corner, on days when the world seems like a dark place.

They are not there ready to pick you up for a McFlurry cruise when you’re feeling alone and stuck inside your own head.

And they’re not there when pregnancy is doing its best to convince you that you’re actually really boring and annoying and whiny and lol shall we just sulk on the sofa all day?

And that sucks. It more than sucks, it’s really fucking shitty.

But it’s the norm in adult life because for some absurd and wild reason we’re always told to prioritise education and careers above people. To get away from the places we grew up in search of a better life crammed full of glittering opportunities, regardless of who we leave behind.

And a lot of the time I think we’ve got that wrong. That people, and the experiences and moments with those people are the very thing that make our lives matter, that give us purpose, that make life worth living.

This weekend I had my second annual Hannah Gale Summer Party – something I came up with last year as an excuse to a) satisfy the middle class Pinterest-fanatic inside me and b) to round-up all my fave people and force them to descend on Ipswich for cocktails, snacks and games.

It’s my favourite day of the year, purely for the reason that my entire support network comes together. That every part of it is there, propping me up in the flesh. It is my reminder that they exist, that they are still there, no matter how much time and distance comes between us.

I’ll watch my best friend put in a Domino’s delivery for fifteen whilst I’m trying to blend out my smokey eye. I’ll see another best friend re-filling a tea pot whilst everyone discusses their fave supermarket. I’ll have my sister making a hangover pizza toastie whilst I’m playing Nintendo with my brother on the sofa.

And in those moments, everything feels exactly is as it should be. So ridiculously mundanely perfect. And I get a glimpse of a different life. A life where we all live round the corner from one another and pop in for tea and chat and games and naps.

But it’s not a real life, and not one that would likely ever exist.

And that’s because the bittersweet joy of living far away from the people you love most is that you actually make an effort. You schedule in quality time with one another, you put each other first in a way which is hard to conceive when you live local to one another. You stop taking one another for granted because you allow yourselves the space to miss each other in a way which physically hurts.

I am under no illusion that if I lived closer to my friends and my family I would become lazy, I would say no to invites, blow them out because there’s always tomorrow, right?

And so whilst there are days where I would give anything for a teleportation device so that I could be reunited with my support network instantly, I also know that the distance has made us appreciate each other on a level that didn’t exist before.

So, whilst it is hard, it is entirely worth it when I get to watch those little dots on the Find My Friends app pootling along the A12 and A14 roads headed towards Ipswich.

And it is even more worth it when I look around and see my best friends in the entire world all crammed onto my sofa at midnight, playing Mario Kart and shouting at one another.

So on that note, I’m just going to leave you with 15-year-old Hannah’s favourite quote (warning, it is super lame): ‘Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets. So, love the people who treat you right and forget about the ones who don’t. And believe that everything happens for a reason… If you get a chance, take it, and if it changes your life, let it. Nobody said it would be easy, they just said it would be worth it in the end.’

Over and out.

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